Author Topic: (US) Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits  (Read 33455 times)

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Offline tomahawk6

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Update.

Dragon Skin report spurs body armor discussion
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Monday May 21, 2007 18:08:55 EDT

Army body armor officials announced Monday they would meet with members of Congress this week in the wake of recent media reports that question whether soldiers are equipped with the best body armor available.

Program Executive Officer Soldier commander Brig. Gen. Mark Brown made the announcement at a press briefing at the Pentagon Monday to explain why the Army refuses to allow its soldiers to wear controversial body armor known as Dragon Skin.

The briefing followed a May 20 NBC News report that presented results of independent ballistics tests commissioned by NBC. The tests were conducted May 3 in Germany. At NBC’s request, according to NBC News spokeswoman Barbara L. Levin, the Beschussamt Mellrichstadt laboratory did comparative testing of the Army's body armor, Interceptor, against Dragon Skin, a flexible body armor.

The tests show Level IV Dragon Skin vests outperforming Interceptor vests equipped with “ESAPI” plates in ballistic tests with various types of unnamed “armor piercing” ammunition.

“NBC News has blacked out the specific caliber of ammunition used in the tests, because the Army believes that level of detail may assist the enemy. NBC News did, however, share those details with the Army,” according to test results from NBC released May 20.

Brown, who oversees all body armor development for the Army, said today that the Army has requested specific details of how the test were conducted from NBC, but so far has not received that information.

In addition, Brown said he questions whether the “ESAPI” plates used in NBC’s tests were “certified” Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts that the service issues to soldiers deploying to combat.

Brown presented the results of the tests the Army conducted on Pinnacle’s SOV 3000 Level VI Dragon Skin vests May 16-19 at the National Institute of Justice-certified H.P. White labs near Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.

The tests subjected Dragon Skin against the same test protocols the Army uses to test its ESAPI and Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts. The vests were exposed to temperatures ranging from -60 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as being immersed in diesel fuel, oil and salt water for extended periods of time. After each of these exposures, testers shot the vests with armor-piercing ammunition, the most lethal small arms threat in the war.

Four out the eight vests tested failed after suffering 13 first- or second-shot complete penetrations with 7.62mmx63mm APM2 Armor Piercing ammunition, Brown said.

Offline Sheep Dog AT

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Interesting development if in fact NBC did use certified ESAPI plates.
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Offline tomahawk6

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My guess is that the NBC test didnt. If they had they would be forthcoming with the test info.

Offline Greymatters

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Bit misleading then... the article makes it sound like they did use ESAPI...  is the Army insinuating it was some knock-off ESAPI from a third world country instead...?  :o

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Well no one here knows what the exact tests were or specs.  If NBC didn't use approved DoD plates then yes it would be mis-leading but why would they.  NBC has no financial gain to support DS.
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Offline GAP

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Army Defends Body Armor Quality
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA American Forces Press Service
Article Link
 
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2007 – U.S. troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan have the best body armor in the world, and the Army is constantly looking for ways to improve force protection, the general in charge of the program told reporters here today.
“Force protection is the No. 1 priority of the U.S. Army. We value our soldiers very highly, and we do everything we can do to ensure that they have the finest in force protection as they go into the battle,” Army Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer Soldier, said at a Pentagon news conference.

In response to a May 17 NBC News report challenging the Army’s use of Interceptor body armor vs. the newer “Dragon Skin” armor developed by Pinnacle Armor Inc., Brown today released information about the testing that ruled out Dragon Skin a year ago.

The tests were conducted May 16 to 19, 2006, at H.P. White labs near Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The Pinnacle armor was subjected to the same tests Interceptor body armor goes through, first being X-rayed and analyzed and then undergoing a series of live-fire tests, Brown said. The live-fire tests included room-temperature tests, harsh environment tests, and durability and drop tests.

