NBC Nightly News is reporting that its own investigation and independent ballistics testing show that Dragon Skin personnel armor is superior to the Interceptor vest currently issued to U.S. troops. Reporter Lisa Meyers even tracked down the designer of the Interceptor, retired Marine Corps Col. Jim Magee, who said he would choose Dragon Skin over the Interceptor if he had to go to Iraq. NBC News plans to report the complete results of its testing on NBC Dateline Sunday
This video on Dragon Skin available on YouTube is from an episode of the Discovery Channel's "Future Weapons" program.
"Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down," Magee told Meyers in an interview that you can watch on NBC's Web site. "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."
NBC's independent testing compared Dragon Skin and Interceptor, and were observed by retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, an NBC News military analyst.
Just last month, the Marine Corps issued an order prohibiting Marines from wearing Dragon Skin or any other store-bought personnel armor. The Army issued a similar ban in April 2006, two months before -- according to NBC News -- it began ballistics testing on the Dragon Skin vests, which are made by Fresno, Calif.-based Pinnacle Armor.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Brown told Meyers that Interceptor is the "best in the world," although he later acknowledged that he wasn't aware the Army's ban came before it tested Dragon Skin.
Meyers found that despite the ban, soldiers assigned to guard generals and VIPs have been routinely wearing Dragon Skin with the knowledge of their commanders.
And there's more. What follows is an excerpt from Meyers interview with Nevin Rupert, who is described as having spent seven years evaluating Dragon Skin for the Army.
Nevin Rupert, a mechanical engineer and ballistics expert, was for seven years the Army’s leading authority on Dragon Skin. Now a whistleblower, he says the Army’s timing wasn’t coincidental.
RUPERT: I believe there are some Army officials at the lower levels that deliberately tried to sabotage it.
MYERS: What possible motive would Army officials have for blocking a technology that could save lives?
RUPERT: Their loyalty is to their organization and maintaining funds.
He says that because Dragon Skin was not developed by the Army, some officials considered it a threat to funding of Interceptor and other Army programs.
RUPERT: It wasn’t their program. It threatened their program and mission funding.
Rupert also says he was ordered not to attend the tests of Dragon Skin.
MYERS: You spent seven years evaluating Dragon Skin. And the Army goes to test it. And you're told not to attend?
MYERS: They didn't want you there?
RUPERT: They didn't want a lot of people there.
Rupert was recently fired by the Army, he says, for supporting Dragon Skin. When questioned about Rupert by NBC News, the Army said in a statement:
“Mr. Nevin Rupert was employed by the Army Research Laboratory for more than 33 years as a mechanical engineer in the Weapons & Materials Research Directorate, located at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. Mr. Nevin left federal service on February 24, 2007. He has a June 2007 appeal before the Merit System Protection Board.”
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth