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It is good enough body armor that nine American generals in Afghanistan are wearing it in place of the standard "Interceptor OTV" armor issued to the troops they command. It offers such great protection that the U.S. Secret Service agents guarding the President of the United States wear it, and it is good enough that a civilian contractor in Iraq was shot eight times in the torso at close range and survived without even suffering soft tissue trauma. But the same armor, already in mass production, is apparently too expensive to provide to the men and women fighting and dying in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) every day.
The armor is called Dragon Skin and there is nothing particularly new about it. Dragon Skin has been made since 1997 by Pinnacle Armor, a small Fresno, California company with 30 employees. It is called Dragon Skin because it is manufactured from small overlapping armor plates that lay atop each other like ancient chain mail, explained Pinnacle spokesman Paul Chopra, "or like fish scales, but my boss didn't think it sounded too sexy calling it "Fish Skin."
Regardless of what it is called every military service, many federal police agencies, local police departments, and the U.S. Army's ballistic testing facility at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland have purchased small quantities of the unique armor. Among its owners and users it has a sterling reputation, numerous sources told DefenseWatch.
Outside the government parents, spouses and church groups who heard about its superior qualities through word-of-mouth are also purchasing the high-tech chain mail for their knights going in harm's way. Chopra said Pinnacle has privately sold hundreds of the armored vests and ancillary equipment to service members. Despite the well known qualities of Dragon Skin, in 1999 the Department of Defense inexplicably chose the Interceptor armor for the Armed Forces two year after Dragon Skin became available on the open market.
Recently Pinnacle sold its Dragon Skin boy armor to nine American generals currently serving in Afghanistan so they can "evaluate" it, said Paul Chopra, a spokesperson for Pinnacle. It is also worn by members of the US Secret Service Presidential Protection detail, private contractors serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as many soldiers and journalists as can afford it. Last week war correspondent Michael Yon, who prefers Dragon Skin to the Interceptor gear he is wearing now, declined to buy it when he learned of its "almost $7,000 price tag" delivered to him in Iraq. The price put it out of his reach, he said.
The MIL-STD SOV-1000™ and SOV-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.
Additionally, the SOV™ - D.O.D. 1000 & 2000 flexible Level III system exceeds the MIL-B 44053 fragmentation requirements around the high power rifle defeating areas.
The only Level III ballistic vests that are flexible enough to wrap around the whole torso area that "move when you move". No more restricted movements when rappelling, fast roping, diving, entry work, sky diving or other rigorous activities. These vests wear like level III-A soft body armor.
The lightest overt tactical and only covert concealable vests offering this type of protection and coverage.
The only Level III ballistic vests that offer a minimum of 44% more coverage from our standard combined front and rear rifle protection than two standard 10" X 12" tactical plates. Full torso wrap coverage is available.
The thinnest ballistic vests in both the SOV-1000™ and 2000 configurations. The SOV-1000™ is from .656" to .718" in total nominal thickness. The SOV-2000™ is from .796" to .858" in total nominal thickness.
The only Level III ballistic vests that are offered in a positive, negative or neutrally buoyant configuration. Two waterproofing configurations are utilized: an extremely durable and highly wear resistant sealing for the overt tactical vest, and a lighter durable, wear resistant sealing for the covert concealed vest.
Pinnacle Armor's advanced ballistic ceramic discs/panels are extremely high-tech. They're not just ceramic or titanium -- they are actually composed of advanced ceramic or titanium composite matrixes and laminates that can incorporate other materials. There's even a metal lighter than titanium that Pinnacle Armor is now combining with ceramic that we cannot disclose, which offers a superior level of performance-to-weight ratio over titanium. SOV-1000 titanium composite discs/panels and SOV-2000 ceramic composite discs/panels are approximately 2" in diameter, and their anti-materiel discs, like their "atomic cookie" (discussed two paragraphs down) go up to approx. 3" in diameter.
Pinnacle Armor's most advanced ballistic hard armor, their Level IV "+" ceramic composite flexible body armor, can defeat multiple hits of 7.62x51mm AP rounds, like the Winchester/Olin .308 SLAP (Saboted Light Armour-Penetrating) round, which utilizes a tungsten sabot bullet. This particular level of ballistic protection will only be available to military end-users, although it's not available quite yet. However, it's expected to be ready for U.S. military use in the first quarter of 2006.
Understand, again, that we're talking about a unique and superior version of level IV body armor/ballistic protection, not your conventional, run-of-the-mill NIJ level IV SAPI protection. Pinnacle Armor's unique Level IV "+" flexible ceramic hard armor will successfully take many more hits than conventional/standard NIJ Level IV SAPI plates, and provides coverage over a much greater surface area. In other words, it provides for more complete torso coverage, all the way up to total coverage.
Crane also discovered that Pinnacle's titanium composite and ceramic composite flexible hard armor system ballistic vests are "significantly superior, ballistically and durability-wise" to the Interceptor's inflexible, conventional ceramic hard armor plates. Army scientists at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick, in Natick, Mass, where Interceptor body armor was created, are currently dealing with breakage problems with the Interceptor's ceramic armor plates including unconfirmed reports that up to 60 percent of its hard armor sent to the field has broken when its gets slammed around, a source close to the situation said.
Breakage is never a problem with the Pinnacle products because its SAPI plates are a very durable composite material and so-called "soft" Dragon Skin armor consists of silver dollar-sized circular ballistic ceramic or titanium discs that are configured like fish scales, explained Chopra, a tireless Dragon Skin promoter and a retired Army CW4 who flew choppers for 21 years in the famed 160th "Nightstalkers" Aviation
The Army's own research showed that Dragon Skin wearers are protected by body armor superior to any Level III and Level IV body armor made in the world. Ballistics tests made by the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds on a standard Dragon Skin vest showed it capable of defeating most common military ammunition and many of the armor piercing and super hot specialty rounds including the super-hot 7.62 x 63 mm 166 GR, M2 AP slamming into it at an incredible 2850 ft per second. Inceptor OTV body armor cannot claim that distinction, Pinnacle president and Dragon Skin inventor Murray Neal said. Dragon Skin is so good its actual ballistics characteristics have been classified, the Army says.