Skip to comments.Army Refutes Dragon Skin Claims [body armor scandal]
Posted on 05/18/2007 2:50:24 PM PDT by Sleeping Beauty
The war between Pinnacle Armor and the Army went nuclear this week as NBC News claimed that Pinnacle's innovative "Dragon Skin" armor is far superior to the vest the Army currently issues to Soldiers.
The report shows test conducted by NBC that seem to prove the vest - as its proponents have claimed over the last several years - can take many more rifle shots than the Army's Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts.
But Army officials disclosed to Military.com that in a series of tests conducted by the service in May of last year, the Dragon Skin vest failed to stop bullets as well as the current Army armor. In fact, test results showed that bullets slipped through the vest as early as the second shot.
"The bottom line is that Dragon Skin by Pinnacle catastrophically failed to meet the requirement," said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, the head of the Fort Belvoir, Va.-based Program Executive Office Soldier, in a May 17 interview.
Pinnacle's president Murray Neal told Military.com the tests were flawed and that Army testers were unsure how to adequately evaluate his technology - which uses a series of small ceramic disk "scales" to cover the entire torso.
He called Army claims that his vests failed "a bold-faced lie" and said the service is embarrassed to admit its current armor isn't the best out there.
The Army's ESAPI is a rigid ceramic plate about 12-inches high and six inches wide. Soldiers wear front and back plates and two smaller side plates, all of which are designed to stop armor piercing AK-47 rounds found in the war zone.
The controversy went public last March when the Army issued a so-called "Safety of Use Message" that banned all store-bought armor, and specifically stated that Dragon Skin did not meet the service's requirement for ballistic protection.
At the urging of Capitol Hill, the Army bought 30 Dragon Skin vests in May of 2006 and put them through a standard "first article" test to see if the armor could hold up to the same ballistic conditions its current-issued ESAPIs must endure during certification.
According to Karl Masters, one of the Army's top ballistics experts, the Dragon Skin failed to stop a 7.62 x 63mm APM2 round on the second shot of the test.
"We ran this vest through the exact same test protocol that every ESAPI supplier goes through," Masters said. "Can you meet the ESAPI requirement or not? That's the question."
Neal argued in a release after last year's tests that Masters and another Army ballistics expert were dumbfounded by the "flexible armor system" and weren't sure where to place the shots for the test.
"Deviation from the ESAPI test protocols and procedures tool place by the selection of shot placements of APM2 rounds around the ceramics in non-rifle defeating areas," Neal said in a written statement.
But Army officials said the shots were aimed at the same areas for ESPI testing and that the first penetration would typically have been the end of the "sudden death" test.
Engineers agreed to continue with the evaluation, however, subjecting separate Dragon Skin vests to submersion in oil, salt water, extreme cold and extreme heat.
Army data shows 13 complete penetrations or unacceptable back-face deformations - where the bullet doesn't go all the way through but causes enough of a dent that it would result in serious trauma - on four failed vests.
The tests were held in mid-May at H.P. White labs, a respected ballistics testing facility in Street, Md. H.P. White is the same test lab where the Army evaluates all its armor components, preferring not to use the Army-run Aberdeen Proving Ground ranges to fend off accusations of bias.
More troubling to Army testers was the near complete delamination of the disks from the Kevlar backing within the Dragon Skin on several of the environmental tests.
After being subjected to 160-degree heat for six hours, the Dragon Skin vest failed on the first shot. X-ray photos of the vest show the disks slipped off their backing, exposing portions of the chest area without any ceramic protection.
"Certain areas of the adhesive hardened and become brittle and when that happened, they all dropped down," Brown said.
Further tests in minus-60-degree cold, immersion in oil and diesel fuel showed similar delaminations and shot failures.
Neal said the Army manipulated the x-ray photos, but admitted one vest had an adhesive "anomaly."
Perhaps the biggest Army concern is Dragon Skin's weight. An extra large vest is nearly 20 pounds heavier than the Army's current armor, though Masters admitted it did have more rifle protective coverage than issued vests.
"The Army continues to look at these types of armor," Masters admitted. "If we can ever eliminate this weight penalty, we may have an opportunity to go to gapless coverage."
