by Roger Charles
October 15, 2007
When NBC News had a German lab conduct side-by-side, comparative tests of Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin and the Army’s Interceptor Body Armor System on May 3 earlier this year, the real surprise was how well the Interceptor ESAPI (Level IV) plates performed.
Yes, that’s right. The Army acquisition mafia "got lucky" in Germany, and they know it. Brig.Gen. Mark Brown and his fellow capos do not want to take a chance on another side-by-side test where the true performance of the ESAPI plates would likely be exposed, if random sampling of fielded ESAPI plates was used to pick the Interceptor test items.
As you’ll read below, the ESAPI plates used in the NBC News test were "hand picked" by a technical consultant to preclude any later claims by the Army that the test was biased against Interceptor.
There was no surprise that Dragon Skin excelled at the tests — stopping all six Level IV rounds fired at the two Dragon Skin target panels. Pinnacle Armor’s flexible, disk-based product had consistently passed independent, i.e., honest, tests over a period of several years.
(At the end of this article are listed seven tests that Dragon Skin has passed in the last 24 months (and one test from May 2005). This list does not include several tests conducted with full video coverage by media outlets, such as the History Channel’s Mail Call and the Discovery Channel’s Future Weapons, among others. The media production teams totally controlled the ballistic tests. Pinnacle Armor did not solicit these tests. The media approached Pinnacle Armor due to the…
over Interceptor versus Dragon Skin. Pinnacle Armor did not pay to have
the media teams air the tests. Pinnacle Armor’s role was only to
contribute their vests for the tests. (BTW — Pinnacle Armor was not
reimbursed for the vests used in these tests.) These media tests are
not included because they did not follow any accepted test protocols.
But, what they captured, with the camera running and on un-doctored
video was the amazing ability of Dragon Skin to defeat multiple rounds
at numbers far beyond what even Interceptor’s most rapid supporters
claim for their ESAPI plates. If, you have not seen similar video of
Interceptor ESAPI plates being shot, you might wonder why the Army
acquisition mafia hasn’t invited the video cameras to show America’s
Grunts and the American taxpayer how well ESAPI plates work?)
Why then did the Interceptor ESAPI plates tested in Germany perform at above-specifications level?
reason these Interceptor ESAPI plates demonstrated such unexpected
bullet-stopping performance is explained below by Col. Jim Magee, USMC
(Ret.), in his own words from "Enclosure – b" of his prepared statement
to the HASC for the hearing on June 6, 2007.
DefenseWatch posted Col. Magee’s complete prepared statement on
7-27-07. Due to impending disclosures about the true extent of
corruption in the Army’s contracting process relative to body armor,
"Enclosure – b" is presented now as a stand-alone Word Document and PDF Document to assist the reader in understanding the Army’s underlying motivation for its adamant opposition to side-by-side testing.
— This prepared statement was not posted by the HASC staff with other
prepared statements of witnesses who testified that day. Neither did
the HASC staff agree to schedule the hearing at a time which would
permit personal testimony by Col. Magee or by Gen. Wayne Downing, US
Army (Ret.), a consultant to NBC News who observed the German
lab’s side-by-side test. One would have thought that in the interest of
informing the Congress, the media and the public that it would have
been a priority for the HASC staff to post the prepared testimony of
witnesses who could not be (were not permitted to be) present in order
to get their views on the record.
The-indented text that follows is from "Enclosure – B" of prepared
statement of Col. James Magee, USMC (Ret.), submitted to the HASC on
June 6, 2007.
Selection of Interceptor [registered trade mark] and ESAPI for Test
My motivation, when asked to offer my opinions as a developer of the Interceptor, was to provide my opinion that
a body armor technology is available that I believe is two generations
ahead of anything I had ever seen, and is superior to the 10 yr old
technology we built into the Interceptor. My history as the
lead developer of the Interceptor is well known to those in the body
armor industry, or know PBBA’s [Point Blank Body Armor] and Arthur D.
