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Bryan A. Cheeseman, Robert Jensen and Christopher Hoppel

Advanced Materials Enable Robust

Composite Armour

Composite Armoured Vehicle (CAV).

(Photo: Authors)

The US Army is undergoing a paradigm shift toward highly mobile,

rapidly dployable, readily sustained Units of Action having unprecedented lethality and survivability.
While current ground fighting vehicles have evolved to their 70+ ton
status, in part to defend against the
ever-increasing lethality of ballistic
threats, their sheer mass and support requirements do not make
them easily transportable or readily
sustainable. Therefore, as the US
Army transforms, future combat
systems (FCS) will employ lightweight, highly mobile, transportable, and lethal armoured vehicles
that maintain the highest level of

To achieve armour performance exceeding

that of the current combat vehicles for new
vehicular systems weighing less than 30 tons,
significant advances in survivability technology
are required. Advanced materials and their multifunctional integration are critical to the successful design of new light amiours.
One such light armour solution being developed is an advanced composite armour that
combines ceramics, metals, and polymeric
composites to provide unmatched mass effi-


cient protection. Such rapid advancements are

only possible with similar developments in individual materials and modelling technology. This
article will first highlight the evolution of the
"plastic tank" and then detail the recent advancements in organic materials technology and
advanced simulation capability for application
of composites in vehicle armour.

The "Plastic Tank" A History of Composite

Structural Armour
Composite armour systems are not new.
During the pioneering light armour experiments
against small arms threats conducted in the
late 1960s, M.I. Wilkins and co-workers at
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory determined that hard ceramics coupled with a thin
ductile backing form effective, mass efficient
armour systems. These researchers recognised that ceramics possess characteristics such
as low density, high hardness, and high compressive strength - all of which were well suited for light armour systems. When coupled
with composite materials having superior
strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight
properties, ceramic/composite armour provides mass-efficient ballistic protection against
a number of threats. Integrating these materials
as a mass-efficient armour system on armoured vehicles has been reported in the open literature since the 1980s, and the US Army's
efforts in the development and application of

composite armour during this time are detailed

Through several key R&D programmes during the 1980s and 1990s, the Army established
a confidence-building baseline for the application of polymer matrix composites (PMCs) to
lighten heavy forces while also improving survivability for light forces. The first application of
thick-section PMCs to armoured vehicles was
in a demonstration programme in the late
1980s under which a polyester/glass composite hull was developed to replace the aluminium
hull on the BRADLEY Infantry Fighting Vehicle
(BIFV). The resulting vehicle, with a thick-section composite hull and appliqu ceramic
armour tiles, became known as the Composite
Infantry Fighting Vehicle (CIFV) and demonstrated the ability of PMCs to perform well
structurally in an armoured vehicle.
The CIFV was followed by the Composite
Annoured Vehicle (CAV) programme, established to assess the application of PMCs in the
ground-up design of an armoured vehicle. To
meet the stringent weight and ballistic performance requirements of the CAV, the concept of
a multifunctional PMC-based armour was developed. The resulting composite integral armour (CIA) performed exceptionally well and
was subsequently adapted for incorporation
into designs for the Army's ill-fated CRUSADER Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and its companion Resupply Vehicle (RSV).
An example of the armour designed for the
GAV is shown in Fig. 1. Each layer serves a
specific purpose, yet combinations of layers
Military Techfology MILTECH 6/20OB

