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Army news service (June 16, 2004): soldiers soon to get side protection on Body Armor.

WASHINGTON -- Deployed troops will soon start getting side protection for their Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), thanks to the efforts of Program Executive Office Soldier. The IBA Deltoid Extension was one of dozens of pieces of equipment PEO Soldier officials showed off to the Pentagon press corps during a media briefing June 14.

In the two years since the organization stood up, it has researched and fielded or is in the process of researching more than 350 pieces of equipment--everything from boots to parachutes to new rifles--in order to save soldier lives, improve their quality of life, and increase their effectiveness on the battlefield, said Brig. Gen. James Moran, PEO Soldier executive officer.

"Outfitting soldiers is just as important as [acquiring] a major piece of equipment," Moran said.

At about 16 pounds, IBA is lighter than the 25-pound Vietnam-era flack jacket it replaced, and it offers better protection, Moran said. The Deltoid Extension will add about another five pounds and protects the sides of the ribcage and shoulders. However, the extension comes with a price for the soldier. Moran explained that it can limit movement and block air from circulating under the body armor--decreasing the soldier's ability to cool off in a hot environment.

"Everything we do is a balance," Moran said. "We want all soldiers to come back without any injuries. At the same time, we want them to be combat effective. Nothing can be made to be indestructible."

Despite the weight of IBA, Moran said he has no doubt that the new body armor has saved lives. In the past 18 months, the Army has purchased about 300,000 full sets of IBA.

The current Army budget buys 50,000 Deltoid Extension sets this fiscal year, all of which will be shipped to selected troops by the end of September, according to Col. John Norwood, program manager for PEO Soldier -Equipment. The Army plans to request enough funding in next year's budget to equip all 132,000 soldiers in the Central Command area of operations with the extension.

"We have a clever enemy, an adaptable enemy, so we must be clever and adaptable," Moran said.

Another piece of equipment PEO Soldier showed off is the Microclimate Cooling System now in use by Army aviation flight crews. The system is a liquid-filled vest worn next to the skin that is connected by a flexible tube to a 12-pound box that circulates the coolant. A quick disconnect allows users to move around the aircraft as necessary, and a rheostat allows users to control the coolant temperature.

PEO Soldier tests of the system have demonstrated that flight crews can increase flight times from 1.5 hours in a hot environment to about five hours, Moran said.

The third piece of equipment PEO Soldier demonstrated was the XM8 rifle. While the XM8 still faces four more formal tests before the decision is made whether to buy it, Moran said the special forces soldiers and other troops who have tried it out all said they want it now.

There are three variants of the XM8: a light version with a collapsible stock and a 9.5-inch barrel, a standard version with a 12-inch barrel, and a designated marksman version with a 20-inch barrel. While a longer barrel means greater weight, it also means greater accuracy over greater ranges and a higher rate of fire, Moran explained.

In addition to being lighter than the M16 and M4 rifles, the XM8 has the advantage of being easier to maintain with significantly lower problems with stoppages. The first XM8 tested fired 15,000 rounds without cleaning or lubrication, without a first misfire, said Col. Michael Smith, program manager for PEO Soldier-Weapons.

The last new type of rifle the Army has bought was the M16 in the 1960s, Moran said.

If the XM8 passes its remaining tests and the decision is made to buy it, the Army will likely purchase about 8,000 next fiscal year to equip two units of action, Moran said.
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Title Annotation:IN THE NEWS
Publication:Defense AT & L
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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