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BAE Systems is developing radical new 'Liquid Armour' that gives soldiers the same level of protection they currently enjoy but allows them to move with much greater freedom. It takes advantage of the distinctive properties of shear-thickening uids and combines them with Kevlar, one of the materials used in current armour.
HOW IT COMPARES
Existing Kevlar armour is sti , it can impeed movement and cause dis-comfort.
What is shear-thickening uid (STF)?
It is a uid in which special particles are freely suspended. When the uid is disturbed the particles collide, creating a resistance to the disturbance. If the force of the disturbance is large enough, the particles will actually lock together.
While liquid armour provdes a similar level of protection it is more exible and is 45 per cent thinner than existing Kevlar armour.
If you were to slowly stir a container of STF you would feel some resistance. If you began to stir faster, the resitance would increase.
HOW IT WORKS
P O I N T O F I M PA C T
P O S T I M PA C T
When traditional Kevlar is struck by a bullet the major physical deformation of the material is local to the point of impact. It can also be seen that the bullet has signi cantly “dented” the material.
LIQUID ARMOUR (Kevlar with STF)
When liquid armuor is struck by a bullet the force is spread over a wider area. After impact the liquid armour returns to a exible form. In cross-section, it can be seen that the depth of penetration is also less than in traditional Kevlar.
SOURCE: BAE Systems NOTE: These illustrations are schematic and do not represent 100% accurate depictions of the subject matter.
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Issue 6 2010
Spotlight on how technology developed by BAE Systems is giving combat troops a real advantage>
‘Liquid armour’ turns hard enough to stop bullets
An innovative “liquid armour” that can stop bullets has been developed by BAE Systems engineers. By combining Kevlar with special shear-thickening liquids that lock together when struck with force, they have created a new bulletproof material which is 45 per cent thinner than traditional armour yet offers the same level of protection. This research shows that liquid armour could effectively protect soldiers from bullets or shrapnel and could ultimately be used to make much lighter, more flexible and more effective bullet-proof vests for soldiers. The counter-intuitive liquid which hardens when struck has been developed at the Advanced Technology Centre in the UK as part of a project to create future body ar mour offering troops increased protection with reduced mass, wider area coverage, greater maneuverability and easy integration with other systems. The liquid armour technology har nesses the unique properties of shear thickening fluids to enhance the existing energy absorbing properties of material structures such as Kevlar. Ceramic-based armour plates used in current body armour systems to cover large areas of the torso are heavy and bulky, restricting movement and contributing to fatigue, particularly in harsh environments like Afghanistan. Stewart Penney, Head of Business Development for Design and Materials Technologies at the ATC, said: “The technology is best explained by the example of stirring water with a spoon. In water you feel little resistance to the spoon. Whereas with ‘liquid
Harnessing the strength of shear-thickening fluid
Keeping troops on the move protected
An all-inclusive body armour system, called the Scalable Soldier Protection System (SSPS), was unveiled by BAE Systems at the Association of the United States Army annual exhibition in Washington D.C. in October. Designed to improve the way soldiers wear and use their protective equipment, SSPS is an integrated system that comprises a soft armour vest, plate carrier and load bearing belt. Using technologies and designs developed from the Company’s Ultra Lightweight Warrior programme, the vest can be transformed within seconds from a concealable configuration that provides solid protection in low-risk threat situations, to a full tactical vest required for high-risk missions. “It's not enough to just offer individual body armour components. The individual components have to be able to work together as a system, and not get in the way of a soldier’s mobility,” said Val Horvatich, Director of Advanced Programs at Personnel Protection Systems. “With SSPS, we’ve created a next generation and a true body armour system that not only enhances mobility and proper weight distribution, but allows soldiers to configure the system any way they want.”
armour’, you would feel significant resistance as the elements in the fluid lock together. The faster you stir, the harder it gets, so when a projectile impacts the material at speed, it hardens very quickly and absorbs the impact energy.” When integrated with Kevlar, the reduced flow of
the fluids in the liquid armour restricts the motion of the fabric yarns in relation to each other, resulting in an increase in area over which the impact energy is dispersed. As a result, the material is also far less likely to distort than standard body armour, which generally bends inwards when a
THE MATERIAL IS FAR LESS LIKELY TO DISTORT THAN STANDARD ARMOUR, WHICH BENDS INWARDS
bullet strikes, preventing death, but causing considerable pain. Trials conducted at the ATC in Filton near Bristol have shown the liquid armour allows thinner than standard armour to withstand equivalent levels of forces. An early prototype of the technology has been
demonstrated and in the future BAE Systems hopes to further develop liquid armour to create a lightweight version and incorporate the technology into body armour systems. The ATC team is considering applications of potential interest to police forces and ambulance crews.
A clear view deep into the battlefield
A new generation of thermal weapons sights developed by BAE Systems is helping combat soldiers increase their situational awareness, lethality, survivability, and mobility. These advanced, second-generation sights are lighter, quieter, and use less power than the first generation. Reducing a soldier’s load by decreasing battery requirements is key to improving survivability and mobility. BAE Systems’ thermal sights enable soldiers to see deep into the battlefield to detect, identify, and engage targets at longer ranges through smoke, fog, and battlefield obscurants and in extremely low light levels. The US Army recently awarded BAE Systems a US$123m contract for continued production of the sights. The order, the most recent under a fiveyear, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract, increases the total contract value to more than US$1bn since 2004. The Company produces three thermal weapon sight configurations for use with rifles, machine guns, and mounted weapon systems. Incorporating, BAE Systems MicroIR® uncooled infrared sensor technology, these sights generate superior infrared digital imagery and system performance at maximum possible ranges. The light sight, designed for rifles, can recognise targets at more than 680 metres. The medium sight, which mounts on machine guns, has a range of 1,100 metres, while the heavy sight – for 50calibre machine guns – can detect targets at more than 2,000 metres. Bruce Zukauskas, Director of Soldier Solutions in Lexington, Massachusetts, where the infrared sensor technology for the sights is developed, said: “Soldiers now have 24/7 day and night capability to identify targets beyond the effective range of their individual weapons.” Nancy McLaughlin, mechanical engineering assistant at Lexington, Massachusetts, said:
Above: BAE Systems is in the third year of a five-year contact and has delivered more than 89,000 thermal weapon sights to the US Army
IT FEELS GOOD TO BE WORKING ON A PRODUCT THAT I KNOW SAVES LIVES. WE TRY OUR BEST TO MAKE THE BEST PRODUCT WE CAN SO OUR SERVICE PEOPLE CAN COME HOME SAFE
Nancy McLaughlin, engineering assistant – and mother of a US Marine
“It feels good to be working on a product that I know saves lives,” Nancy is a mother of a US Marine who served in Iraq. “I know every little thing we can do back home to keep our guys and girls safe means the
world to me.” She added: “ I believe most of the people who work on TWS believe the same thing. We try our best to make the best product we can so our service people can come home safe.”
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