Of the eight Pinnacle vests tested, four of them failed the tests, with 13 rounds penetrating completely on the first or second shot, Brown said. After the first complete penetration, the vests technically failed the test, but the Army continued the testing to be fair, he said.
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Offline KevinB

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The US Army testing protocol is open source.
  And FIWI the threat round is the US 30-06 AP round at (IIRC) 2731 FPS Impact velocity

 
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Offline GAP

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So why the NBC testing? and was it to the same standard?
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Offline KevinB

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No idea.
  I beleive NBC said they handed all their info over to the ARMY.

I've always been curious as to why the 7.62x54R AP round was not the threat standard (IIRC it is a HIGHER penetrator than the old 30-06 AP round)
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Offline GAP

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Army Seeks Body Armor for Deadlier Threat
Military.com  |  By Christian Lowe  |  June 27, 2007
Article Link

The Army has issued an industry-wide request for a new kind of body armor that can defeat even more powerful rounds than the current ceramic plate and has opened the door for the new armor construction that includes flexible systems many say are more comfortable than today's vests.

The new armor insert, dubbed "XSAPI," is intended to stop armor-piercing rounds more deadly than the ones the current "enhanced small arms protective insert" can defeat, will weigh less than a pound more than today's ESAPI and could have more coverage than the rigid ceramic plates currently fielded to U.S. troops in combat.

The Army's latest solicitation - dated June 20 - marks yet another chapter in the ongoing debate over allegations that the Army has ignored armor technology that could yield more protection and comfort than its current "Interceptor" vest. In May, an NBC investigative report raised questions over whether a certain type of body armor called "Dragon Skin" was stronger than the Interceptor - which is worn by most American troops in the field.

The NBC report - and the Army counter-attack that followed - gained the attention of the top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, which held a hearing on the subject June 6 and demanded a new set of tests to prove once and for all whether Dragon Skin - or other armor using similar technology - was better than Interceptor.

Dragon Skin employs a flexible system of interlocking ceramic disks that the manufacturer, Fresno, Calif.-based Pinnacle Armor, says is more comfortable and can endure more rifle shots than Interceptor. The ESAPI employs a series of rigid ceramic plates inserted into the front, back and sides of the Interceptor "outer tactical vest."

After the congressional hearing, the Army revised its earlier May 27 request for new armor to test, adding the XSAPI specs and opening the offer to flexible, or "scalar," systems. The Army also extended the period for manufacturers to submit their proposals by 30 days - until the end of August - a move congressional staffers say will give Pinnacle plenty of time to submit the vests needed for testing.

"The Army seems to be accommodating Pinnacle as far as it can," a top House Armed Services Committee aide told Military.com.

The Army declined to comment on the new XSAPI requirement or on upcoming tests until after the service has determined a contract winner.
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http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/files/dragon_skin_release_000121may07.pdf

Also

http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14523
Dragon Skin?

There may be something better called Dragon Skin, but better than what?

Bottom line up front. From 16-19 May 2006, in Department of Defense (DoD) test protocols at HP White Labs, Pinnacle SOV 3000 Level IV Dragon Skin vests suffered 13 first or second shot complete penetrations, failing four of eight initial subtests with Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPI) threat baseline 7.62 x 63mm M2 Armor Piercing (AP) ammunition. The Project Manager (PM) Soldier Equipment Briefing report is on line and is easily available.

I say again, of eight Pinnacle SOV 3000 Level IV Dragon Skin (DS) vests tested for V0 penetration, four of them failed, and 13 of 48 rounds fired for record were complete penetrations. Of these, significant first shot failures were noted when the DS vests were exposed to diesel fuel, a serious concern since almost all of our vehicles use this fuel and between spillage during refueling and the potential for saturation after an IED attack on US convoys, vests can easily be contaminated with fuels. A first shot complete penetration was also observed after a DS vest was drop tested. Anyone who has served understands that a 48 pound vest is going to get dropped, dragged, and abused a LOT in a combat zone, even during normal patrolling and movement. Finally, and most significantly, the vest cannot be exposed to heat. With solar loads regularly generating vehicle interior temperatures well in excess of 150 degrees, the DS vest disks delaminate themselves and fall to the bottom of the vest, effectively reducing the armor protection to nearly nothing. All panels shot after high temperature exposure failed in the first shot. This is unacceptable and is hardly a characteristic I would look for in a product to replace the current proven ESAPI in conjunction with the Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts (ESBI).