strong fibre-matrix interfacial adhesion at stnjctural loading rates, and weak rnterfacial
strength at ballistic loading rates, they would
Stnjcturai Composite
behave structurally under vehicle loads, yet
absorb energy like an armour-grade composite
under ballistic impact. The result would be an
multi-functional armour composite.
Ceramic (Alumina)
Recent research has indicated that this may be
Armor Tiles
prassible through innovative manipulation of the
PMC Outer Face-sheet
chemical and physical interactions between the
matrix and fibres.
Woven and non160 n
woven fabrics constructed using contin140uous glass-fibre reinforcements are com_ 120monly used in PMCs.
100glass-fibre manufacturing a multi-compo80nent thin coating,
known as a sizing, is
? 60applied to the fibres
for protection against
40damage during processing and to control
20their performance in
composite articles.
Conventional glass"Struchiro
ARL Hybrid
fibre sizings incorpoFibef Siiing
Fibar Siting
Fiber Sizing
rate organo-functional
molecules, known as
Figure 3: Mechanical Performance of Composite with
Various Sizing. The ARL Sizing Shows Exceptional
agents, to enhance
Performance in both Energy Absorption (Shwon in Green)
the adhesion between
and Compressive Strenght (Shwon in Orange).
the glass-fibre reinforcement and the
grade composites are resin starved, consisting
polymeric matrix and to increase the durability
of approximately 80% weight fibre, and are
of the composite. The complex chemical and
engineered to readily delaminate. which enphysical interactions due to the silane coupling
ables the high-strength, high-modulus fibres to
agent result in the formation of a nanometreelongate and absorb the impact energy. These
sized interphase region between the glass-fibre
non-structural annour textiles are highly mass
surface and the polymeric matrix.
efficient, and there are a number of composite
The interphase region that surrounds glassvehicle armour appliqus that incorporate
fibres in a composite is essential to its perforthem. However, they serve only to increase balmance, yet Is poorly understood. For example.
listic protection, not support load. Composites
existing traditional fibre sizings are not optimbeing considered for FCS vehicle applications
ised to tailor simultaneously a composite's
are being designed to be multifunctional, and
static and dynamic response. Yet. it has been
as in the CAV detailed above, the FCS comrecognised that these sizings affect structural
posite armour will be an integral part of the
durability, impact resistance, and damage tolvehicle, carrying typical vehicle kinematic
Published research indicates that the impact
These composites under development are
response of a PMC can be tailored for highcomparable to traditional structural composites
energy absorption by designing weak fibre-mahaving approximately 50% volume fibre. While
trix interfacial interactions. Conversely, structuefficient for carrying load, composites used for
ral performance (strength) is achieved by strong
structural armour are not as mass efficient balfibre-matrix interfacial interactions. Hence, the
iistically as their armour grade counterparts.
aforementioned trade-offs exist. Although the
However, if these composites were to possess
achievement of simultaneous high strength and
energy absorption levels is desirable, the technology has not been available. New approaches are now being introduced to overcome
these traditional materials shortcomings.
The glass-fibre sizing research being performed at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL)
has systematically examined the nature of the
glass-fibre/thermosetting polymer interphase
J Phenolic Inner Liner


Figure 1: Example of the Composite

Integral Armour Developed under the
CAV Programme.
(Source for all figures: Authors)

provide role-sharing multifunctionality. A thin,

protective PMC face sheet on the outside of
the vehicle serves to protect the ceramic ballistic tiles from incidental damage, while the ceramic tiles are utilised to break up and/or erode
the projectile upon impact. The subsequent
rubber (EPDM) layer is utilised to improve multihit ballistic performance. The thick section
composite plate serves as the structural support for the vehicle, a structural backing tor the
ballistic tiles and also catches the remnants of
the projectile and fractured ceramic, while
absorbing the residual kinetic energy. Finally, a
fire-protective "spall" layer of phenolic is incorporated on the inner surface of the vehicle.
Other layers can be incorporated to provide
additional functionality, such as electromagnetic ground planes, signature control, etc.
While composite integral armour developed
under the CAV and CRUSADER programmes
engendered confidence in the ability of PMCs
to simultaneously meet ballistic and stnjctural
properties in combat vehicles, the mass efficiency (ballistic performance per unit areal density) falls significantly short of the current requirements. Advancements in materials technology and numerical simulation capabilities were
identified as enabling technologies to aid in future developments of advanced composite
armour, and some of these recent efforts are
detailed in the following sections.

Fibre Coatings: Sizing Matters

Composites used for structural armour are
different from those used In appliqu or body
armour applications. Typically, body armour-

Figure 2: Surface AFM Images of

Standard Commercial Fiber (left) in
Comparison to ARL Nano-Roughened
Commercially Produced Fiber (right).

TTie Authors are at the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. US Army Research Laboratory at
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. This paper was first
pubiished in "The AMPTIAC Quarterly" magazine, and
it is reproduced here through courtesy.
Milttary Technology MILTECH




Figure 4: Modelling Ballistic Impacts

into Composite Armor Has Evolved
Significantly in Recent Years.

Figure 5: Damage Mechanisms Observed During the Impact

and Penetration of a Composite.

region to develop the fundamental understanding necessary to propose and validate an entirely new class of sizing materials. Specifically,
mixed organo-functional silane coupling agents
are being employed to vary the chemical reactivity toward the polymeric matrix phase to produce bond strengths that are dependent on the
viscoelastic properties of the matrix and fibrecoating. This results in an inherent "viscoelastic
switch" at the fibre-matrix interphase that
yields strong fibre-matrix interactions (high

structural strength) at low strain rates and weak

fibre-matrix interactions (ballistic performance)
at high strain rates. This triggered response is
coupled with the application of inorganicorganic sol-gel processes to develop silanebased. glass-fibre sizings that increase the surface roughness of commercially produced
glass fibres. The result is an increased coefficient of friction between the fibre and matrix
during the fibre pullout stages of composite
failure, further resulting in enhanced energy

absorption in the composite during ballistic

These results were first documented
mechanically on micro-scale model composite
specimens. Subsequently, the experimental inorganic-organic hybrid fibre sizings were sealed-up and applied using commercial manufacturing equipment to demonstrate their behaviour in macroscale composite materials. Fig. 2
shows the successful nano-texturing of the
fibre surfaces produced on a commercial scale

