U.S. military members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous areas will soon receive revamped armored vests that provide more side protection, senior officials said here today.
The vest changes are designed to prove effective in protecting
servicemembers from shrapnel fragments, especially those who operate gun
turrets atop vehicles, said Army Maj. Gen. Steven Speaks, the Army's
director of force development.
"What we're seeing, obviously, is continuing evolutions in the
nature of the threat that we face," General Speaks said. The
shrapnel-producing improvised explosive devices and other terrorist
weapons encountered by U.S. forces in Iraq have prompted changes in
servicemembers' armored vests, he said.
Stepped improvements to armored vests are the result of continual
adaptation in response to constantly changing enemy tactics, General
He countered media reports that the U.S. military is behind the
power curve in providing appropriate force protection gear for troops
deployed in the global war against terrorism.
"Those headlines entirely miss the point," General Speaks said.
The effort to improve body armor "has been a programmatic effort in the
case of the Army that has gone on with great intensity for the last five
The enhanced vests are designed so infantrymen, truckers or
troops in any military occupational specialty can use them, General
Speaks said, including men and women.
The improved vests should be fielded to servicemembers sometime this spring, General Speaks said.
"The protection of Soldiers is our No. 1 mission," he said. "Continuous evolution of this protection is absolutely essential."
It's equally important to take servicemembers' needs into account
when designing force-protection equipment, said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey
Sorenson, the Army's acquisition chief.
For example, heavy, bulky armor can compromise a servicemember's
need to move quickly during combat conditions, General Sorenson said, as
well as tax physical endurance.
He said providing better armored vests for servicemembers
represents just one portion of military force-protection capabilities.
"We've (also) done the armoring of the vehicles," General
Sorenson said. The U.S. military, he added, also has developed and
fielded electronic countermeasures to find and defeat IEDs.
"All these are generated to try to improve a Soldier’s ability to
be better protected with respect to force protection," General Sorenson