Local Company Involved in US Troop Body Armor Debate
05/23/2007 (KFSN) -- Pinnacle Armor, a Fresno company, makes protective vests for troops and law enforcement officers. The US Army, this week, said Pinnacle's Dragon Skin vests failed during government tests. On Wednesday, the company went on the offensive to defend its product.
The aim was to show Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin vest could withstand armor-piercing rounds from an AK-47. Combat rounds from an M-16 and M-14 were also fired from 25 feet. Ceo Murray Neal was pleased with the results saying "There's no penetration...you can see nothing through. Nothing through here."
But, this week, the US Army said soldiers already have the best body armor in the world, Interceptor Vests. The Army says the Dragon Skin vests which cost significantly more, did not pass tests conducted a year ago.
Brigadier General Mark Brown, US Army, says, "The test manager called and said, 'General, Pinnacle has failed 13 of 48 shots so far. Do we continue with the test?"
Murray says his vest couldn't have failed. "Ii know it didn't. I know it didn't. Out of the 13, 8 specifically they fired into areas where there was no Dragon Skin."
The Dragon Skin vests have drawn national attention. Javier La Rosa's son is a US Marine who will soon be deployed to Iraq. La Rosa came all the way from Tennessee to watch this test. He's trying to raise $26,000 to buy 12 vests for his son's squad. The Army doesn't allow the use of the Dragon Skin vests, but La Rosa says the Marine Corps aren't as strict. "One of the points is that it's up to the commanders in the field to their discretion whether they can wear them or not, " says La Rosa.
Dragon Skin vests use silicon carbide discs which the company says allows flexibility and better protection. But, the Army says the vests failed when exposed to extreme temperatures. "Pinnacle SOV-300 Level Four Dragon Skin suffered catastrophic failure of the ceramic minus 60-below and 120-degrees and 160-degrees."
Murray says there is only one way to prove his vests provide the most protection for US troops. He says, "We have a third party test. It will validate it. It won't be conducted by the Army. It won't be conducted by me. That's the whole issue here."
Senator Jim Costa of Fresno has called on the House Armed Services Committee to resolve the body armor debate. He's asking for an unbiased, external investigation.
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