CORRECTED VERSION: Two Dragon Skin Level IV Panels (Slightly Larger than the Standard ESAPI Plate) Took Four & Five ESAPI-FAT Specification Shots Respectively, After High Temperature Exposure/Conditioning, and Defeated Every Shot

By Roger Charles

DefenseWatch has obtained results of an yet another independent technical assessment that directly refutes specious claims made at the June 6 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee that Dragon Skin failed to meet Army specifications for personal body armor at "high temperatures."

This is great news for America's Grunts, and some bad news for the Army's acquisition mafia -- Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin passed a recent "High Temperature" test at the Aberdeen Test Center that followed precisely the ESAPI First Article Test (FAT) protocol for extreme high temperature.

Before getting into specifics, here's the final result:

Two Dragon Skin Level IV panels (slightly larger than the standard ESAPI plate) took four & five ESAPI-FAT specification shots respectively, after high temperature exposure/conditioning, and defeated every shot.

Now for some technical details.

WHERE: Aberdeen Test Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland
 WHEN: July 11, 2007
 WHAT: High Temperature Conditioning Test
  WHY: To test Dragon Skin Level IV vests against the ESAPI Level IV
       FAT protocol for high temperature extreme.

1. Two Dragon Skin panels were subjected to this test "conditioning" protocol:

a. Each test panel was placed in a temperature controlled space ("oven") pre-heated to 160 degrees (F), and held there for 6 hours in a vertical position. (It's important to note that the vests were NOT laid flat. Gravity was encouraged to do its work and to produce any "de-laminations" such as the ones falsely portrayed by the Army acquisition mafia to the HASC at the June 6 hearing.)

b. Each Dragon Skin panel was removed from the oven, and the first test shot fired within 5 minutes of the vest having been taken out of the oven. (One panel was subjected to four test rounds fired within 7 minutes; the other panel received 5 test rounds within 10 minutes.)

2. Four Level IV rounds were fired in one panel, and five Level IV rounds were fired into the second panel.

a. The rounds were level IV, 7.62mm AP rounds as defined in the ESAPI specifications.

b. One round fired at the second panel was 5 feet per second below the minimum "strike velocity" of 2850 fps as specified for the test. This round was disallowed and was the reason for the added 5th round on this panel. A total of four shoots within the specified range -- 2850 to 2900 fps -- were counted as valid for each vest.

c. Note that the test consisted of four rounds fired at each panel, when the Army's ESAPI (Level IV) specification requires only 2 rounds to be shot without penetration at each plate to be considered a "pass." 

d. Note also that the test shot impacts were placed within half the specified distance called for in the ESAPI protocol. These test shots were spaced from 2 5/8 inches to 3 inches from each other shot. (The ESAPI plates are tested with a spacing of 5 inches to 6 inches.)

e. The rounds were placed so as to strike the center of a ceramic disk, the very point that Karl Masters, lead test engineer/Director for PEO-SOLDIER's body armor branch has claimed is Dragon Skin's most vulnerable point. In fact, the Army's latest Request For Proposal confirms this claim by Master's by specifying that, "For FSAPV-E [Flexible Small Arms Protective Vest-E Level] that contain multiple overlapping ceramic tiles, the "ballistically weakest point is defined as an area of the armor panel with one single thickness of ceramic tile."

See: Paragraph 4.2.3 on page 8 of Attachment 15 -  here

The only part of a  Dragon Skin disk that does not overlap with another disk is the center of each disk, so the Army has thus defined the "ballistically weakest point" for Dragon Skin disks as the center of the disk. It was precisely this "ballistically weakest point" that defeated all four rounds. (Note: to those of us spatially challenged, I discovered it easier to visualize the geometry involved by getting a hand full of coins and analyzing the geometrical arrangement that demonstrates this fact.) 

f. Dragon Skin defeated all shots. There were ZERO penetrations.

g. Dragon Skin averaged the following back face deformation (BFD), measured in millimeters. Please note that for ESAPI plates the Army-specified standard is 48mm. For the Level III SAPI plates, the standard is 44mm, but that's another story.):

(1) First panel: Average BFD = 24.05mm. (This is 50% below the ESAPI standard.)
(2) Second panel: Average BFD = 27.80mm. (This is 42% below the ESAPI standard.)

Editor's Note: For the current RFP for Level IV protection, the Army acquisition mafia has specified a BFD for the FSAPF-E, i.e., Dragon Skin, of 43mm -- even less than that required for the SAPI plates (Level III)??? Sure hope someone in the Congress or GAO asks the Army to explain this inverted logic. If the Level IV rigid plates have a BFD standard of 48mm, one would have expected the flexible disks to have been held to the "same standard," this phrase having been Brig.Gen. Mark Brown's mantra at the June 6 HASC hearing.

DefenseWatch contacted Murray Neal, President and CEO of Pinnacle Armor to discuss the above results.

Murray said that the test items and data were archived at his facility, and that he would gladly provide the panels and data from this July 2007 ATC high temperature test for a side-by-side forensic examination/ comparison with the Dragon Skin vests from the May 2006 tests conducted for PEO-SOLDIER to prove that the armor has not changed. It was the x-rays of the 2006 tested vests which were blatantly misrepresented to the HASC on June 6. Murray mentioned the FBI forensic laboratory as one possible independent and credible laboratory that might conduct the side-by-side forensic tests for the two sets of Dragon Skin should the Army try to claim that there must have been some improvements to the Dragon Skin ballistic protection that make the July 2007 panels different from the vests tested in May 2006.

Don't think there's much chance of Pinnacle Armor's challenge to PEO-SOLDIER being accepted, but I'm eager to be surprised.

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