The controversy over which bullet-resistant system is better has died down in recent years. Up until 2009, the battle over which armor system was better – Pinnacle Armor, Inc.’s Dragon Skin or the US Military’s standard issue Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) – was raging on and sparked huge debates over the idea that the military was not supplying American forces with the best equipment available.
The IBA system is comprised of an outer tactical vest (OTV) that is made out of Kevlar, which holds two enhanced small arms protective inserts (E-SAPIs). The SAPIs are made of ballistics grade ceramics that are capable of stopping a .30cal M2 AP (a .30-06 armor piercing round). The OTV itself is rated as capable of stopping 9mm rounds fired from a submachine gun. This armor system meets the requirements outlined by the military, and has been in use since 1999. It has also been upgraded over the years to tackle changes in the way war has been fought.
Whereas, the Dragon Skin system is made of small, circular titanium-ceramic composite disks that are interlocked much like medieval chain armor. The armor is much more flexible than the standard IBA. It also offers 140 percent more ballistic coverage than the Interceptor. The Dragon Skin system is capable of taking 40 or more armor piercing rounds fired from an AK-47 (7.62x39mm). On the Discovery Channel TV Show Future Weapons, the armor was tested against an M67 fragmentation grenade; in fact, the dummy wearing the armor was placed directly on top of the grenade. Upon detonation, there was no penetration of the armor by the shrapnel of the grenade; just the carrier vest was damaged. In other words, a person would have survived a point blank detonation of a grenade with Dragon Skin on.
The proponents of the IBA, as well as the Army’s scientists, say Dragon Skin is not good enough, and it failed tests that the Army says it puts every potential piece through. Soldiers were known to have personally paid for, and used Dragon Skin while deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq; most soldiers who wore it felt the added weight was well worth the additional protection. There have been several accounts of private contractors, who are currently deployed, equipped with Dragon Skin that have survived firefights because of the armor’s phenomenal capabilities. These individuals cited that they had taken several rounds, in one case an operator took eight rounds to the back, and didn’t even realize they had been hit until they took the vest off.
Due to the debate sparked by the Dragon Skin armor system, the army banned the use of all commercially available gear by soldiers. However, it is worth noting that at times throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, eight generals were in those countries wearing Dragon Skin – not the IBA system. Dragon Skin is also worn by members of the Secret Service who are in charge of protecting the president. CIA field operatives have also been known to use Dragon Skin instead of the Interceptor system. This begs the question of whether or not the results from the Army’s tests were doctored to reflect negatively for the Dragon Skin system – it does cost more than the IBA, after all.
The debate appears as though it may heat up once again. As of March 2013, Pinnacle Armor was able to renew arguments against the National Institute of Justice in court. Pinnacle may also be granted the ability to have their system retested – despite its proven combat effectiveness as witnessed by private operators.
It stands to reason though, that the job of the military, and government, is to supply American soldiers with the best gear available, even if it is more costly. Therefore, why has the adaption of the Dragon Skin system been bogged down in bureaucracy?