Structural and Appliqu Armour for the FCS

The FCS-Manned Ground Vehicle (MGV) protection concept calls
for an "A" hull structure and modular "B(x}" armour to achieve full
combat configuration (FCC). The use of B(x) will facilitate tailoring
armour to a particular combat situation and allow expedient integration of improved armour technology spiralling in from the baseline B1
to an improved B2, B3, and B(x) armour over a short period of time.
Weight has driven toward designs enabled only by application of
advanced materials.
Long lead times from design-to-production of new vehicles and
high cost to fabricate and integrate new materials can result in missing cost targets or production schedules. To avoid this problem, subassembly processes will be automated and streamlined. Structural
assembly and processing stream will be optimized to support all B(x)
armour and other appurtenances. Flexible manufacturing for novel
armour materials elements for B(x) armour will be developed for high
capacity and iow cost production. Subassembly processes will be
integrated to produce test and qualification A and B(x) articles as part
of the transition process to the FCS vehicle integrators.

Benefits include:
- Provides lighter weight, survivable platforms with light, affordable
armour that meets FCS ORD requirements;
- Reduces cycle time and cost of manufacturing by 25-40%;
- Reduces structural armour processing time by 50%;
- Improves ballistic performance by 10% in production environment;
- Manufacturing technology transitions to vehicle integrators (Vis) for
a chassis production in FY09;
- Manufacturing technoiogy transitions to Vis for B(x) assembly and
B3 materials production in FY09-11.


During FY03-FY07, structural A and B1 armour processing technologies were benchmarked; critical areas for improvement of cycle
time and material availability were identified; model centric manufacturing practices for vehicle integration demonstrated; ceramic tile
joining to metallic and composite armour structure in a manufacturing environment demonstrated; joining of dissimilar blast resistant A
structure demonstrated; and the cost of hot-pressed SiC armour tiles
has been reduced from $135/lb. to $85/lb.
Build-to-Print Ceramic/Composite Armour - The current goal of
this programme is to reduce costs by making the ceramic facial
upper half of the armour system using an automated process rather
than current labour-intensive manual processes. Production methods of manufacturing, including prepreg or, where applicable, vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM), rapid lay-up tooling,
and adhesive bonding, have been applied to emerging B(x) armour
formulations. Plans are in place to manufacture actual FCS maturation structures using the developed technologies.
Hot-pressed SiC Armour Tile Production - Efforts continue to
develop a state-of-the-art semi-continuous production line for rapid
hot pressing of SiC-N tiles. The prototype line is now operational and
a campaign run of qualification tiles is being produced. Two high
speed precision grinders are now on line and will significantly reduce
grinding cost, which is the single largest cost of producing tiles with
current manufacturing practices.
Low Cost Titanium Components for Armour Appiications Manufacturing of T-6AI-4V plates via direct powder rolling (DPR),
cold iso-static pressing (CIP) followed by sintering was demonstrated. These plates met MIL-DTL- 46077F and were produced with low
cost hydrogenated titanium powder and sodium reduced titanium
(Source: Army ManTech Manager, RDCOM/ARL)

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using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Glass
reinforced composite materials were manufactured using these specialised fabrics, and the
structural and impact energy responses were
measured. Fig. 4 captures the impact energy
absorption and structural performance of composites produced using state-of-the-art commercial sizings and the ARL inorganic-organic
hybrid sizings. These results show the traditional trade-offs found when using commercially
available fibres that have been coated with
either a stnjctural or ballistic sizing. In comparison, these trade-offs do not exist for the ARL
inorganic-organic hybrid sizing, and the impact
and structural performance of this optimized
sizing are both excellent. A 40% increase in the
energy absorption of composites fabricated
with no loss in stmctural properties will enable
the use of PMCs in ballistic applications where
they have not been used previously, perhaps
with reduced cost.