According to the X-Rays in the Army report, all hits were in protected areas with full disk coverage. Also easily seen in the X-Rays is the complete failure of the vests adhesive to retain the disks in place during extreme hot and cold weather testing.

NBC also neglected to mention the weight penalty of the Pinnacle SOV 3000 Level IV Dragon Skin vests, which can weigh up to 47.5 pounds or 20 pounds more than the Interceptor vest with ESAPI and ESBI. They appear to have tested the armor, flat, which favors the flexible Pinnacle armor. And they tested it at room temperature only, which means, I suppose, that if you are a soldier who never leaves the office, say, at NBC headquarters, the Dragon Skin may work well for you. If you, however, actually have to go outside, well, you may not want to throw away the Interceptor with the ESAPI quite yet.

The Pinnacle SOV 3000 vests tested were purchased and manufactured the same month that the Army PM test was conducted. They were tested under the ESAPI Purchase Description for front and rear, and ESBI Purchase Description for left and right side. All tests were conducted with 7.62 x 63mm 166 grain M2 AP projectiles stripped from Government Issue complete rounds and hand loaded for each shot by HP White Lab personnel. These rounds were loaded to a specific velocity (+ or – 25 fps) known to replicate the most common threat AP ammunition. In scientific testing, 27%, or more than one in four of these rounds went completely through the armor and into the target. Are you sure you want to suit up a loved one in this stuff?

Strangely, in their investigative reporting seeking to prove the superiority of the Dragon Skin armor over Interceptor with ESAPI, NBC did not appear to use actual ESAPI and ESBI plates for the comparison. Instead, they seem to have shot some other armor that Jim Magee provided and that he stated ““This is what the soldiers and Marines are wearing.” In fact, it may not be. So much for journalistic integrity.

Did the Army really ban the armor last year and issue a Safety Of Use Message (SOUM) even before formally testing it?

Not exactly. Army personnel witnessed a May 2004 test of DS in SAPI plate configuration where the Dragon Skin vests failed catastrophically. Nevin Rupert, Murray Neal, and Chief Scientist Dr. James Zheng were all on the range watching that day. I believe that Mr. Neal stopped the test early due to catastrophic failures of the Dragon Skin. There were also Army, AF, and USMC observed and reported failures of the DS armor in ballistic testing prior to the release of the Army Safety of Use Message in March 2006. The Dragon Skin armor design has a history of failure. Look at the Army PM report.

Would NBC allow soldiers to wear prayer beads and paper party hats as armor until the Army formally tested it and issued a soldier safety release?

Some people may think that Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down, or that it is better than the Interceptor. Seemingly credible people also believe that they have seen UFOs, and that Elvis lives. That does not make it true.

The SOV 3000 Level IV Dragon Skin vests are too heavy, prone to failure under threat fire, and unreliable in extreme temps. I am not sure what role James Magee, Colonel, USMC (Ret.), the former President of Point Blank Body Armor, Inc. has in this, but there may be motives here that are currently unknown. I would be hesitant taking people’s own word for their expertise, especially given his position at Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT). His claim that he is the “inventor” of Interceptor body armor seems like a bit of a stretch as well, since people who have been on the Army body armor program since the late '90s do not recognize his name.

More stopping power and more coverage? Not exactly. In the Army tests, which cost the taxpayers over $250,000 just last year, stopping power of the Dragon Skin was questionable, as was the ability of the armor to maintain ballistic integrity in high temperatures typical of the AOR. More rifle coverage and less ballistic integrity for 20 lbs. of extra weight? Hmm, not sure I like that trade-off. The GAO seemed satisfied with the Army and Marine ESAPI programs as well in their report as of 26 April 2007.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may, or may not have bought Dragon Skin for elite operatives in Iraq. I don’t have access to that information, but the CIA is not subject to US Army procurement policies or regulations. Ask them why they bought it, how it worked for them, and if they are still procuring it for their personnel.

