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The Dragon Skin Circus Begins

Hope you folks arent sick of the body armor/Dragon Skin debate yet because its about to heat up again.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow morning at 10am EDT on the recent Dragon Skin tests and the Armys firm defense. Two panels of experts will be questioned, with none other than Pinnacle Armors Murray Neal himself sitting in the congressional hot seat on Panel 1.

At his side will be the inveterate Pentagon critic Phillip Coyle, the director of DoD operational test and evaluation during the Clinton Administration. Coyle, youll remember, was present during the NBC side-by-side tests of Interceptor and Dragon Skin at a German ballistic test lab a few months ago.

Defense Tech got its hands on an advanced copy of Coyles written testimony late today, and we want to make sure our readers have a chance to read it before the Dragon Skin circus kicks off tomorrow morning.

I did a quick run-through and Ive got a couple problems with it. But first, I love his jab at the Army on page three concerning the NBC story on the Trophy active protection system. NBC lobbed a grenade in the Armys lap on that one and the service had a hard time defusing it

The IDA study showed that the Trophy Active Protection System was the farthest along, as NBC had reported, and ranked the system which the Army and this Committee favored, the Raytheon Quick Kill system, ninth in terms of technical readiness. In short, the IDA report confirmed that NBC got it right.

Anyway, on page 11, Coyle misrepresents PEO Soldiers BGen. Brown’s statement on the single disk coverage area.

As Gen. Brown stated in his May 21 press conference,
So what you see, the laws or probability and statistics will take hold in the live-fire test. There’s probably a 50 percent probability of impact in a single-disk coverage area. Gen. Brown went on to suggest that a single disc could not stop armor piercing ammunition.

Brown was not making a characterization of the effectiveness of single disk coverage at all. Instead, in the context of that specific comment, Brown was comparing test results that showed penetrations of single disk coverage areas. And besides, the disks are convex. Center-disk thickness is roughly equal to overlapping thickness or at least thats the rough theory behind scalar armor systems.

On page 10, Coyle takes issue with the number of shots the Army claimed it fired against Dragon Skin.

the briefing talks about 48 shots having been fired, but Lt. Col. Masters first told me 96 shots were fired at Dragon Skin vests in those tests, then later said it was 80 shots. In his May 21 press conference, Gen. Brown said that two shots each had been fired at the front back and sides, which would mean 64 shots fired at 8 vests. I believe the correct number is something like 88. In any case I believe it is not 48 shots as reported to this Committee and in the May 21st press conference.

Thats unfair. The Army fired three shots at each plate on each vest. But only two of the shots counted toward the tests. The third an oblique shot against which scalar armor is at a significant disadvantage was not brought up at the briefings, didnt count toward the tests and was therefore not part of the Armys argument and therefore may account for the high shot count discrepancy.

Again on page 11, Coyle raises the weight issue, saying:

the Dragon Skin panels were about a pound per side heavier, but nothing like the 19.5 pound difference shown by the Army. A fair weight comparison would be of vests of the same size, designed to defeat the same threats, allowing the manufacturer to trade off the weight of the outer tactical vest with weight in the ceramic armor to achieve the best overall protection for the US military.

Forgive me, but all you need to do is pick up a Dragon Skin vest and see for yourself how crushingly heavy it is. And I dont buy the equal size argument either. A large Interceptor is more equivalent to an extra large DS vest. If you want to squeeze a large DS vest on a Soldier who wears a large Interceptor, go ahead, but be ready to deal with less ballistic coverage.

And I dont get this hang up with side by side testing. What does that mean, exactly? Theres a standard to meet. Theres a standard way to test whether something meets that standard. You shoot it. It fails. The end

And when Coyle further states:

Side-by-side testing means testing both types of body armor under the same conditions, according to the same scoring rules, in short, a level playing field.

How is that not what the Army did with Dragon Skin? Neal was there. Look here to watch Neal peer through the hole made by shot two of the oil test vest back panel. Is he jumping up and down saying the test wasnt fair?

And, it would be hard for Coyle to argue that the German Dragon Skin test he observed were conducted under the same conditions as the Armys DS test, wouldnt it? The NBC tests didnt include extreme temperature tests. The Army standard mandates it and Coyle pays lip service to the demonstrable failures of the DS with the environmental testing in his testimony.

