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American Forces Press Service

Better Body Armor Meets Changing Threat, Army Official Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2006 Soldier protection is one of the Army's highest priorities, and body armor has been continuously improved to meet the changing threat in the war on terror, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said here today.

"Soldier protection clearly is a key element, and it's very important to the Army in general and me personally," Harvey said at a Pentagon news briefing. "We have continuously improved the armor that we provide for the soldiers from the beginning."

The first improvement to body armor came with the development of the small-arms protection inserts, and then, without a definite threat, the material was upgraded to ESAPI plates for better protection, Harvey said. The Army then developed deltoid axillary protectors for the shoulder area, and side plates are being fielded next month, he said.

The side plates will add extra weight to the armor, but Harvey said he believes it's in the best interest of the soldiers to add them.

"What we're trying to do here is balance the mobility with protection," he said.

The evidence does not show injuries to the side to be a major threat, but the side plates are still being fielded to prepare for the changing nature of the enemy, Harvey said.

"We're trying to anticipate and adapt to the enemy, and we're trying to prevent injuries to the soldiers," he said.

The Army will continue to take lessons learned from the battlefield and continue improving body armor and vehicle armor, Harvey said.

Almost 700,000 sets of interceptor body armor and more than 170,000 sets of additional protection for shoulder and upper-arm areas have been fielded since the beginning of the war, he said. More than 4,400 new up-armored Humvees, and more than 16,000 add-on armor kits were fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005, he added.

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