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Army sticks to original date for new body armor

ARLINGTON, Va. — Soldiers waiting for new body armor will have to keep waiting.

The Army will not issue new body armor to soldiers earlier than previously planned, Army officials said.

The Army plans to issue the next generation of body armor as part of the Future Force Warrior system in fiscal 2010 or 2012. That timetable has not changed, said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, who handles Army acquisition, technology and logistics issues.

The Marine Corps has no firm timeline to begin issuing the next generation of body armor, but it hopes to do so over the next two to three years, said Capt. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command. The driving factor will be when the industry can develop material that is lighter and more flexible than what Marines wear now.

In October, an official with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts said the Army may try to get the new body armor to soldiers earlier than 2010, by issuing it along with the new Land Warrior System, a series of sensors that soldiers can wear. But on Wednesday, Sorenson told reporters the Army has decided to limit the Land Warrior program to just one brigade for now.

“We have not planned at this point in time any follow-on procurements, as I mentioned before, that is a ‘maybe to happen later’ depending upon what the results of — how it functions in theater and what the soldiers’ demand is for additional systems,” he said.

Asked if the Army planned to issue new body armor to soldiers before fiscal 2010 or 2012, Sorenson said, “not at this point in time.”

“We are not doing anything other than the IBA (Individual Body Armor) that we have fielded, we’re not changing that,” Sorenson said. The new body armor is still in development, but he noted that soldiers’ current body armor is “unequivocally the best that is available today.”

The Army’s new body armor will have six ceramic ballistic plates, as opposed to the four plates used in current body armor. The plates would be 12 percent larger than current Small Arms Protective Inserts and would be shaped to provide more protection along the spine and for the front, back and sides.

The new body armor is slated to undergo formal tests in fiscal 2008. Before the body armor can be fielded, researchers must prove that the shaped ballistic plates provide just as much protection as current SAPI plates.

“The future body armor has not gone through all its qualification tests, has not been certified, has not been fully validated in tests, so at this point in time it’s not ready for fielding,” Sorenson said. “As soon as it is ready for fielding, we will begin to field it, but at this point in time it is not.”


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