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Role of Vehicle Armor

Role of Vehicle Armor

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Published by tom_taylor_17
armored vehicles
armored vehicles

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Published by: tom_taylor_17 on Jan 03, 2013
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07/22/2013

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Executive Protection:The Role of Vehicle Armor inExecutive Protection Operation
 
 By Lt. Thomas A. Taylor, Missouri State Highway Patrol 
On June 28, 1988, U.S. Navy Captain William Nordeen, a defense attaché stationed inAthens, Greece, drove away from his home at 8:10 a.m. in a lightly armored FordGrenada. He turned left onto a one-way street, as he always did on his way to work. Ablue Toyota with counterfeit plates was parked along the curb to his left. Its trunk contained 50 pounds of ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) explosive with a radio-controlled firing device. Bags of concrete were stacked on the curb side of its trunk todirect the blast toward the street. Standing alongside their stolen motorcycle, twomembers of the terrorist group "17 November" watched from a distance. When Nordeenreached the Toyota, they triggered the device. The explosion blew the Toyota 25 feet upthe street. Nordeen’s car was thrown 18 feet to the right, landing on its top. Nordeen’sdecapitated body landed 30 feet past his car. The terrorists escaped. (So much for lightlyarmored vehicles!)An incredible number of attacks directed at public figures are carried out while they arein or around their cars. While an armored vehicle will not make a dignitary invulnerableto all attacks, it doesn’t take a NASA scientist to figure out that the use of such a vehiclewill increase the chances of surviving most attacks. It, quite simply, buys time to escapethe "kill zone".In his book Weapons and Equipment of Counterterrorism, Michael Dewar writes that in1969 the Secret Service took delivery of an armored Lincoln Continental that carried twotons of steel and bullet-resistant glass. It was also capable of traveling 50 mph wit all itstires shot out. The ability to maintain mobility on run-flat tires was considered to be asimportant as its heavy armoring.
Bullets and Bomb Fragments
 
In the early morning hours of September 15, 1981, a three-car motorcade approached anintersection on Highway B37, outside Heidelberg, Germany. The first car contained twocivil police officers, assigned to "sweep" the route. The second vehicle was an armoredMercedes, driven by a German police officer, with U.S. General Frederick Kroesen andhis wife in back. They were followed by an unmarked car with two U.S. MPs. As themotorcade stopped at a traffic light, the wooded area to their left erupted in gunfire. Four
 
Red Army Faction terrorists, one a woman, fired two RPG-7 anti-tank grenades and aburst from an H&K-53 assault rifle. The first grenade struck the top of the trunk onKroesen‘s car and passed through, exiting from the right rear fender. It shattered the rearwindow, spraying the Kroesens with glass. The second grenade missed, explodingbeyond the car. Four H&K rounds struck the car, but didn’t penetrate the armor. Theyquickly drove away, escaping with only scratches.This is only one of many examples where the use of a fully armored vehicle boughtenough time for the dignitary to escape. Other precautions can also be used to survivesuch an assault. Public figures should always vary their schedules and routes traveled.Terrorists look for any activity that is routine in order to know where and when to launchtheir attack.
The "Shell-game" Defense
 At 6:40 p.m. on September 8, 1986, Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was returning tothe capitol from his weekend retreat. He was riding with his grandson in the back of anarmored Mercedes, which was the fourth car in a five-car motorcade. Suddenly a carpulling a trailer swerved across the road ahead, blocking their path. Sniper fire eruptedfrom both sides of the road, knocking out the two lead motorcycles. The motorcadestopped. A rocket struck the second car in the motorcade (the usual position for aprotectee's car), killing the five bodyguards inside. Automatic weapons fire raked the restof the motorcade, setting some of the cars on fire. Pinochet's driver reacted quickly. Hebacked up, striking the car behind him, then made a U-turn and escaped. Pinochet laterput his bullet-riddled Mercedes on display. Not only had its armor and his driver's quick reaction saved his life, but also moving his car from the second to the fourth position inthe motorcade had fooled the terrorists.
Bomb-resistant vs. Bomb-proof 
Let's say that you’re a public figure with a healthy budget at your disposal. What kind of armored vehicle do you need or want? In 1984, President Ronald Reagan wanted a U.S.made car. The Secret Service started with a stock Cadillac Fleetwood limo, costing$31,512. It was then stretched 17 inches to a more presidential length of 22 feet. TheHess and Eisenhardt Armoring Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, which started outprotecting coaches in 1876, added a few features that the Secret Service won’t discuss.Suffice to say that it is bullet-and-bomb
 resistant
. Unfortunately, there is no such thing asa bomb proof car. Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco learned that lesson the hard way.At 9:30 a.m., on December 20, 1973, he was riding through Madrid, Spain, in the back of his armored 1973 Dodge Dart with his driver and two bodyguards. They were followedby another car with a driver and two more bodyguards. It was a trip they routinely madeevery day. The terrorist group ETA knew it, too. They had rented a basement apartmentalong the route and dug a T-shaped tunnel, which extended out under the street. Theythen packed the top of the "T" with three explosive charges, totaling about 1200 poundsof TNT. An Austin car was double-parked to force Blancos limo to drive directly over thecharges. As his car approached, a lookout signaled the triggerman. Blanco’s car was
 
blown over a five-story church! It struck the roof, bounced over, and landed on its side ona second-floor balcony, located on the opposite side of the building. All the occupantswere killed.
Armoring Materials
 
Armor can be transparent or opaque, rigid or flexible. Transparent armor comes in threebasic "flavors": glass, acrylic and polycarbonate. Glass must be quite thick, and thereforeheavy, to stop high-powered rounds. Acrylics are considerably stronger and lighter thanglass, but are susceptible to scratching and flammability. Polycarbonates are considerablystronger than acrylics and about 300 times more resistant to breakage than glass, but arealso prone to scratching.Opaque materials include metals, ceramics, fiberglass-reinforced plastics and fabrics. Themost commonly used metals are steel and aluminum. Steel offers the most protection, butit is heavy and not appropriate for some applications. The most commonly usedaluminum is 2024-T3. A quarter-inch of this material will stop most 9mm rounds. Morearmored vehicles are probably fabricated with aluminum than any other material.Ceramics are most commonly used in helicopter seats and other aircraft applications,where its extreme light weight is valuable. It is also extremely expensive and notpractical in many applications.Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) is rigid, light, fire safe and has excellent ballisticproperties. A 24-ply sheet of HF-738 FRP, half an inch thick, will stop a .30-carbine slugfired from five feet away. Mounted inside a 19-gauge steel car door, the combination of metal and FRP would provide excellent protection from most small arms fire.Fabrics such as Kevlar are most commonly used in bullet-resistant clothing and vests, butcan also be used to armor vehicles. As a rule, the amount of protection is directlyproportionate to the number of layers used. Kevlar, by itself, is not practical forprotection against rifle fire.
Threat Classification Levels
 
What areas of the car should be armored? And to what level? Armor materials are given anumbered classification to indicate the level of ordnance that they will stop. Typicalclassifications used by Underwriters Laboratories and others are Levels I through IV.Level I armor would defeat medium-powered small arms fire, up through a .38 calibersuper round, for example. Level IV armor would defeat everything up through superpowered military ammunition, to include 7.62 NATO. The trade-off is that the higher thelevel of protection, the higher the cost and weight of the armor needed.Clearly, Captain Nordeen’s partially armored Ford was meant to stop only small armsfire. On October 25, 1986, Governor Rafael Garrido, his wife and son were riding in theirpartially armored limo through downtown San Sebastian, Spain. When they stopped at a

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