How Technology Is Changing the Way We Make Military Vehicles

The way in which wars are fought throughout the world is constantly changing. To protect the men and women serving the nation, the design and abilities of armored vehicles must be adapted accordingly.

Bulletproof plastic adhesive

In Maryland, a company has developed a paper-thin tape that can effectively stop bullets, shrapnel and even a bomb blast in its tracks. When applied, it has the ability to turn any regular window into a bulletproof shield. The transparent sticky sheets can be used on windows inside the home, police station, hospital, post office, and even the courthouse.

According to the manufacturer, when the bullet or projectile hits the glass, the sheet absorbs the energy and distributes it across the glassy surface. A number of military vehicles have been using this technology for years. The manufacturer intends to bring the same technology to the regular consumer and apply it in non-military environments.

3D printing

Although the technology has been around for a number of years, its application is continuing to invade other industries. In 2016, news broke that Russia was using 3D printers to create the massive T-14 Armata tank.

As the technology allows parts to be created in small quantities, it has become easier to develop and test different prototypes before the final designs are sent for mass production. This makes the prototyping stage more efficient. Parts in different sizes can also be created. As a result, it is possible to create a prototype of the entire vehicle and see how every piece fits and operates before it is sent for production.

There are companies that use 3D printers to create parts made out of plastic and metal. Soon, the technology can be used to produce titanium parts measuring several meters long. Other than the military, the technology has already been tested and used in space.

Hydrogen fuel cells

At Fort Carson, the US Army began test driving a Chevrolet truck with an engine powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The goal was to see how the engine fared in terms of heat and noise production, fuel use, water vapor discharge, and torque. General Motors has also begun developing a fuel cell engine for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV). If all goes well, the Navy will begin producing UUVs with fuel cell engines.

Ceramics

Ceramic as a material has several highly desirable properties. Compared to plastics and metals, it is lightweight, durable, highly resistant to wear and tear, and can withstand extreme temperatures. For the last few decades, the material has been used to create armor for soldiers and vehicles alike.

The US Army has been looking at the possibility of mixing ceramics with metals and other composite materials to improve the quality of armor for some time now. A composite made out of a type of polymer matrix can be found on the Stryker-Interim Armored Vehicle. The US Marine Corps is planning to design and create a ceramic-based armor that can be used on their Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles, now more commonly known as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles.

Because the material is lightweight and has high resistance to heat, ceramics are also being developed for use in helicopters for the army. Ceramics need minimal cooling, if ever. This makes ceramics a favorable material to use in hot environments.

Other composites

To reduce weight without sacrificing the armor’s protective properties, branches of the military are also looking into using other types of composites. A lighter armored vehicle can effectively carry and deliver more ammunition and fuel to the front lines when needed. Plus, composites do not rust like metal parts. This specific property may help improve the vehicle’s service life.

Fabrics

The purpose of a slat armor, or bar armor, is to shield the vehicle and its passengers from the effects of a rocket grenade. Specialized fabrics are designed to replace the traditional material used to create the armor. Slat armors made from this type of fabric weigh only a tenth of the original.  The material also makes it easier to install and remove from the vehicle.

Fleet solutions

Creating new armored and un-armored vehicles that are totally unique and distinct from each other causes problems. Each model requires a different set of spare parts, training and experience. Companies are now designing vehicles that have common features. NIMR, for instance, has produced 4×4 and 6×6 platforms that share a common design or parts, such as the chassis and driveline.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Miles Chambers

Senior International Business Development and Sales Manager, NIMR Automotive LLC

Miles Chambers joined NIMR Automotive in October 2016 as Senior International Business Development and Sales Manager. In this capacity, Miles oversees NIMR Automotive’s expansion to Global markets, particularly into Europe and Southeast Asia. In addition to his responsibilities at NIMR Automotive, Miles is the Chairman of the Azerbaijan-South Africa Chamber of Commerce.

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