Army’s Purchase Of Body Armor Hits Snag

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Dragon Skin Armor test
Dragon Skin Armor test

Body armor manufacturer worries that bullet proof vests may be tampered with before ballistic tests. A dispute over testing is stalling the Army’s plans to move ahead with buying a new high-tech body armor now off-limits to soldiers.

The stalemate is the latest development in a complex disagreement over the quality of the protective gear, known as Dragon Skin, that is made by Pinnacle Armor of Fresno, Calif. The fight over body armor has spread beyond the Pentagon and reverberated throughout the country as families try to buy the best protection possible for loved ones overseas.

Murray Neal, Pinnacle’s chief executive officer, said Friday he will not send the Army 30 vests to test next month, as planned, unless the Army agrees to his testing requirements.

Neal said he is worried the vests may be tampered with before the ballistic tests are conducted – potentially giving the Army an excuse not to buy from Pinnacle Armor.

“I’m not going to leave it to chance that they could mess with the body armor prior to it being tested and that could cause premature failure,” Neal said.

The Army says it has a contract for 30 vests and expects delivery. “The Army does not intend to make any changes to the contract that was signed,” Army spokeswoman Maj. Desiree Wineland said.

The Army has said it wants to buy the best protective gear possible, including the Dragon Skin vest, if the gear passes testing. The Pinnacle contract is only for the 30 vests for testing.

Pinnacle’s armor has been caught up in contradictory statements about its worthiness.

The Army last month banned soldiers from wearing it or any other military body armor not issued by the military. The Air Force, however, has ordered a number of the Dragon Skin vests.

According to a test-results memo obtained by the Associated Press, the armor stopped the “level three-plus” ammunition rounds for which it is rated. The armor did not do as well when more lethal ammunition was used – level four rounds the armor was not rated to stop.

Neal said there were problems with the hard armor inserts used in the vests. An earlier batch of the armor with different discs had stopped the higher powered shots, he said.

Army officials said last month they banned the use of nonmilitary issued armor because of concerns about reports that soldiers’ families were buying untested or inadequate armor for the troops.