By Francis Harris, in Washington
American troops have complained that a new armoured body suit designed to be worn in Iraq makes them look "goofy".
The water-cooled "alien spacesuits" are being handed out to turret gunners in their notoriously vulnerable Humvee vehicles.
The new suit is designed to protect against roadside bombs but has had mixed reviews from soldiers
The protective suit, based on those worn by bomb disposal officers, was intended to cut spiralling casualties for one of the most dangerous jobs in modern warfare.
But some troops have complained that the armour and headgear is inelegant. Others say the water-cooling system, designed for the soaring temperatures of an Iraqi summer, regularly breaks down.
Nonetheless, the suits being tested in combat by US military police units in northern Iraq have produced good results.
Capt Larry Bergeron told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes that the armour was credited with saving the lives of three men sprayed with shrapnel from roadside bombs.
"One soldier's visor stopped a piece of shrapnel that hit dead centre," he said. "If he had not had that suit on, the effects could have been catastrophic."
Gunners on Humvees have high casualty rates. While newly-installed armour protects those inside, the gunner stands with the upper half of his body exposed, making him far more vulnerable to roadside bombs and gunfire. Others have been crushed as vehicles overturn.
But Specialist Michael Floyd, 19, said: "I am not a big fan of this thing. It is really hot and hard to move around in. I do feel safer, but only in an explosion. I would not feel safer in a rollover or in small-arms fire."
Critics say the heavy suits also restrict movement during combat.
Danger, Danger Private Robinson!