updated 5/19/2006 9:45:56 PM ET 2006-05-20T01:45:56

The Army’s struggle to find a new, more flexible body armor was dealt a setback Friday when high-tech vests called Dragon Skin failed to pass military testing, a senior defense official said.

After three days of testing this week, the Army determined the body armor does not meet military specifications, said the official, who would not specify which tests the armor failed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the results have not yet been released.

The Army paid about $170,000 to buy 30 sets of the armor for the testing.

Generally, during testing, various types of ammunition are fired at the vests, and the armor also may be subjected to extreme temperatures or environmental conditions. The tests were done by H.P. White, an independent ballistic testing lab in Street, Md.

The Army has expressed great interest in getting more flexible body armor. A principal complaint about the armor used by troops on the battlefield is that it is so heavy and inflexible it might lessen a soldier’s speed and agility. The current armor includes heavy ceramic plates in the front, back and sides.

The Dragon Skin testing was delayed initially by a dispute over testing conditions between the Army and Pinnacle Armor of Fresno, Calif., which makes the protective gear known as Dragon Skin.

Earlier this week, the Army announced it would carry out three days of testing, which signaled the dispute’s resolution. A request for comment from Murray Neal, Pinnacle Armor’s chief executive officer, was not immediately returned.

Neal previously has contended that his armor is high quality, and its “capabilities have been proven to be significant improvements over the current Army issue.”

He said he has nine years of ballistic data, both classified and unclassified, that show the armor taking over 40 rounds of ammunition from an AK-47, then another 150 rounds from a submachine gun, all at close range, without a failure.

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