Mr. Nevin Rupert now calls himself a whistleblower. He says the Army’s timing wasn’t coincidental. He claims that their loyalty is to their organization and maintaining funds. Rupert believes he was recently fired by the Army, he says, for supporting Dragon Skin.

There are plenty of disgruntled employees in every organization. I suspect that Mr. Rupert was relieved for cause. As a Federal employee, he cannot be terminated without good reason. I am sure that he would prefer that the details not be discussed, but I believe that his termination may have had to do with other matters than some dark conspiracy. He can open his employee files to the media if he really wants to.

Rupert also says he was ordered not to attend the May 2006 tests of Dragon Skin. If he was not able to be an impartial tester and finder of facts, as his job required, then what role was he to have played at the test? It would appear that the performance of the armor would speak for itself. And it did. It failed miserably, especially at temperature extremes, when most of the armor disks delaminated themselves and fell into a nice belt at the bottom of the vest. Not much protection down there, but I am sure they made a nice jingling sound as they were moved around.

As far as the officers and scientists involved in the testing, what interest would Army officers from combat arms have in supporting a lesser technology armor? Because it wasn’t invented by the Army? They don’t hold stock or care what the source of the armor is, just that it works. Do you really think that would put their brothers' lives at risk over some sort of parochial turf war? And their own as well, when they get issued the gear on their next deployment? I am sure that they would much rather be back in a unit rather than stuck in an office job pushing papers. I know I would.

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Continued:

I am not sure how things work in the news industry, but does Lisa Myers know everything her staff does or brings with them to shoots? Is she responsible for endorsing everything they do? Do they occasionally deviate from her guidance? Should we follow them with a camera and see?

Does she review and approve their expense accounts for company equipment? Can she provide a list of every item her crew carries, and the source of those items? Does her driver have clean underwear? Is she responsible for knowing that level of detail? Why should the general be?

NBC News claims to have commissioned an independent, side-by-side test of Dragon Skin and the Army’s Interceptor vest. According to them, Dragon Skin outperformed the Army’s body armor in stopping the most lethal threats.

There are only two labs that are National Institute of Justice (NIJ) certified to run NIJ body armor tests. They are the HP White Laboratory in Street, MD and US Test Labs in Wichita, KS. A third lab, Chesapeake Testing in Chase, MD, is under NIJ review for certification. Additional military facilities certify body armor performance for DoD. NBC does not own one of them, nor does NBC appear to be pursuing a scientific approach at a licensed facility. A proper test would require over two dozen SOV 3000 Level IV Dragon Skin vests to be placed on a human torso model and shot by specific threat rounds at a standard range and impact velocity, from specific angles and impact points, and under a variety of contamination and environmental conditions that soldiers might face in combat. Fresh off the manufacturing line ESAPI would be shot for comparison, if further certification or validation (already awarded to the ESAPI) was needed.

Was the “Interceptor” ESAPI armor NBC tested government issued or procured independently? The markings on the armor seen in the video are unfamiliar and they appear to be independently procured non-issue plates from non-standard or non-qualified vendors. Wouldn’t a fair test use the fresh issue ESAPI plates, like the Pinnacle armor provided? Are the alleged ESAPIs NBC tested fresh and certified current production? Did they come from Pinnacle or a surplus store dumpster? There are six qualified vendors that have passed ESAPI first article protocol. The vendors deny providing plates to NBC. And none of them are Canadian.

NBC has not yet mentioned what model Dragon Skin was shot. Apples have to be compared to apples. You can wear armor that will stop .50 BMG, but you will not be mobile in it. I can test a stock appearing Ford Mustang that has twice the rated horsepower too, but it doesn’t mean the one you buy will perform like it does.

What was their sample size? Did they shoot up 30 SOV 3000s or ESAPIs?

Where did they shoot it? From the video, it appears to be on a flat surface. Do you see a lot of soldiers shaped like doors? Is there a problem with testing it on a torso shaped platform, replicating the soldier that NBC is so concerned about? Did they test single and multiple round impacts on all four impact faces of the vests?

What weapon, projectile, and impact velocity did NBC use? There is only one Army performance standard for ESAPI body armor testing. Was it the prescribed threat level for testing that is required in the acquisition documents? Are we counting on the enemy firing only a single round at the Pinnacle SOV 3000 level IV Dragon Skin vest? What happens if he has plenty of ammo that day and shoots twice?

The Army conducted tests of both types of armor at the HP White test lab, the NIJ certified facility for testing body armor, in accordance with the required protocol for scientific testing. Where was the NBC test conducted? What were the protocols? What threats did the DS stop that the ESAPI did not? The Army used multiple environmental protocols designed to duplicate the different climates our soldiers serve under. Again, what protocols did NBC employ? If the user is sitting at a desk, clean and dry in a Forward Operating Base (FOB), as tested by NBC, the DS probably works fine. If the wearer has to go outside and deal with the weather, sweat, contamination, etc., according to the May 2006 test, it isn't going to stop Jack, half of the time (four out of eight vests failed in certified testing). Furthermore, a size extra large Dragon Skin weighs 47.5 pounds (vs. 28 pounds for the equivalent fitting OTV with ESAPI and ESBI side plates) for 743 sq. in. (vs. 720 for the Interceptor with ESAPI) of total coverage. With Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), rifle protection is the sum of the areas of the front and rear plates and the 2 side plates. The Pinnacle Dragon Skin armor does provide more rifle coverage, as long as it is climate controlled and not shot much, but at a significant weight penalty. I am sure that if I wanted to carry additional plates to equalize the weights, the ESAPI could have done even better.

Gary K. Roberts, DDS, Commander, US Naval Reserve is also cited as conducting a test of the DS armor. While he is a Navy dentist, and an alleged ammo expert, I am unsure how he has become a scientific tester of body armor, or what his official role is. He seems to be interested in environmental testing of body armor, but does not appear to be familiar enough with Military Standard (MIL STD) 810E/810F to understand the ESAPI test protocol. The Armored Mobility Inc. (AMI) armor used as a control in his test is not a military issued plate. He is also quoted on the Pinnacle web site. What was his involvement? Was his a sanctioned Navy test? If so, it failed to follow DoD or NIJ protocols. Was he testing on behalf of Pinnacle? Was he compensated for his testing? Who sponsored it? Unless Dr. Roberts, DDS is able to substantiate his testing as meeting the HP White and NIJ standards for body armor testing, I would have to discount the validity of this test as a basis for comparison with military or NIJ certification of the armor.

The alleged NIJ test that Pinnacle refers to on their web site did not follow the DoD armor test protocol either. NIJ certification tests do not include high temperature, low temperature, or temperature shock conditioning tests. NIJ test conditioning is limited to water spray, all done at ambient conditions. NIJ is looking at adopting temperature cycling and accelerated aging in the new revision, NIJ Standard 0101.05, to be published, but this test was not conducted to the Army standard, so for Army procurement, it is irrelevant. I have heard that law enforcement units who have the Pinnacle armor use one set for training, and keep another locked away in climate control for actual call-outs. Maybe they are aware of this problem as well.

Incidentally, it would appear that Pinnacle continues to have additional legal problems with the government, as the investigators continue probing them for their fraudulent NIJ certification claim problem.

There is a one-time failure policy in the test business for Resistance to Penetration (RTP) tests. Because an actual failure during use may be a death sentence. First shot complete penetrations are NOT allowed in the ESAPI RTP tests. These are considered catastrophic failures, resulting in automatic failure of the First Article Test (FAT). Ballistic limit (V50) tests are looking for 3 partials and 3 completes at the worst case shot location-a single disc area of coverage. The SOV 3000 failed RTP tests 50% of the time, as opposed to the issue ESAPI failing 0% of the time, at twenty pounds less weight. Not sure what kind of odds you like, but if it is my torso inside the vest, I would rather be lighter, faster and better protected over the cool guy factor, especially when it hits over 150 degrees in the back of the vehicle.

General Downing’s comments after observing the tests, even as an employee of NBC, were still non-committal. Perhaps he is aware of the protocol for testing body armor, and NBC’s compliance with that protocol, or lack thereof. Or perhaps not. He was a Ranger and a commander, after all, not a procurement officer.

So these independent, limited tests by NBC raise questions about the Army’s claims?

It would appear that Pinnacle already has some serious credibility issues, including claims posted on their web site. For example, despite Pinnacle's claim, US Army Special Forces Command, which equips all US Special Forces, has never heard of Pinnacle, much less purchased armor from them.

Why does NBC not speak with the purported father of flexible armor, Mr. Allan D. Bain, whose web site http://www.evolutionarmor.com/Flex.htm states:

“The fact is most of Pinnacle Armor's systems were invented by Allan D. Bain formally of Armor Technology Corp. Pinnacle Armor started manufacturing after we educated Mr. Neal how to make armor by contract executed in October of 2000 that was fair and honestly fulfilled. Pinnacle Armor and Mr. Neal never manufactured any body armor prior to this date. So if you hear about Pinnacle Armor or the "Dragon Skin" armor being manufactured since 1995 your talking about armor that Pinnacle Armor never made or developed. In fact Murray Neal was a sales representative for Armor Technology from 1997 - October of 2000 a company owned entirely by Allan D. Bain, the true inventor of Dragon Skin."

"There are quite a few reasons, and if you have read the Pinnacle Armor propaganda you will hear about tales of fraud, sabotage, and protection of the good old boy network as it relates to The "Interceptor Vest". I can tell you as someone who works with the military on this kind of endeavor there are a lot of reasons why this armor hasn't been universally adopted and the reasons above are basically false. The truth is Pinnacle Armor received clearance to forward samples to the Army and was paid 170,000 dollars, and that was after they were paid almost a 1,000,000.00 dollars to develop the armor from where we left off after we sold patent rights to Pinnacle Armor in October of 2000."

"The major flaw was not observing the Article One testing environmental conditioning protocol, which calls for the armor to withstand 165 degrees F for 6 hours. After five years of development and having the protocol in hand you would figure that the adhesive used to affix the tiles to the high strength fabric would be of the high temperature variety, it wasn't, and because of that these vests failed. OOPS!"

Essentially, the inventor of Dragon Skin freely admits that the current manufacturers of the armor are aware that it cannot handle temperature extremes without falling apart, and pretty much ripped the government off last time. Did NBC look into that?

Critics told NBC they’d like to see the Army re-test and re-evaluate Dragon Skin, so why not retest the DS vest now? Because it is too heavy, and not reliably bullet resistant. Warfighters want lighter and flexible, not heavier and flexible. What if Pinnacle has changed the adhesive? Will Pinnacle be recalling Dragon Skin armor with substandard adhesive manufactured before the Army discovered this shortfall? Well, I would hope so, after a free FAT test at taxpayer expense. All other vendors pay for the FAT if they fail, Army pays if they pass. Would Murray Neal like to donate another 30 vests for destructive testing? Even so, the Army may retest, at a cost of many more tax dollars since the Pinnacle vests are several thousand dollars each. At the end of it, will there be an expose by NBC on how the Army wastes our tax dollars retesting failed body armor? Why is NBC promoting this failed technology? What is their agenda?

For any vendor that wants to compete for Army body armor work, the system is evaluated against the ESAPI standard/requirements as stated in the performance specification-not evaluated against the IBA itself. If you meet the standard, you are eligible for an award if pricing is in the competitive range during Full and Open competitions. To my knowledge, Pinnacle has never responded to a Full and Open competition. Why doesn’t Pinnacle Armor compete for Army business like every other body armor vendor? Why should they get special treatment? It appears to me that Pinnacle is attempting to restrict competition. I wonder how other manufacturers of body armor that have passed the ESAPI FAT protocol feel about this?

