Strategy Page weighs in (pun intended) on the body armor issue. Read the whole thing, but I want to point this bit out:
The weight problem is an old one, and only gets a lot of attention when there’s a war on. This time around it’s worse, because there is finally body armor that will stop rifle bullets. [emphasis mine]
This is a point that’s often lost on folks. There’s been body armor for a long, long time. It just didn’t work at all against the firearms in use. Only recently have we been able to field a workable system. Before the early 1990s, it just wasn’t feasible to armor an entire army effectively against standard weapons.
The Vietnam-era flak jackets weighed 25 pounds, not to mention that they didn’t provide protection against standard weapons. The flak jacket was, well, a flak jacket. It would have provided a fair amount of protection against IEDs, for instance. But against even the AK-47 it was next to worthless.
The Interceptor doesn’t weigh a lot less (depending on how many plates you’re wearing) but, while far from perfect, has performed splendidly in Iraq against the weapons of the enemy. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of deaths have been prevented. And the faith that US troops have in their armor has allowed them to carry the fight to the enemy when previously they might have had to keep under cover. And the best defense is a good offense. Better body armor that stops more shots would save some lives, but killing more enemy fighters before they shoot will save many more.
One thing we need to keep in mind is that we will not always be fighting half-trained insurgents with hand-me-down AKs and ammo that’s been stored in a mud hut for ten years. Although the anti-gun crowd likes to pretend that the AK-47 is an ultimate killing machine to be feared above all else (unless it’s in the hands of a Communist rebel, in which case it’s a romantic symbol of the common man), the typical AK is really only a medium-powered assault rifle with generally poor performance. It’s designed loose to always work in all conditions and in the hands of ill-trained conscripts and peasants (which it does quite well), but to get there many compromises had to be made. Good armor-piercing capability is a characteristic of neither the AK-47 nor the 7.62×39 Russian ammunition that it fires. When we go up against better-equipped and trained enemy forces, we will discover that it doesn’t matter how many ceramic plates you have in your vest.
Hopefully, by that time, new technology will be available to keep us ahead in the game. Nanotech stuff, maybe. Or the long-sought powered battle suit. If not, you will see the armor ditched just like the suits of steel plate and mail were ditched with the advent of firearms.
Anyway, go read the whole Strategy Page post and be sure to check out the pictures of full body armor. I posted a small version of one in this post. Can you imagine troops going into combat wearing that? Especially in 120 degree weather? Never mind the fact that they would also need all the rest of their gear and ammo. They’d have to triple their water load just to survive a foot patrol. Yet that’s the armor critics are saying the troops need.