New armor saves lives in Iraq

10 Jun 2003 | Capt. Chad Walton

Sometimes real life catches up to fiction and in the case of the armor plates used by Marines in Iraq, it may even pass it by.

It may not look like the armor used by warriors in the many science fiction films we see, but the Small Arms Protective Inserts did their job my stopping small arms fire that would have certainly wounded and killed Marines in combat.

Sgt. Michael Simmons, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance, while in Iraq, received a serious gunshot wound to his arm, which was in front of his vest when he was hit. The round penetrated through his arm into his flack vest and was stopped by his armor plate.
The surgeons who worked on him said that the round would have hit him dead center in his ascending aorta, a likely fatal injury.

This is just one example of the effectiveness of the plates that were fielded in anticipation of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We have seen many after action reports and heard many success stories from commands in the Iraqi theatre," said Capt. Cliff Carpenter, SAPI project officer, Marine Corps Systems Command."  "For a Marine assigned as a cubicle dweller during a war, nothing is as gratifying as the knowledge of a living Marine who might have died had he/she had not had the armor."

"We received an Urgent Universal Needs Statement for 8,000 of the plate inserts due in 14 days," said Carpenter.  "We then had them shipped directly to Kuwait from the manufacturer.  During the course of the war we delivered 11,000 plates to the forces in the Middle East."

SAPI consists of interchangeable ceramic plates that are inserted into the front and back of the Outer Tactical Vest to increase a Marine's capability to defeat small arms rifle fire and fragmentation protection. SAPI is capable of defeating up to three hits from small arms fire up to 7.62mm at muzzle velocity. The weight of both protective inserts is 8.0 pounds (medium plates). When combined with the OTV, the total weight of the OTV and SAPI is 16 pounds (medium).

"The entire staff working the "Interceptor Body Armor" and SAPI plate procurement felt as though their contribution had made a difference in the lives of individual Marines," said Carpenter.  "Credit for development belongs to SYSCOM project officers and Natick technical leaders starting as early as 1995 when the ceramic technology and new ballistic protective materials were introduced." 

Marine Corps Systems Command