What about it, Mr. Neal? Are you willing to ante up this time for a round of government testing, or do you just want to sell the Army another load of defective armor?

And for NBC, would this have been an even juicier story if the Army bought and issued the Dragon Skin, after knowing that it was inadequate and defective, and dozens of soldiers died? Again, this armor failed the Army tests, not slightly, not on a technicality, but miserably and utterly. The designer of the Dragon Skin armor himself admits its inadequacy. Yet some would like it fielded more widely. Look at the Army test results. They speak for themselves. As an American soldier, I am glad that the Army tested it and discovered the real truth, rather than listening to armchair quarterbacks, snake oil salesmen, and charlatans. This refusal to yield to the SFTT, Dr. Roberts, and NBC has saved soldiers' lives. And that is the real bottom line here.
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http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/795iwopr.asp?pg=2

NBC's Body Armor Embarrassment
Another failed attempt to paint soldiers as victims.
by Tom Donnelly
06/20/2007 11:14:00 AM



ONE OF THE RECURRING themes of press coverage of the Long War, and particularly the conflict in Iraq, is that soldiers are victims. According to this trope, soldiers and Marines are sacrificing themselves in a cause already lost, by an administration that cares little for the men and women in uniform. The proof of this last proposition was demonstrated to the media's satisfaction long ago, and confirmed for them in former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proclamation that we went to war with the force we had rather than the one we'd liked to have.

Exhibit number one in the press's case for the prosecution was the question of armor protection for soldiers--not only armor for trucks and Humvees but individual body armor. Facts have never been allowed to get in the way of these stories--nor have questions about the tradeoffs between mobility and protection --and, if a recent report by NBC's Lisa Myers is any indication, they still aren't. In Myers's report, done in the classic "I-team" TV investigative style, NBC paid for an independent ballistics test comparing something called Dragon Skin body armor (so-called because it is made up of overlapping ceramic discs) with the Interceptor body armor now being worn by soldiers.

Far from being a case of independent investigation, the report smells more like a piece of special pleading. Dragon Skin is made by Pinnacle Body Armor, whose chief executive, Murray Neal, has long complained that the Army has been lying about his product. According to Myers, "In our limited testing at a renowned ballistics lab in Germany, Dragon Skin was able to defeat more bullets than the Army's Interceptor and did so with significantly less body trauma."

Employing yet another media-catnip tactic, Neal and his PR team have convinced some concerned parents that there may be something better than what the Army is supplying their children; they in turn have agitated for Congress to intervene. The House Armed Services Committee's once-moderate Democratic chairman Rep. Ike Skelton--whose son is a soldier, and who is apparently competing for the Iraq "oversight" job with more reliably left Rep. Henry Waxman--dutifully responded to the NBC broadcast by holding a hearing on the subject of body armor. Alas, the story soon deviated from the script.

In testimony to the committee, the Air Force related its history with Dragon Skin. While researching flexible body armor, the Air Force purchased some Dragon Skin for evaluation. However, after being notified of Dragon Skin test failures, the Air Force requested a live fire test, which Dragon Skin failed, resulting in a recall of all its Dragon Skin. As it happens, the Army has had a similar experience. It had purchased some Dragon Skin vests for use by its Criminal Investigations Command, but recalled the vests in April 2006, not only because of test failures, but because of false certification claims. Finally, under questioning from the committee's ranking Republican, Duncan Hunter, once an infantryman in Vietnam, one of NBC's "experts," upon hearing of the Army's experience, allowed that Dragon Skin was "not ready for prime time."

The NBC report, too, included questionable claims--and its tests were indeed "limited," falling far short of military standards. In fact, Pinnacle's Dragon Skin body armor has been tested a total of six times by the military, four times by the Army, and once each by the Air Force and Marines. It has failed every time.