Advances in Modelling
Until a few years ago, there was no definitive
computational model for ceramics and highvelocity impact calculations of fibre-reinforced
composites were a research task. These limitations in numerical techniques and robust material models resulted in much of the design of
composite armour systems being guided by

experimental efforts. However, the advances in

numerical techniques and development of
robust material models have since allowed
modellers to simulate accurately what is
observed experimentally, and this has enabled
greater insight into how the components of the
composite armour work together during the
impact event. These recant developments have
allowed experiments and simulations to be utilised together to improve the performance of
composite armour.
Accuracy in modelling of ceramics has been
aided by the use of LaGrangian particle techniques, either smooth particle hydrodynamics
(SPH) or general particle algorithms (GPA),
which, when coupled with a validated material
model, have given very good con-elation with
experimental obsen/ations of impact into ceramics. One such material mode!, the JohnsonHolmquist ceramic model, has been able to
accurately simulate the full gamut of ceramic
response; everything from the phenomenon of
interface defeat, where a projectile is stopped
on the surface of the ceramic, to the dwell-penetration transition and direct penetration. Thus,
as the issue of ceramic modelling may have
evolved toward a (somewhat accepted) phenomenologicai material model (though an accepted micromechanical model is still being sought),
composite material modelling for dynamic
events has also seen significant advances.

The modelling of ballistic impacts into composite materials has evolved from two different
analysis methodologies. One set of models has
been developed from the analysts of high
velocity impacts into metallic materials, where
the response of the material is governed by
wave propagation. The second set has been
developed from the quasi-static damage
mechanics analysis of composite materials. In
the former case, the behaviour of a material is
modelled by analysing the hydrostatic and deviatoric components of stress. However, due to
its inherent orthotropy. decoupling of the stress
tensor of a composite material proves to be
problematic: there are terms related to the
devlatoric stress that affect the hydrostatic
components and vice versa. Nonetheless, with
suitable assumptions and corrections. Anderson and co-workers overcame this issue, and
several models have evolved using this formulation. These models have proven unique in
that they allow a polynomial equation of state
to be utilized, which has proven important in
the analysis ot armour grade composites and
for hypervelocity impact simulations.
The present model, developed by the
Materials Sciences Corporation (MSC) and the
US Army Research Laboratory, has been generalisd from the quasi-static damage mechanics analysis of composite materials. Further
improvements of this model have recently been

Figure 6: Experimental Set-ups for Quasistanic and Drop Tower Punch Shear Experiments, Simulation of the Punch Shear Experiment
and a Comparison of the Load vs. Displacement Curves from the Experiment and the Finite Element Analysis.
Quasistatic Punch Shear Experiments

Low Velocity Impact Punch Shear Experiments

Punch Shear Fixture on

Load vs. Displacement far 1-rnch Span Plate

Simulation of Punch Shear Test:

i-inch Span

0,1 0,2 0.3 04 0,5 0,6 0,7 0,8 0.9

Di5plocement, cm


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Stel P

Compoile Tile
Support loyer

FSP Velocity vs. Time for Caroink Backed

by Carbon Fiber Composite Configuration



Gto Composite Backing


Figure 7: Model Used for the Numerical Simulation

of a Composite Armour System.

made at ARL and the University of Delaware

under the Army's Materials Center of Excellence. Composite materials mitigate impact
energy through a number of different material
damage mechanisms. This is unlike many metallic components, where localisd impact energy is typically mitigated by localized plastic deformation. Shown in Figure 5are a number ot
these mechanisms, such as fibre shear tracture, fibre tensile rupture, matrix cracking, delamination and fibre crushing, that are observed
experimentally and must all be taken into
accountGenerally, in composite damage mechanics
models, material damage and failure are
accounted for only by a resultant decrease in
the material stiffness in the corresponding
material directions. The current model utilises
this concept, but also accounts for the interrelations of the different failure modes through
quadratic failure criteria and a novel damage
tensor that relates the specific failure modes to
the extensional and shear moduli that are compromised. The formulation is based on the continuum damage model for composite failure
developed by Matzenmiller et al. and has been

Figure 8: Projectile Velocity as a Function of Time

for the Baseline Configuration.

extended to incorporate strain rate sensitivity of

both stiffness and strength and post failed
material softening.
While the details of this elegant and complex
material model are beyond the scope of the
current article, it is not surprising that there are
a number of material constants that must be
determined in order to generate accurate simulations. Obviously, in order to perform accurate
simulations of a composite material using the
current model, a substantial material characterisation program is required. As part of the Composite Material Technology {CMT) programme,
the Center for Composite Materials {COM) at
the University of Detaware has been working
with ARL and MSC to fully characterise materials of interest and validate these values by performing simulations of the experiments using
the current material model.
Fig. 6 depicts the effort of determining the
material behaviour associated with the punch
shear of S2-glass/epoxy composites. Punch
shear experiments were conducted for a number of punch-die diameters at a variety of rates
from quasistatic, to drop tower, to split Hopkinson pressure bar. Simulations were then

performed, and the quantitative values were

compared with those obtained from the experiments. Materials that have been characterised
include S2-glass/SC15 epoxy, S2-glass/SC79
epoxy and IM7 carbon/SC79 epoxy.

