Citing the utmost confidence in the combat performance of Soldier-worn body armor, U.S. Army leaders reiterated to reporters Thursday that protecting troops is the highest priority and therefore the service has already implemented a host of recommendations to improve body-armor testing procedures.
“We provide our Soldiers the best body armor that exists in the world today. It is the most tested body armor in the world as well,” said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
“I am not aware of any incident downrange where the body armor failed to protect against a round that it was designed to defend against,” Phillips said.
The improvements to body-armor testing procedures were in line with recommendations cited in an Aug. 1 Department of Defense Inspector General report, Army officials said.
In particular, the Army has implemented a uniform set of standards, protocols and procedures for body-armor testing, improved methods of measuring and tracking key test parameters, created data bases to compile test information, conducted altitude and weather tests and performed a series of risk assessments on body-armor plates — all actions called for in The DoD Inspector General report, which examined the Army’s testing of ballistic inserts for seven contracts awarded between 2004 and 2006.
Implementation of all of the recommendations cited in the DoD Inspector General report will be complete by October of this year, Phillips said.
“As soon as we find that we can do something better, I want to assure you that the Army’s going to take quick and decisive action and to make sure that we are focusing on Soldier protection. That is our most important task. We have high confidence in all the protective systems that we give our Soldiers,” Phillips said.
Although improvements to the testing process go back to efforts which began prior to 2008, the Army adopted a new DoD-wide set of standards for body-armor testing in May 2010, Phillips said. The new protocol establishes standards, referencing, rules, procedures and analytical processes for hard-body armor testing.
Establishing methods to measure the velocity of test rounds was one of many improvements the Army has made to its body-armor testing procedures.
“We test these plates against the toughest, hardest round in theater and we shoot it at our test ranges at velocities higher than could be fired out of a normal rifle,” said Col. William Cole, project manager, Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.
Having recently returned from visiting deployed troops in Afghanistan wherein Soldiers conducted a six-day offensive operation against insurgents in the mountains, Phillips said Army troops believe in their body armor with high confidence that it will protect them.
“Our Soldiers have the highest confidence in our body armor. There’s nothing that’s more important to Army acquisition and to our Army than Soldier protection and Soldier safety. It is so important that we make sure to give our Soldiers the best equipment we can.”
Explaining that the Army’s body armor has repeatedly saved lives in combat, Phillips cited a quote from Staff Sgt. Fred Row of the 101st Airborne Division who survived being hit by three enemy rounds to the chest in Iraq in February of 2009. Rowe’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in 2009 documented how body armor saved his life.
“I took three rounds to the chest — with body armor. All three rounds were stopped by the plates. It hurt, but I was still mission-capable. I was still able to do my job,” Rowe said.