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Body Armor: weight v. mobility
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, January 12, 2006

Despite Hillary Clinton's "for shame" about the fact that body armor might have saved more lives in Iraq if it had been more extensive, there is a trade-off with this sort of thing. The more you lug around in weight, the less mobile you are. Then there are such considerations as the extra weight causing heat casualties and other mission limiting problems.

First let's deal with the "for shame" aspect, or as it is more properly identified, the political aspect:
The ceramic plates now worn by most members of the military shield just some of the upper body from bullets and shrapnel, and the Army said it would buy plates that would extend this protection to the sides of soldiers. The officials spoke after a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held after The New York Times reported last week that a Pentagon study had found that extra armor could have saved up to 80 percent of the marines who died in Iraq from upper body wounds.

In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' sides, shoulders or areas of the torso where the protective plates did not reach.

The Marine Corps, which commissioned the study in December 2004, began buying side plates in September for its 26,000 troops in Iraq. Army procurement officials said they began studying a similar move last summer after receiving requests from troops in Iraq, but were hampered by the need to supply a much larger force of 160,000 individuals.
No piece of equipment ever fielded by any military is perfect. That's why you see designations on them ending in "A1" or "A2" or "A3", etc. Once in the field they are extensively studied and then modified to do a better job. That's the process involved here. While it is clear, now, that some Soldiers and Marines could have survived what ended up being fatal wounds with more extensive armor, it's also true if we dressed them up in ceramic armor like knights of old, we could probably save even more. However, they'd be worth about 3 minutes on a patrol before they fall and not be able to get up or expire from heat exhaustion.
In Congress on Wednesday, Army and Marine officials defended their efforts to procure additional armor, saying they had to weigh the benefits of additional plates against adding weight and restricting mobility. Citing those concerns, Marine officials said last week that they remained reluctant to buy shoulder plates or larger plates for the chest and back.
What the military is engaged in at the moment is the process they continually go through with equipment of any type. Improved armor will be the result, but it will also take into consideration those trade-offs I mention. You will not see ceramic knights as a result and the military will remain open to unwarranted criticism which begins with "if they'd had armor at that place then...", etc., etc.

While this blog harshly criticised DoD for intially doing less than what we thought was possible in getting body armor to the troops in Iraq, I don't find this to be anywhere near the crisis Ms. Clinton would like to make it.

As pointed out in the Senate briefing:
"This is a continuous evolution," Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army director of force development, said after the Senate briefing.
More on the subject here.

One of the better rebuttals I've seen found here from and infantry 1LT serving in Iraq.
I'm also sick and tired of politicians and journalists commenting on subjects they don't know much about. I'll try to keep my comments as concise as possible. A brief description of the armor we have: our vests consist of flexible kevlar material that covers everything from the neck to the waist. There are velcro pouches on the front and back for our ceramic plates that cover the vital organs (what we refer to as "center mass"). There are also additions to the vest: throat, neck, and arm pieces that extend the coverage of the vest. We have some sort of protection from our waists to our necks. While the flexible kevlar portion of the vest doesn't provide as much protection as the ceramic plates most of the vest has to consist of the flexible kevlar for several reasons. If the entire vest was strong enough to protect from all types of possible bullet wounds it would be so heavy that it would be physically impossible to wear. Also, if the entire vest was as thick and solid as our plates it would be impossible to move around in it and extremely uncomfortable. Also, most soldiers don't want to wear all of the armor we've already been given. We received "new and improved" plates for our vests but some of us never put them in because they weighed more than the old ones. The additional gear (throat, neck, and arm protectors) is so uncomfortable and ridiculous that a lot of soldiers refused to wear them. Units had to threaten soldiers with non-judicial punishment (loss of rank, money, assignment of extra duty, or a combination of these three) to force soldiers to wear them.
His point? Trade-offs are made every day. When and if the technology evolves to the point that lightweight effective armor that is comfortable can be produced, troops will wear it. But when they weigh trading mobility and endurance for a little extra marginal protection, they usually choose the former over the latter.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Politics aside, I hope someone out there is building Power Armor:

With IEDs and RPGs...our soliders need the protection and "intimidation" factore of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Plus it would make war cheaper politically.
Written By: Blogs are a Harsh Mistress
Heaven forbid we make war cheaper politically...

We need to make keeping the peace more efficient...

And when is someone going to ask Ms Clinton if she would be willing to take out the earmarks she included in the Defense budget, so that the troops can have the best armor available...
New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer have asked the Pentagon to spend $123 million for New York projects that the Department of Defense didn’t ask for – many of them benefiting the lawmakers’ campaign contributors.
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
The size large ceramic plates weight about 25 pounds EACH. 2 plates per harness. THAT IS 50 POUNDS without carrying weapons, ammo, load bearing equipment, gas mask, water, and anything else they have to carry.

Lets have them all wear 100 pounds of ceramic plating. That way more of their body will be covered but of course they will take more rounds as they cant move fast enough when under fire.

Written By: retired military
URL: http://
The solution of course is Giant Robot Mechas... only then will the Hildabeast think it is good enough for our troops in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter. I as far as I am aware the Knight’s full plate armor was very hot but more mobile than this new crap.
Written By: Septeus7
URL: http://
Yeah, but that Knights full plate armor wasn’t much match to a long bow or pike...
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
I think Septeus7 is right - we need Giant Robot Mechas. As you know, one Giant Mecha piloted by a rebellious type that’s always getting in trouble will defeat astronomical odds every time.
Written By: Dave
URL: http://
Yeah, just don’t forget to put a big freakin’ off button on the controller...

Otherwise, they will soon decide that the logical and efficient choice for protecting humans is to make us slaves. Or they will just run amock, mindlessly destroying the world.
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Just remember: When faced with a giant mecha, call Robert Smith.

"What the hell is that thing?"

"I don’t know, but it just kicked the crap out Leonard Maltin and Sidney Poitier."
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
I believe it was Glenn Reynolds (in an earlier discussion of this matter a year or so back) who noted that there are a lot more rabbits than armadillos out there.
Written By: coriolan
URL: http://

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