Dragon Skin Armor– Is it better than what we have now?

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dragon20skin20armorSome of you may have seen this system on television. It’s possibly the Army’s next generation of personal protective armor, but like so many other systems, there seems to be considerable controversy as to the armor’s effectiveness. The facts are muddled by the possibilities of huge government contracts.

Right now, the Army issues Interceptor Body Armor to its troops. This system consists of an Outer Tactical Vest and “SAPI” plates which protect the primary kill-shot areas of a soldiers front-torso and back. With the plates, a soldier is protected from an AK-47’s 7.62 round. It can withstand three hits in the same area with round muzzle velocities not exceeding 2,750 feet per second. It weighs about 17 lbs. This is considerably more protection than what is offered by standard-issue police vests. Police SWAT use similar protective levels.

The Interceptor, though far superior to previous generation battle armor (FLAK vests), is not without its problems. Marine Corps forensic tests concluded that many fatalities occurred form rounds striking marines in the areas surrounding the boron/carbide plates. Already pressing a soldiers ability to move and shoot quickly and fluidly, larger plates may not provide the answer, as soldiers have already been issued side plates which cover under the arms the rib area, but many of them refuse to wear them because they add another ten lbs to the system. I can attest: The last thing soldiers need now is more weight on their backs.

Pinnacle Armor Co. stepped forward to offer its solution to the Army’s new Armor-Wars. Enter: Scalar silicon carbide ceramics. Like its name-sake, Dragon Skin provides a flexible, over-lapping armor system. Individual, silver dollar sized plates lay over one another and according to Pinnacle, (and the TV shows, Mail Call, Future Weapons, and Test Lab) are capable of providing protection against 7.62 mm armor piercing rounds. It should be noted though, that the rounds used in the testing on television did not meet the NIJ Level III standard. The most impressive thing was that the armor was able to withstand multiple–in some cases over one hundred rounds– of shots without breach.

The controversy begins with other testing samples, specifically the Army’s own tests of the product. While Stanford University’s tests seemed to prove Dragon Skin capable of defeating almost all conventional small arms fire that would be encountered by US soldiers, leaked results from the Army’s testing stated that Dragon Skin failed to meet standards.  Karl Masters, the Director of Engineering for soldier equipment could not give specifics on the armors performance, but advised soldiers not to buy the armor for themselves. He did however suggest that insurgents buy and use the armor. Pinnacle, of course, disputes Master’s analysis. The primary problem seems to be that the discs in the armor become loose or fall away when ambient temperature tests are moved to 120 degrees or higher, not unusual conditions for someplace like the Middle East. There was also arguments as to whether certain rounds, embedded in the armor, constituted a true potentially fatal breach of the armor.

Dragon Skin has now for a number of years come under attack from multiple sources, with its primary defender being Pinnacle–the system’s manufacturer. To me its obvious that this more expensive armor is not ready for field service, but I think Pinnacle is on the right track.

Our soldiers need the basics that every soldier has needed for two thousand years. A reliable and sufficiently lethal personal weapon, and armor that can thwart the enemy’s weapons.

The individual soldier, proficient and well equipped, is what will win tomorrow’s wars, not $300,000,000 F-22 Raptors. (Yes, they really cost that much–each. What a waste.) Urban combat and Wars of the People (Insurgency) is what America’s Army must prepare for. Give the soldiers the best.

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7 thoughts on “Dragon Skin Armor– Is it better than what we have now?

    […] Soldiers. According to this article, the Corps is purchasing 65,000 Scalar armor vests, similar to Dragonskin Armor. Each vest will weigh less than 20 lbs. The modern warfighter carries as much weight as a medieval […]

    Laurie Busch said:
    February 3, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Hi, interesting blog, just wondering what comment blocker software you use for comments because I have been hit by lots on my site.

    magus71 responded:
    February 3, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I just use the normal comment filter provided by WordPress–if I’ve allowed a comment from a link before, it automatically allows the comment. Otherwise I have to moderate.

    Amos Volante said:
    February 4, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Any new info on this subject?

    kernunos said:
    February 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Seems like an adhesive problem with temperature. I would think it would be an easy fix in the manufacturing part of the process. I saw that stuff tested and it is amazing from what I saw.

    VXXC said:
    September 5, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Kind of a fan of polyethelyene armor – very light. Class IIIP. Up to 7.62. The SAPI GI issue was Class IV with the Kelvar vest.

    sam said:
    February 23, 2014 at 4:36 am

    It falls apart at high temperatures? What….. Did they think of using better glue?

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