Monday, March 26, 2007

Dragon Skin body armor

or the good stuff the US Army doesn't want its soldiers to wear.

Here on FutureWeapons they test a normal set of Dragon Skin flexible body armor with 5.56, 7.62, and 9mm rounds. They even detonate a fragmentation grenade beneath this body armor. What is amazing is the lack of penetration of any bullets or fragments. Though if I was that soldier and I just fell on a grenade, the force of the explosion probably just busted up my chest and I would be a candidate for Medivac. Still it is pretty amazing. It is also nine minutes long.

And it is a fact the United States Army will not allow soldiers to personally buy this armor before they deploy. The United States Marine Corps will allow Marines to buy this armor at their own expense, hence we have this family raising cash to buy Dragon Skin for their son and his men. The United States Air Force placed a $4.7 million contract to buy some Dragon Skin body armor in 2006. The United States Secret Service uses Dragon Skin body armor. But the US Army wont let its soldiers buy it themselves. Aberdeen Proving Grounds tested Dragon Skin against Level IV threat levels and found it "surpassed all current industry standards" and "set standards" leading to a "classified protocol," according to the Army.

From Defense Review comes this: Defense Review also viewed a letter from ATC [Aberdeen Testing Center] containing information that proves that SOV/Dragon Skin did NOT fail any U.S. Air Force test or requirement, as has been stated by certain parties in the U.S. Army. We viewed the relevant information ourselves.

Again from Defense Review: "The MIL-STD SOV-1000 and 2000 Level III flexible body armor systems will defeat the following rifle rounds that normally fall into the Level IV category, and all lesser threats.
7.62 x 39 mm 125 GR, steel case mild steel core - 2300 - 2700 fps.5.56 x 45 mm 65 GR, M855 (SS109 Green tip) - 3250 - 3900 fps."

The price of Dragon Skin versus Interceptor might be a factor along with Army resistence to something not invented by them. The basic vest costs about $2,000 while the whole Interceptor body armor system costs just over $1,000. I must admit I do have a bias against Natic Laboratories, they invented the MRE.

The Democrats could have scored some serious 'We Care' points with HR 1591 if they included directions for the US Army to buy this armor. But so far I have not found any such line item in that Bill. The Republicans of the previous Congresses also dropped the ball. Also note this fight has been happening for years without this popping up on the MSM radar scope. I think its time for something to be done.


RTO Trainer said...

Interceptor was not invented by the Army. It's a private business' contract just like Dragon Skin would be.

The Interceptor, however, is compatible with the MOLLE system (and backward compatible with the older ALCE system), which is what all of our existing carry equipment (rucks, ammo pouches, grenade carriers, entrenching tools, parachutes, safty equipment vests, etc) is designed for.

MOLLE and ALCE are mostly used by the Army and Marines.

I've found no information to indicate that Dragon Skin works better than Interceptor, lighter weight would be nice, but given the costs to change everything else that would go with it I understand the decision.

Anna said...

RTO you are right. Natick is only the program office for Interceptor Body Armor. Companies such as Point Blank make the IBA.

Cost is a factor admittedly; but once quantity production kicks in, per unit cost drops. This was one of the reasons why during the Reagan years the DoD went to Multi Year Procurement, it allowed contractors to order more items at a lower cost so branches like the USAF got more F-16s than they would have by only using the old year by year procurement system.

Looking at the Future Weapons test, it is pretty impressive what Dragon Skin can resist. As I noted there is still the problem that all the kinetic force will do. Bleeding out the orifices due to a messed up chest is not something to look forward to but is far better than have a heart shredded by the grenade fragments.

Backward compatibility is something to look into. Although the metal, never learned what to call them, that are used to fasten over the web-belt things like ammo pouches and canteens is not something to be enthused about. Or the Army idea of putting the three magazine M-16/grenade pouches on front of the web-gear. Hit the dirt and can't get to spare magazines unless you lift yourself up. So end up putting the pouches on the side.

On the weight factor, seen the basic $2000 vest weighs 5.5lbs. Not sure of the whole SOV-3000 Level IV weight. Hopefully it is less than the full out weight of the IBA with all the added things like SAPI plates. Or as you point out it is moot.

RTO Trainer said...

The metal clips are the ALCE, new equipemnt is MOLLE and uses webbing straps woven together.

I have no idea what the weight onteh Dragon Skin is. I know that every time I see a weight given for the IBA I wonder what they are weighing. Most often I see a weight of 8 lbs or so, but I know mine weights over 30lbs with all the new plates and pads.

The cost I refer to, though, is not the cost of producing the armor. I assume that to be near constant no matter which system for the scale reasons you cite. The cost I referenced was the cost of replacing all the MOLLE gear with a system compatible with Dragon Skin.

Anna said...

RTO I agree there needs to be compatibility. I am reminded of the initial issue of the M-16 into VietNam by the US Army. It was issued to soldiers in the field with no cleaning kits and they were told it needed no cleaning. What resulted was fouling of the chamber and frequent jams in the middle of firefights. Lack of training, lack of kits, and as it later turned out the Army changed the gunpowder formula all resulted in the M-16 getting a bad rep it has never really overcome.

In fact I did run across reference to Dragon Skin's MOLLE setup in these articles. Now I can't bleeping find it. Sheesh.

Your's weighs in at 30lbs with the plates, wow. That is the full ensemble with shoulder protectors and groin? That is pretty hefty. Then add the field gear, 6 M-16 magazines, canteen, and everything else; that is a serious load. And since you an RTO, that means a PRC and battery also. Not sure if I want your MOS, if you lean over you might keep going. Plus being number 2 sniper target after the Lt.