Little’s (the prime contractor in the development of the vest for US
Army-Natick and MARCORSYSCOM) history in this endeavor, or have access
to the Modular Body Armor (MBA — the original name for Interceptor)
records at PM Soldier or Natick.
soft body armor Interceptor vest and the ESAPI plates were made by
Protective Products International, (PPI) in Sunrise, Florida. Why did I
pick PPI? Because I didn’t want to be given (sold actually) "specially
made for a test" vest and plates; I wanted a vest and plates off a
production line from a company with military contracts; and, from a
company which I trusted for the Quality Control to make a vest and
plates that met the MilSpecs [Military Specifications]. The Interceptor
and the ESAPI plates were brand new. In fact, the ESAPI was from a lot that was en route to the Marines with their new MTV vest (Interceptor’s replacement for the Marines (sic). The NBC News sponsored side-by-side tests were
done at an internationally renowned government lab in Germany because
the Army told HP White and US Test Labs (as well as the Canadian lab)
not to allow NBC News to conduct these tests, or "there would be
test protocols were NIJ’s [National Institute of Justice] protocols,
the certifier of body armor for the USA. Tests were conduct at a 30
degree oblique, as well as front-on, but those did not make the NBC News
video coverage. The 30 degree oblique shot results were the same as the
front-on: no penetrations and minimal back face deformation. The same
results as the Interceptor with ESAPI.
my opinion, a curved surface, replicating a human torso, would have
shown Dragon Skin [registered trade mark] to be superior as it is able
to be body contoured. ESAPI plates are rigid, and are not a conformable. But, to avoid being accused of unfairly loading the test in Dragon Skin’s favor, the lab stuck strictly with the NIJ protocols.
- The rounds tested were the Army’s recommended lest rounds, plus what the Army calls "emerging threat" rounds.
- Also fired were "emerging threat" rounds that have a hardened
tungsten core at 3000 fps [feet per second]. The results were the
faster the bullet, the less damage was inflicted on Dragon Skin.
- The tests show that the Interceptor with ESAPI performed very well; well above all Army requirements.
- Dragon Skin just did better.
obvious after reading Col. Magee’s above statement why the HASC
"professional staff" (an oxymoron is ever there was one) chose not to
post Magee’s prepared statement. For Col. Magee’s complete,
four-enclosure prepared statement, including his most impressive
resume, go here.
One informed industry insider has told DefenseWatch that the ESAPI plates obtained by Col. Magee from PPI for the NBC News
test should be considered as the top 1% of ESAPI plates provided to the
US military, so the favorable test results demonstrated by Interceptor
should certainly not be extrapolated to the other 99% of ESAPI plates
acquisition mafia claims that the ESAPI plates tested in Germany were
not being produced for the US military were easily exposed as another
bald-faced lie when this writer visited the MARCORSYSCOM web site and
saw that PPI was listed as the vendor for 60,000 sets of Marine Corps
MTV (Modular Tactical Vests).
As an aide to readers who may not have seen the results of the NBC News
side-by-side tests of Dragon Skin and Interceptor ESAPI plates, or may
not want to do their own research, the following summary is presented:
Test #1 — Dragon Skin Only
- Six rounds of 7.62x51mm M80 (a Level III ammunition) were fired into a Dragon Skin body armor.
All six rounds were defeated/stopped,
and the average back face signature (bfs) for the six rounds was only
29.8mm (1.2 inches), or 32.2 % less than the Army specification of 44mm
(1.7 inches). Note that the Army specification requires that Level III
protection defeat only three rounds, while the NIJ requires six rounds
be fired and all six rounds defeated.
Test #1a and 1b — First Comparative Tests
Test #1a: Interceptor Level IV vest.
- Four rounds of armor piercing ammunition fired at this ESAPI plate.
- The first three rounds were defeated/stopped with their average
back face signature of 36.3mm (1.4 inches), or 24.3% below the Army
specification of 48mm (1.9 inches).
- The fourth round was a complete penetration/failure.