Composite Armour Simulation

To illustrate the insights that can be gained
from simulations of composite armour, consider the following problem shown in Fig, 7. The
simulation, conducted using the nonlinear analysis software Autodyn, consists of a half-symmetric model of a ceramic tile with a thin composite cover plate on top and supported by a
thin PMC, all of which is backed by a glassfibre PMC. In the impact region, all of the materials are modelled using smooth particle hydrodynamics (SPH), The tile itself is surrounded
and confined by steel brackets modelled using
LaGrangian elements.
As a measure of how the composite armour
reacts upon impact, the deceleration of a target
point on the rear surface of the fragment-simulating projectile (FSP) is tracked during the
impact event. The deceleration of the FSP for

Schematic arrangement of the

structural and appliqu armour
in the FCS manned vehicles.
(Photo: ARL)

Qinetiq's ACAVP demonstrator

with composite hull.
(Photo: QinetiQ)


Military Technology MILTECH G/200B

this baseline case is given in Fig. 8. From this
figure, it can be seen that the deceleration
curve of the FSP has three distinct portions: an
initial steep deceleration up to approximately
35 |js, a transition region from roughly 35-45
|js, and a final, more moderate deceleration
curve from 45-90 ps.
By observing the plots of the material damage through time, an understanding of the
mechanisms behind these regions becomes
discernible. The initial rapid deceleration is
caused by the hard ceramic deforming the
FSP. During this time, the ceramic itself fails, its
failure starting on the surface opposite the
impact surface due to the tensile reflections
from the initial compressive stress wave. In Fig,
8, green regions indicate undamaged material,
and coloured regions indicate material that is
either plastically deformed or damaged. The
cyan colour of the projectile indicates that it is
plastically deforming. For the composite, the
cyan and orange colouring indicates transverse
shear damage, the purple indicates in-plane
tensile failure and for all materials, red indicates
bulk failure. The cracking of the ceramic leads
to the formation of a conoid (a cone of ceramic
material under the impactor) which loads the
backing plates.
Extensive transverse shear damage mechanisms appear in all of the composites by 20 |jsThe initial deceleration of the projectile transitions to a more moderate deceleration of the
projectile at approximately 30 ^JS, and it is at
this time that the damaged composites have
displaced enough locally to allow the failed
ceramic in the conoid to start moving, both in
the direction of the projectile and laterally, out
of the way of the projectile. The effectiveness of
the ceramic diminishes greatly from 30 ps to 45
ps. After 45 ps, the damaged glass/epoxy composite catches both the ceramic rubble and the
plastically deformed projectile.

The application of polymer-matn"x composite materials to armour systems has principally

A USMC LAV 8x8 vehicle receiving add-on

composite armour elements on top of its
aluminium alloy structural armour as part
of the ongoing upgrade programme.
(Photo: USMC)

been driven by the need to increase performance (survivability) in very lightweight fighting
vehicles. The stringent weight requirements for
these types of applications have provided the
motivation for the development of multi-functional armour systems. Ceramic-composite
armour systems have been developed to provide ballistic protection from a range of battlefield threats and also serve as the vehicle
Substantial progress has been made in the
development of materials technology for lightweight fighting vehicles, including advances in

One of the tatest designs in advanced hybrid laminated composite

materials for lightweight structural armour undergoes testing at
(Photo: TARDEC)

Military Technology MILTECH - 6/2008

fibre sizings that have been formulated to provide strain-rate sensitive response (strong
fibre-matrix interfacial adhesion at structural
loading rates, and weak interfacial strength at
ballistic loading rates). Additionally, the development, characterisation and validation of improved material constitutive models have allowed ballistic experiments to be studied using
numerical simulations, which have provided
new insight into how the materials behave and
interact during impact. Further advances in
materials technology and their incorporation
into lightweight armour will focus on the
increased integration of multifunctionality, such
as the incorporation of power storage, communication, sensing, and health monitoring. Numerical simulations will allow engineers to
examine the influence of multifunctional materials on improving the performance of ceramic
composite armour that will be utilised in future
combat systems.

The penetration defeat mechanism

of a composite/hybdrid armour plate.
(Source: via "Defense. Update")