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Ivan Vanko created the Whiplash harness using his father's blueprints for the Arc Reactor and his own proficiency in engineering. He used this armor to try and kill Tony Stark at the Circuit de Monaco; however, he was defeated by Stark in his Mark V armor. After defeating Vanko, Stark removed the Whiplash harness's arc reactor and crushed it, rendering the harness useless.
S.H.I.E.L.D. later claimed what was left of the armor and it was studied by a group of scientists.
The Whiplash Mark I armor was designed as little more than a rudimentary harness with the sole purpose of being used as a weapon to kill Tony Stark, even if suited up as Iron Man. The central piece of the harness is an arc reactor, developed by Ivan Vanko, based on blueprints left to him by his father. The harness substitutes Tony Stark's palm repulsor technology used in his Iron Man suits with Vanko's custom designed electrified whips made from specially designed cables which channel the energy produced by the arc reactor. The whips can cut through almost any metal, ignite flamable substances like fuel, and even be used defensively by repelling Iron Man's repulsor blasts.
While the harness covers part of the user's chest, arms, and back, it can easily be concealed under various forms of clothing while deactivated, with the whip cables concealed in the arm sections. This allows the user to appear inconspicuous to others and get close to an enemy before revealing the weapon's presence. However, due to exposed wiring on the harness, it is impossible to do so while the harness is in use because the wearer's shirt is burned by the heat produced by the harness.
The harness' main weakness is the exposed arc reactor which can easily be removed if the opponent gets close enough, rendering the device useless. Tony described the electric whips as an effective imitation of his repulsor technology, albeit less efficient in the long run.