- The Army specification requires that only one round of the type of
ammunition used in this test be defeated/stopped. The third round
produced a back face signature of 47mm (1.9 inches), only 1mm (0.039
inches) below the Army specification of 48mm (1.9 inches). Editor’s Note:
Why the Army has increased the acceptable level of back face signature
from 44mm (1.7 inches) for SAPI (Level III) plates, to 48mm (1.9 inches
for ESAPI plates is a question the HASC staffers did not bother to have
their bosses ask at the June 6 hearing.
Test #1b: Dragon Skin Level IV vest.
- Six rounds of armor piercing ammunition fired at this Dragon Skin vest.
- All six rounds were defeated/stopped. (This was the
identical round that the Army acquisition mafia claimed Dragon Skin
failed to defeat in the May 2006 test.)
- The average back face signature of the six rounds was 23.3mm
(0.9 inches), or 51.5% below the Army specification of 48mm (1.9
Test #2a and 2b — Second Comparative Tests
Test #2a: Interceptor Level IV vest.
* Six rounds of armor piercing incendiary ammunition fired at this ESAPI plate.
* The first five rounds were defeated/stopped with their average back face signature of 41.2mm (1.6 inches), or 14.2% below the Army specification of 48mm (1.9 inches).
* The firth round defeated/stopped by the ESAPI plate produced a back face signature of 51mm (2.0 inches), which exceeded the Army specification of 48mm (1.9 inches). Hence, the ESAPI plate failed on this fifth round/shot due to excessive back face signature./b>
* The sixth round was a complete penetration/failure.
Test #2b: Dragon Skin Level IV vest.
* Six round of armor piercing incendiary ammunition fired at this Dragon Skin vest.
* All six rounds were defeated/stopped.
* The average back face signature of the six rounds was 22.7mm (0.9 inches), or 52.7% below the Army specification of 48mm (1.9 inches).
* On average, for this test, the back face signature for Interceptor ESAPI plates was 81.5% higher than for Dragon Skin.
Test #3: Dragon Skin Level IV vest only
- Three rounds of highly lethal, armor-piercing ammunition of a "composite" nature were fired. The Army does not require Interceptor ESAPI plates to defeat a round of this lethality.
- The average back face signature was 18.6mm (0.7 inches),
substantially less than half (38.8%) of the Army’s specification of
48mm (1.9 inches).for less lethal types of ammunition.
- All three rounds were defeated/stopped.
So there it is. More ugly truth that demonstrates clearly why the Army acquisition mafia will stop at nothing to keep Dragon Skin from being given a full and fair technical assessment. And to give the devil his due, they have succeeded in stopping any side-by-side testing of Dragon Skin and Interceptor.
Meanwhile, our gallant troops continue to fight and die while wearing inferior body armor on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Below is a list of Independent Ballistic Tests Passed by Dragon Skin since August 2006:
Dragon Skin passed these seven independent ballistic tests in just the two years that DefenseWatch has been closely following this issue:
16-17, 2006 Aberdeen Test Center (ATC), for Air Force Office of Special
Investigations (AFOSI), Dragon Skin SOV 2000 (Level III+) ["…the ‘+’
moniker denotes 0-m range equivalent protection from two ‘Level IV’
threats" as quoted from the ATC report memorandum to Headquarters
5. May 3, 2007 NBC News test at Beschussamt Mellrichstadt laboratory in Germany. See: Prepared
Statement By Hon. Philip E. Coyle, III Senior Advisor World Security
Institute Before the House Committee on Armed Services Wednesday, June
6, 2007 (PDF) and Army 4-Star (Ret): Dragon Skin "Significantly Better" Than Interceptor In First-Ever Comparative Test (Conducted By NBC News)
DefenseWatch has recently obtained a report from an earlier,
independent test of Dragon Skin conducted on 8/3/05 at H.P. White
Laboratory, Inc., for Battelle Memorial Institute. This was a high
temperature test, described thusly in the H.P. White Lab test report:
"Conditioning: HOT (+160 F) for 6 HOURS." Three test shots were fired
at the Dragon Skin Level III target, and all three shots were defeated/stopped.
The average back face signature for the three shots was 23.3mm (0.9
inches), less than half that allowed as the maximum for the Interceptor