Sunday, May 20, 2007

Are U.S. Soldiers Wearing The Best Body Armor?

NBC's news investigative unit, Lisa Myers and Adam Ciralsky, reports:
For troops in the line of fire, body armor can spell the difference between life and death.

Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, who oversees body armor for the Army, told NBC, “The body armor that we issue to our soldiers today is the best in the world. Bar none. It’s proven by live-fire testing, and it’s proven in combat.”

But is it really the best?

An NBC News investigation — including independent ballistics tests — suggests there may be something better called Dragon Skin. Military families and soldiers have tried to buy Dragon Skin believing it offers better protection. But the Army banned the armor last year even before formally testing it.

The Army’s current body armor is called Interceptor. NBC News tracked down the man who helped design Interceptor a decade ago, Jim Magee, a retired Marine colonel:

LISA MYERS: What is the best body armor available today in your view?

JIM MAGEE: Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down. It's better than the Interceptor. It is state of the art. In some cases, it’s two steps ahead of anything I’ve ever seen.

MYERS: You developed the body armor that the Army is using today.

MAGEE: That's correct.

MYERS: And you say Dragon Skin is better?

MAGEE: Yes. And I think anybody in my industry would say the same thing were they to be perfectly honest about it.

Why? He says more stopping power and more coverage.

According to Magee, the Army’s Interceptor uses four rigid plates to stop the most lethal bullets, leaving some vital organs unprotected. Dragon Skin — with discs that interconnect like Medieval chainmail — can wrap most of a soldier’s torso, providing a greater area of maximum protection.

Magee, who has no financial stake whatsoever in Dragon Skin, told us, “If you would ask me today, ‘Jim we’re sending you to Iraq tomorrow. What would you wear?’ I would buy Dragon Skin and I would wear it.”