12th December 2012
Lockheed Martin has partnered with research engineers at the University of Surrey to look into new lighter weight methods of improving the protection and survivability of armoured vehicles. The focus of the research has been ceramic materials and how they can improve protection levels on vehicles such as those used in operational environments by the UK army and special forces.
Ceramic materials, which have increasingly been replacing steel in armour plating due to their light weight, are extremely resistant to penetration by hostile weaponry. The main challenge involved with the use of ceramics in this way has been the weakness of the adhesive bonding connecting ceramic plates to their backing, rendering the approach less robust than traditional metallic armour.
However, the latest work by scientists at the University of Surrey is the development of a method of treating the ceramic materials to improve the bond strength of both aluminia and silicon carbide ceramics to the composite backing. This greatly enhances the robustness of the protective armour.
Results have shown that using the technique on alumina and silicon carbide surfaces leads to increased bond strength. The tests revealed that when a 14.5mm armour piercing incendiary was fired at the panel it remained intact under a multi-hit environment.
“Although ceramic armour has a great number of advantages over other protection methods, there are still some challenges” noted Andrew Harris, Engineering Doctorate research engineer at the University of Surrey. “Our relationship with Lockheed Martin has enabled us to develop a method of treating the ceramic to considerably improve the effectiveness of ceramic armour plating. Key to achieving a step change in performance, proven in tests, has been the pre-conditioning of the ceramic surfaces, prior to bonding onto the support structure.”
Steve Burnage, head of design at LMUK’s Ampthill facility in Bedfordshire, added: ‘The reduction in weight of armoured vehicles is an increasingly important requirement for the army as it looks for the ability to more rapidly deploy an agile force into regions of conflict.’