Stay tuned DT fans. This wars going to get a lot uglier before it gets any better.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Foreign.Boy June 5, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Ummm trojan Anyone? (j/k)
I still think that they’ve clearly demonstrated that Dragon skin has failed the ‘logistical’ or ‘shelf life’ portion of the test.
I also don’t think ‘contractors’ and ‘cia’ are too concerned with lugging a ruck sack around the dessert.
It’s going to be interesting to see this pan out. I still think the conclusion will match the army’s.


desmond June 5, 2007 at 9:22 pm

In following the Dragon Skin controversy, it seems to me that the Army’s key (ostensible) problem with Dragon Skin is that the discs can move around.
In the Army tests, high heat seemed to allow the discs to move. One of the Army test x-ray images makes me suspect the Army may have tried to create space between discs by strongly stretching the fabric.
Dragon Skin now say they are using a temperature resistant adhesive which should fix the moving disc problem. But I don’t think this will be enough to satisfy the Army. The Army can simply move the goal posts and claim that once the vests are in the field, there will be no way (short of an x-ray) to verify all the tiles are in place.
I think Dragon Skin’s only counter to this criticism is for them to abandon adhesives and start sewing individual pockets for each disc.
The Dragon Skin manufacturer has claimed that sewing individual pockets for each disc would not be possible because such a process would be far too labor intensive.
Perhaps he’s not aware of the current capabilities of automated sewing systems, or (more likely) he knows that such sewing technology would be far too expensive an investment without a massive order of vests.
If I were running Dragon Skin, I’d make a few of the labor intensive, sewn pocket vests. I’d test them throughly, after revisions, I’d make a few dozen available for new Army tests.
If the Army likes the product and places an order, DS could then afford to purchase the expensive automated sewing equipment.
I think DS has a good product that when handled with care, probably serves its users very well. DS just doesn’t seem up to the very heavy abuse levels the Army requires of all its gear. I think Dragon Skin will have completely solve the moving-disc problem if they want the politicians to force this product on the Army.


Foreign.Boy June 5, 2007 at 9:39 pm

“If I were running Dragon Skin, I’d make a few of the labor intensive, sewn pocket vests. I’d test them throughly, after revisions, I’d make a few dozen available for new Army tests.” -desmond
Desmond, I agree! Already look at their manufacturing process…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNY1MtsVwG8 (1:31)
It’s clear they already have someone laying them out by hand… I could see their vests opening up from the side revealing the sewn shut (or Velcro) plates.
Maybe it would compromise the integrity of the overlapping disks? Either way.. the system allowing it to open up would allow for ‘maintenance’ and a visual/touch inspection of the plates.


Camp June 5, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Personally, I still say each company should “stand behind their product” during the testing… And I do mean that literally.
Circus eh?
Maybe it’s time for us to “consult the book of armaments”?
Or could it be that people just like to argue? :)


BT June 6, 2007 at 2:44 am

I think Murray Neal is wasting his time with scientific tests, hearings, and PR. Since his product failed, he needs to setup manufacturing facilities in each Congressperson’s district. This will gurantee Congress orders the Pentagon to buy these Vests regardless of their effectiveness. After all, the US Military is always buying crap that isn’t needed, or doesn’t work, or doesn’t live up to the hype. On the flip side, they can’t get what they do need, ie MRAP, UAV/UGV, thermal cameras..etc.


Dave June 6, 2007 at 4:37 am

They should simply hand out cambat gear with a fitting IBA or DS. Then make them run 5 miles.
After that the debate is over.
BTW First Dragon Skin discs were attached by wire and had severe second hit problems.


Charley June 6, 2007 at 7:38 am

Oh man we could surely use Troy Hurtubise right now…


Wembley June 6, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Without independent testing, it will always look as though Murray Neal had a case, because there have been some very questionable aspects to this the Army looks set against DS.


trax June 19, 2007 at 3:51 pm

why is this argument still going when the youtube movies clearly show the creator of interceptor admitting that dragon skin was by far superior?
my god, i think i just won the entire debate


William June 23, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Well, well, the army has released their solicition for flexible armor. We will see if Dragon Skin can meet the requirements in real testing, and for that matter if anyone else can make flexible armor work and meet military requirements. It is put up or shut up time for Pinnacle.


jane doe October 10, 2007 at 12:21 pm

i find the predanet is a fool for not letting the army wearing the dragon vest.


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