The Army declined to provide details of the test failures when the controversy erupted last year, claiming operational security concerns.
But the NBC News investigation prompted officials to rethink their strategy in an effort to keep Army families from purchasing Dragon Skin vests for their loved ones in the combat zone.
"Soldiers must have confidence in their equipment when they go down range," Brown said. "They've got to know that they're wearing the best and their families have got to know that they're wearing the best."
Apparently, this is going to be the next big "investigation" in congress -- sponsored by Webb and Hitlary.
Is there any there, there?
BTW, can civilians buy this stuff?
I have experience with Government contracting and it is never a good thing to call your Government customer a “liar”.
They had this on one Discovery channel show and it seemed pretty impressive..
They then took it out on an explosives range and stuck the dummy on top of a grenade and popped it off. It tore through the outer lining, but when they took it off there was zero penetration through the vest, the inside of the thing still looked brand new. I haven't seen the Army's stuff tested like that, but to me it sure looked like it did a heck of a job stopping everything thrown at it.
I saw Dragon Skin on future weapons. They shot one full of rounds and had a grenade go off under another with no penetration.
The Army tests must be hell.
Notice you’ve never seen a single malfunction on “Future Weapons” of ANYTHING.
Call in the ‘Myth Busters’, they’ll prove one way or another if the claims are true.
According to the news (and the congressional inquiry) the Army banned Dragon Skin two months BEFORE they tested it.
Parents of several soldiers purchased it for them, but the soldiers are not allowed to wear it in Iraq.
Oh gee, only 20 pounds heavier, too? Sorry, I’ll take my chances with the ESAPIs...
Sounds like quality control might be an issue for Dragon Skins.
.. how do I get a job on Myth Busters??? that would have been my dream job when I was a kid.. I blew up all my GI Joes and Star Wars action figures with fireworks.. I learned it takes 3 bottle rockets to send a GI Joe flying hundreds of feet in the air..
I saw this too. The rounds were always coming straight towards the armor, not at an angle. If a round came from an angle that was aligned with the overlap axis, I just bet it would penetrate.
May 18, 2007
The Honorable David M. Walker Comptroller General of the United States United States Government Accountability Office 441 G Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Walker:
We are writing to request that the Government Accountability Office conduct an investigation that would reassess body armor systems currently being issued by all the military services and the Special Operations Command for effectiveness and reliability against the threats facing our troops in combat.
Recent media reports suggest that the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor system may offer better protection than Interceptor Body Armor currently being used by our service members. Additionally, we have received constituent inquiries describing service members and government personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan wearing alternative body armor systems because of concerns about performance shortcomings with body armor procured by the Department of Defense.
We owe it to our men and women in uniform serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hazardous regions to provide them with the best possible body armor. Continuing allegations that superior body armor may be available but is not being acquired by the Department of Defense warrant an independent assessment.
In light of these revelations and constituent concerns we request that the Government Accountability Office reassess the various body armor systems currently being employed by all branches of the armed forces and the Special Operations Command for effectiveness and reliability against the threats facing our troops in combat. The scope of this review should include: (1) a comparison and testing of the Interceptor Body Armor system with other commercially available products including the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor system and the Special Operations Forces Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) to determine if our troops are currently issued the best available body armor system; (2) a determination of the necessary procurement steps required to obtain and field the best body armor systems for the armed forces; and (3) a review to confirm compliance and applicability of current body armor system policies and Safety-of-Use Messages for wear that apply to conventional forces and special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We look forward to your prompt response. Thank you for your consideration.
Hillary Rodham Clinton James Webb
CC: Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense; Senator Carl Levin, Chairman, Senate Arms Services Committee
Good grief, it’s a wonder you didn’t harm yourself.
We need someone like you running the DOD.
Myth Busters is pure entertainment and has no rigourous scientific controls in any of their so-called experiments. It is fun to watch, but that’s about it. I’ve seen them get it wrong a number of times because their test conditions were completely flawed. Then again you can’t expect too much from hollywood.
I thought the same thing too. This guy apparently lacks marketing skills!
Would it have killed you to post a picture?