By David Crane
defrev at gmail dot com
November 19, 2008
Human Events is reporting on the use of Chinese armor-piercing a.k.a. armor-penetrating (AP) bullets by enemy snipers in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the article, this new Chinese AP rifle ammo is copycatting U.S.-made AP ammo design, and is "sending alarm bells through the Pentagon as it hurries to keep pace by producing improved body armor for soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors, although the Chinese munitions are "not thought capable of defeating the super-hard ceramic plates that now protect service members against smalls-arms fire, including armor-piercing bullets."
So, why the alarm? Because, the article states, "there are intelligence reports that China is using the copycat bullets to…
spring board to an even better armor-defeating rifle round that would be able to kill protected personnel," which is one of the reasons why the Army has been so hell-bent on developing the elusive XSAPI (X Small Arms Protective Insert) body armor. The new XSAPI body armor has suffered delay after delay due to manufacturers’ inability to bring it in within the Army’s weight requirement. So far, Pinnacle Armor Dragon Skin body armor is the only ballistically proven Level V anti-rifle body armor system DefenseReview has actually seen and handled.
Defense Review hasn’t yet been able to examine the X-SAPI hard armor plates that Ceradyne is supposedly producing. Right now, XSAPI is kind of like Bigfoot–only there are actually pictures of Bigfoot. How much does an XSAPI plate weigh? We don’t know. How much does XSAPI weigh per square foot? We don’t know. What’s XSAPI’s thickness? We dont know. Does XSAPI work as advertised? We don’t know. What specific real-world enemy AP rounds, and how many of them, can a single X-SAPI plate stop? We don’t know. What does an XSAPI plate look like? We don’t know.
DefenseReview will endeavor to obtain the answers to these questions, however. If any of our military readers can provide this information to us, we’re open. Please drop us an email or give us a call.
In a June 6, 2007 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., "called for a side-by-side test of Dragon Skin and the Interceptor run by government engineers and overseen by both congressional and Pentagon auditors. That led to the Army’s June 20 request to industry for both flexible armor designs like Dragon Skin — which incorporates a series of interlocking ceramic disks rather than a single rigid plate — and for a so-called "XSAPI" plate which could stop armor piercing rounds the current ESAPI can’t," according Military.com. So, what were the results of that Dragon Skin vs. Interceptor side-by-side test, and how did Dragon Skin fare in the XSAPI testing? Was it even allowed to compete?
DefenseReview will try to find out, although we’re aware that the U.S. Army’s deck is rather seriously stacked against Pinnacle Armor and its CEO Murray Neal, ever since Neal embarrassed the Army by publicly challenging the Army’s fairness with regard to body armor testing. The Army has tried very hard in the last year and a half or so to cut off all avenues of Pinnacle Armor’s business, including military, law enforcement and foreign sales as punishment for Mr. Neal’s insolence. Basically, they’ve done their best to put him out of business. They even managed to pressure DOJ/NIJ to pull Dragon Skin’s NIJ Level III certification after it had already passed all their (NIJ’s) testing, which is unprecedented.
After Neal’s little jaunt up to Capitol Hill, DefenseWatch obtained ballistic test documents that, according to DefenseWatch, "show blatant and unequivocal signs of having been fraudulently altered, albeit in the most clumsy manner, to falsely portray test results of Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin body armor in three tests from August 2005 through June 2006. Additionally, sworn depositions describe the criminal manipulation of test protocols by Army acquisition officials to produce fraudulent test reports that allowed them to falsely claim Dragon Skin had failed to perform to the levels cited by its manufacturer. These criminal distortions of standard test protocols were simple, yet breathtaking in their audacity."
Defense Review probably won’t be able to obtain any ballistic test data on X-SAPI, since it’s most likely classified. However, we will at least try to find out if these mystical (and mythical) XSAPI plates actually exist, or are simply the stuff of legend or fantasy. Stay tuned.