Winning: Dragon Skin Versus Department of Defense


April 3, 2006: The U.S. Army has officially banned the use of unauthorized body army by troops. This directive is specifically aimed at Dragon Skin armor. This is a relatively new design, which uses smaller bullet proof plates (about 40mm wide) that are arranged like fish scales. This was a popular style of armor in ancient times. This sort of thing provides flexibility, as well as slightly superior protection to the current large ceramic plates. A big advantage of the Dragon Skin scale armor is that it can cover more area, providing increased protection against high powered rifle bullets. The only problem with the new armor, aside from up to eight pounds of additional weight (depending on how many of the small plates are used), is that it cannot be manufactured quickly enough to replace the hundreds of thousands of older type vests already in use. The Dragon Skin plates are more difficult to make than the existing, larger, SAPI plates. The new army policy comes in the wake of discovering that offers to reimburse troops who bought additional body armor, had few takers.

The introduction of Dragon Skin armor has produced a PR nightmare for Department of Defense bureaucrats. Firstly because the new armor has not yet been tested to the Pentagon's satisfaction. Then there are problems with the armor being heavier, more expensive and more time-consuming to produce. It's become something of a media issue, and the Pentagon is taking a beating over it. No excuses, not matter how reasonable, are acceptable in situations like this. The army is sticking its neck out by banning Dragon Skin, but they may have sufficient evidence (of inadequate protection) to justify the decision. Then again, maybe not.

When it comes to protection for the troops, the principal of "too much ain't enough" applies. At least as far as civilians and journalists are concerned. But the troops themselves take a more balanced view, and sometimes wear lighter, less protective, versions of the body armor they already have. Sometimes the troops wear no armor at all. In some types of combat, speed is more useful (and safer) than armor protection. This issue is incomprehensible to many civilians and journalists, which just keeps the controversy going.


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