Army ar­mor

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

The Army be­hind the scenes has tested a sam­ple of 32,000 body ar­mor plates pulled from bat­tle and has found that all passed — they met re­quire­ments to blunt sniper and other small-arms fire, spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Rowan Scar­bor­ough re­ports.

Last month, Army Sec­re­tary Pete Geren took the ex­traor­di­nary step of or­der­ing the set-aside af­ter the Pen­tagon’s in­spec­tor gen­eral said three lots to­tal­ing 32,000 plates — of more than 2 mil­lion is­sued to sol­diers and Marines — had not been tested prop­erly.

In­side the Ring learned that the Army also did some­thing it did not an­nounce: It star ted pulling sam­ples — 48 ce­ramic body plates as of early last week — and put them un­der live fire and other tests. All plates “have met or ex­ceeded the Army’s bal­lis­tic re­quire­ments,” the Army said.

Once the full re­sults are an­nounced, it should al­lay fears of U.S. ser­vice mem­bers who rely on the In­ter­cep­tor body ar­mor sys­tem to sur­vive clashes with al Qaeda, Tal­iban and other ter­ror­ists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In­ter­cep­tor has crit­ics in the bl­o­go­sphere. They claim that the sys­tem of chest, back and side plates is de­fec­tive and has cost lives. The Army, how­ever, says the plate, called ESAPI, for En­hanced Small Arms Pro­tec­tive In­sert, is the best body ar­mor ever is­sued. The Army has awarded con­tracts to pro­duce the next-gen­er­a­tion plate, XSAPI.

Mr. Geren and other top Army of­fi­cials are in a be­hind-thescenes bat­tle to down­play the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s find­ings in Congress, which funds In­ter­cep­tor, and for troops who wear it. It has asked Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III to in­ter­vene.

The IG said the three lots passed by the Army ac­tu­ally failed.

In a memo sent to Congress and ob­tained by In­side the Ring, the Army said the Pen­tagon di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tional tests and eval­u­a­tion ex­am­ined those three tests and con­cluded that “they did pass the test.”

Bill Gertz cov­ers na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at in­sid­e­ther­ing@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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