US Army and armor-maker embroiled in debate over body-armor safety
Army refutes claims that Pinnacle Armor's product superior to troops' armor, and plans to brief Congress on subject.
An NBC report on the US Army's rejection of a new type of body armor has sparked a widespread debate over the safety of US troops in the field.Skip to next paragraph
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The NBC investigative report, which aired over the weekend, suggested that Interceptor body armor – which the Army current uses, calling it "the best in the world" – may be inferior to a privately-developed armor called Dragon Skin. Dragon Skin, made of a series of overlapping ceramic disks "like Medieval chainmail" that defend against bullets, has been sought by military personnel and their families in the belief it offers better protection than the Army-issued Interceptor vests, NBC said.
NBC News tracked down the man who helped design Interceptor a decade ago, Jim Magee, a retired Marine colonel:
LISA MYERS: What is the best body armor available today in your view?
JIM MAGEE: Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down. It's better than the Interceptor. It is state of the art. In some cases, it's two steps ahead of anything I've ever seen.
MYERS: You developed the body armor that the Army is using today.
MAGEE: That's correct.
MYERS: And you say Dragon Skin is better?
MAGEE: Yes. And I think anybody in my industry would say the same thing were they to be perfectly honest about it.
But Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, who oversees the Army's body-armor program, told NBC that the Dragon Skin armor "failed miserably" in Army testing, which NBC says he suggested led to its ban from use by personnel. But NBC notes that the Army banned soldiers from using Dragon Skin two months before the Army tested the armor.
The report adds that the CIA has tested and approved the armor for use by its own operatives, and one former Army ballistics expert, Nevin Rupert, says he was fired for supporting the use of Dragon Skin, and believes that the Army is eschewing the armor because "it threatened their program and mission funding."
NBC later posted the results of its own testing, which found Dragon Skin to be superior to the Army's Interceptor vests. In two tests, performed earlier this month by the Beschussamt Mellrichstadt laboratory in Germany, an Interceptor vest was penetrated by gunfire after several shots, while the same number of shots did not penetrate a Dragon Skin vest. A third test of a Dragon Skin vest against a more lethal caliber of bullet - one that the Army does not require its vests to protect against - also showed no pentration of the armor.