On the Army's website you can see footage of Pinnacle's Murray Neal peering into a hole in ballistic clay--which simulates the human body--after a test round made a full penetration of his product. The Army standard is, not surprisingly, zero penetrations. According to the Army, Dragon Skin suffered 13 penetrations out of 48 test shots. The service also provided NBC with the results from a May 2006 test showing that Dragon Skin failed Army testing, "miserably" in the words of Brig. Gen. Mark Brown of the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground.

But why let the facts get in the way when you're retelling a story that fits the accepted narrative? The press and the leadership of the Democratic party, in the throes of an extended Vietnam flashback, have decided the war is lost. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even thinks he knows what's going on in Baghdad better than does Gen. David Petraeus, the commander on the scene. But the media and the Democrats still fear that their defeatist attitudes may alienate people in uniform, or Americans more broadly. Thus the need to cast soldiers as victims. The only victim in the body army story, though, is the truth.

Tom Donnelly is resident fellow in defense and national security studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

 
 
© Copyright 2007, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved. 
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Offline Red 6

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The US press has a miserable record of lambasting military equipment projects, which ultimately turn out to be effective weapons. Look at how 60 Minutes trashed the Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the 80s and now the Bradley has been in service for over 25 years. Has 60 Minutes ever put out another story about how many Soldiers have survived due to being protected by the Bradley's armor? I know several of them, including the guy who is typing this post right now. Look at how horribly the media portrayed the Apache helicopter and especially the M1 tank back in the 80s. Both were supposed to be examples of all that was wrong with the military-industrial complex in the USA.


Offline KevinB

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LWQ -- Keep in mind that Doc Roberts is an accepted Ammo expert, he worked with Fackler as his understudy and workis in conjunction with Buford Boone of the the FBI...
 -- he was also the one that blew the LeMas "blended metal" issue open (re-packaged vermit rounds at dangeorulsy high pressure - that several {inc me} had fallen for -- and that several of the PS folk are enamoured with (hence LTC Rapers attack on the good doc).
  Keep in mind he also tested the LIII DS vest - not the LIV one - and it was for a LE dept that was only interested in penetration -- not the temp testing and POL imersion tests the .mil does.
  I know and respect Tony -- but he does have a grudge with Doc Roberts, and IMHO in this issue its coloring what he says


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Offline Sheep Dog AT

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I bow to your experience (again) BUT if its true that the makers of Dragon Skin mislabeled on of their products intentionally (wrt ballistic protection) there is no excuse for that and I would be weary of the company in any other endeavors they partake in.
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Offline Greymatters

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Quagmire,

Thanks for the excellent coverage and supporting information.  I think you have eliminated any doubts as to which was better.

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I 6 was/is running with Dragon Skin.  I suggest you PM him for more info.
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Offline KevinB

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Dont get me wrong -- I think what Pinnacle did was illegal and immoral -- and FWIW Doc GKR was syaing they need to be criminally prosecuted - like Second Chance and other where over the Zylon issue -- oh yeah the CF still uses Zylon  ::)

I6 was  ;) -- no problems so far -- no disk migration etc. 
  I think its kinda a BS test fwiw on the POL soaking -- since DS is soft armor and plate -- and if you had your soft armor soaked in POL you'd have to exchange it too -- BUT the fact Pinnacle lied on the tests - and the NIJ certification, and also has cheated on the weight issue (there large is medium in the accepted sizing).

   I think a DS style is a better system than the hard plate -- I can move and shoot a lot better with it - over the ESAPI -- BUT the current DS is not up to the grade -- better they shut their mouth and fix the problem than try to bamboozle people with an inferior product.

Search the LeMas Blended Ammo fiasco for a similar issue  ;)
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Offline Greymatters

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PM on the way...

Offline philbm900

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Just curious, are Canadian soldiers allowed to wear other body armors then issues? Has their been the same issues within the Canadian Army?

Thanks, Phil.

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no we aren't allowed.
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Offline philbm900

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What happens if they found that they arent using the proper one?

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charge of some kind, depending on who finds out and if they (the person with the non-issued gear) do or don't have their issued gear as well.  If they say worry something in addition too what they are issued it MAY not be as a big deal but since I don't charge people I wouldn't know for sure.
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