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DEVELOPING: Army Abandons Flexible Armor Search -- For Now

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The Army has postponed its attempt to find a flexible body armor system similar to Dragon Skin after determining that the technology hasn't matured enough to be fielded to troops.

While working on a story that will be the lead headline on tomorrow morning's Military.com homepage, I queried PEO Soldier about the progress of ballistic tests on X-SAPI and F-SAPI armor submitted by manufacturers after the June 2007 solicitation asking for new armor concepts. As you all might remember, the Army postponed tests after I spoke with BGN Brown because manufacturers were short on materials (probably Dyneema/Spectra and B4C) and needed to do more testing of their own.

I then spoke with Murray Neal at an industry event several months later and he wondered where the testing stood as well, saying he'd submitted samples but heard nothing in reply. Brown had told me tests were supposed to start in March 2008.

Remember, the Army solicitation (which has been removed from their server but was described in a June 2007 posting) called for X-SAPI to defeat "future" AP threats -- namely the M993 -- and also asked for submission of "flexible" systems to be designated "F-SAPI?" This, in part, answered the mail after hearings in the House regarding the Dragon Skin tests by Army officials and the NBC program that broke it all wide open. These were supposed to be the "head-to-head" tests -- or something loosely approximating that -- Neal was asking for and lawmakers acquiesced to.

Well, the Army has deemed the technology too immature, telling me only E-SAPI and X-SAPI vendors qualified, including Ceradyne, BAE, Protective Group and Armacel, for the tests.

"An F-SAPI capability has not reached the level [of] technical maturity to protect Soldiers in combat," PEO Soldier said.

Ooooh, really!? Wonder if Mr. Neal has anything to say about that? (And we'll show you someone else who'd like to debate that point in our story tomorrow AM)...

-- Christian

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