The Dragon Skin Circus Begins

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Hope you folks arent sick of the body armor/Dragon Skin debate yet because its about to heat up again.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow morning at 10am EDT on the recent Dragon Skin tests and the Armys firm defense. Two panels of experts will be questioned, with none other than Pinnacle Armors Murray Neal himself sitting in the congressional hot seat on Panel 1.

At his side will be the inveterate Pentagon critic Phillip Coyle, the director of DoD operational test and evaluation during the Clinton Administration. Coyle, youll remember, was present during the NBC side-by-side tests of Interceptor and Dragon Skin at a German ballistic test lab a few months ago.

Defense Tech got its hands on an advanced copy of Coyles written testimony late today, and we want to make sure our readers have a chance to read it before the Dragon Skin circus kicks off tomorrow morning.

I did a quick run-through and Ive got a couple problems with it. But first, I love his jab at the Army on page three concerning the NBC story on the Trophy active protection system. NBC lobbed a grenade in the Armys lap on that one and the service had a hard time defusing it

The IDA study showed that the Trophy Active Protection System was the farthest along, as NBC had reported, and ranked the system which the Army and this Committee favored, the Raytheon Quick Kill system, ninth in terms of technical readiness. In short, the IDA report confirmed that NBC got it right.

Anyway, on page 11, Coyle misrepresents PEO Soldiers BGen. Brown's statement on the single disk coverage area.

As Gen. Brown stated in his May 21 press conference,So what you see, the laws or probability and statistics will take hold in the live-fire test. There's probably a 50 percent probability of impact in a single-disk coverage area. Gen. Brown went on to suggest that a single disc could not stop armor piercing ammunition.

Brown was not making a characterization of the effectiveness of single disk coverage at all. Instead, in the context of that specific comment, Brown was comparing test results that showed penetrations of single disk coverage areas. And besides, the disks are convex. Center-disk thickness is roughly equal to overlapping thickness or at least thats the rough theory behind scalar armor systems.

On page 10, Coyle takes issue with the number of shots the Army claimed it fired against Dragon Skin.

the briefing talks about 48 shots having been fired, but Lt. Col. Masters first told me 96 shots were fired at Dragon Skin vests in those tests, then later said it was 80 shots. In his May 21 press conference, Gen. Brown said that two shots each had been fired at the front back and sides, which would mean 64 shots fired at 8 vests. I believe the correct number is something like 88. In any case I believe it is not 48 shots as reported to this Committee and in the May 21st press conference.

Thats unfair. The Army fired three shots at each plate on each vest. But only two of the shots counted toward the tests. The third an oblique shot against which scalar armor is at a significant disadvantage was not brought up at the briefings, didnt count toward the tests and was therefore not part of the Armys argument and therefore may account for the high shot count discrepancy.

Again on page 11, Coyle raises the weight issue, saying:

the Dragon Skin panels were about a pound per side heavier, but nothing like the 19.5 pound difference shown by the Army. A fair weight comparison would be of vests of the same size, designed to defeat the same threats, allowing the manufacturer to trade off the weight of the outer tactical vest with weight in the ceramic armor to achieve the best overall protection for the US military.

Forgive me, but all you need to do is pick up a Dragon Skin vest and see for yourself how crushingly heavy it is. And I dont buy the equal size argument either. A large Interceptor is more equivalent to an extra large DS vest. If you want to squeeze a large DS vest on a Soldier who wears a large Interceptor, go ahead, but be ready to deal with less ballistic coverage.

And I dont get this hang up with side by side testing. What does that mean, exactly? Theres a standard to meet. Theres a standard way to test whether something meets that standard. You shoot it. It fails. The end

And when Coyle further states:

Side-by-side testing means testing both types of body armor under the same conditions, according to the same scoring rules, in short, a level playing field.

How is that not what the Army did with Dragon Skin? Neal was there. Look here to watch Neal peer through the hole made by shot two of the oil test vest back panel. Is he jumping up and down saying the test wasnt fair?

And, it would be hard for Coyle to argue that the German Dragon Skin test he observed were conducted under the same conditions as the Armys DS test, wouldnt it? The NBC tests didnt include extreme temperature tests. The Army standard mandates it and Coyle pays lip service to the demonstrable failures of the DS with the environmental testing in his testimony.

Stay tuned DT fans. This wars going to get a lot uglier before it gets any better.

-- Christian

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