Archive for the ‘Future Developments’ Category

At the recent ARMY-2017 Exhibition in Moscow, Russia,(http://www.rusarmyexpo.com/), an armored suit concept was unveiled. Several features stand out as quite unusual:

First, the armored components appear to be semi-load bearing. From visual appearance, the chest and joint armor looks to be made of hexagonal and triangular carbide ceramics. The construction would also indicate field or depot-level reparability, as there is no overlayer. The potential drawback of this system is much higher vulnerability to incidental damage. This concept differs from the current protocol of carrying hard plates in fabric suspension systems.

Second, the construction of the joint armor takes a lot of cues from late medieval designs, and does not appear to hinder movement greatly.

The design appears well thought out, with minimal shot traps and weak points. The overlap of the chest plastron is correct, as most projectiles will impact at a downward arc.

The passive exoskeleton looks to be durable and functional. When power density and heat dissipation issues are solved in the next decade, this system should prove easy to upgrade to a powered exoskeleton.

The armor is puported to withstand “10 rounds of various calibers.” Based on the predicted material/design elements, this system should be capable of providing level IV multi-hit coverage under the rigid components, and level II-IIIA/Frag over the remaining areas.

It is predicted to be fielded within 15 to 20 years.

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It is a good time to be in the market for effective and affordable steel rifle plates. Maingun Surplus, makers of the excellent and affordable Patriot Plate, have just announced their newest and best steel plates to date! The Maingun Advance plate will stop all normal level III threats, while additionally stopping the notorious M193 high velocity round (up to 3300fps!).

In addition, they will be offering package deals, a full set of plates with a plate carrier.

Details can be found here:

http://eepurl.com/bu3gsj

Kudos the Maingun for the time and effort required to design and create these Advanced plates!

One of the questions I get asked frequently is “can you recommend a good source for SPEAR/BALCS cut soft armor panels?” and “do you make custom SPEAR/BALCS armor?”

Well, up until now, there were not many options. SPEAR/BALCS cut armor is a well thought out concept, giving plate carriers a greater area of armor coverage. But they tend to be expensive $750-$900 per set), and usually difficult to obtain.

If I get enough interest, I will be offering these panels on a limited basis. Pricing for a level IIIA equivalent set in Medium would be around $410. Pricing would adjust up or down for size Large and Small sets. XL may or may not be offered on a custom-only basis.

Features these would offer:

Fifth-Gen Advanced Woven Aramid
Thin- ~.24″ Thick
Light- ~1.18 AD
Ruggedized- Construction methods to minimize hard use/wear
**5-Year Replacement Guarantee**: If used in verified/documented Duty/SD scenario, will be replaced for free. Nobody else offers this.
Superior materials and construction to any other currently available BALCS panels out there.
-NO SPECTRA
-NO inferior Aramid Laminates
-Would be the BEST BALCS panels in all categories.

If you would like to see these become reality, contact me via email, or post comments. In one month, I will announce whether there was enough interest to go forward. Stay tuned!

The makers of the well-known and excellent Patriot III steel rifle plates have been busy, and I have just gotten wind of a project that has been in the works for over a year, and is nearing completion.

IMGP0502

Just a few details are known at this time:

Most advanced Ultra-Hard steel in the world
4.5mm/.178″ Thick (Uncoated)!
Stops M193 @ 3300 FPS as well as M80 ball and M855, all lesser threats
Weighs ~3.4 Lb.!

This is only .3 lb. heavier than the Midwest Venture STX plate of the same size, is .37″ thinner, and will stop M80 ball (true level III+)!

No word yet on release date or pricing, but even so, it sounds like they have themselves a winner. Keep your eyes on Maingun’s site and this blog for more information!

Steel rifle plates are an affordable and effective option for those looking for rifle-round protection, as well as possessing the twin benefits of extreme durability and thin profile. As I have mentioned in previous iterations of TGTBTU, they represent a viable solution to everyone from LEOs to the prepared American.

Their one main drawback, aside from their weight (on average, higher than either ceramic or UHMWPE) was their susceptibility to the very common M193 threat. This round, in general, could be counted on to Swiss-cheese garden variety AR500 steel, if shot at or above 3000 fps (a disturbing fact that has been well-known since 2007).

It has been known to me for some time that there was a solution, but it warranted further investigation. That solution was/is Ultra Hard Steel. Most armor-rated steel possesses a Brinell hardness (BHN) of around 480-510 (the well known “AR500”). This standard steel, used for target gongs, and of late, rifle plates, is hard, but not hard/tough enough to stop M193 at high velocity. This round, due to its energy and small frontal profile, “punches” out cylinders of material, a mode known as “shear-plug failure.” UHS, by comparison, possesses extreme hardness, almost approaching that of ceramic (anywhere from 650-720 BHN).

This steel will easily stop M80 ball, M855, and M193 in 5mm thickness, meaning that rifle plates made with this material are truly triple-threat capable (these three rounds, along with 7.62X39 constituting the main threat spectrum most wearers need concern themselves with both in and OCONUS).

A new company called Armor Wear has become the first to bring an UHS plate to market, and my congratulations to them:

https://armour-wear.com/shop/all/ar680-steel-plate/

Calling their plates “AR680,” in reference to the BHN, these plates can be fully expected to stop M193 at a remarkable 3300 fps. The price point is $134 per plate, which although higher than regular AR500, is very reasonable given the exceptional capabilities. Weight for uncoated plates is 6.2 lb., which is the same or close to some ceramic plates on the market! With the build-up Line-X coating, the weight rises to 7.4 lb. per plate, but that is still a vast improvement over the older, less-effective AR500.

With this sea-change in the nature of steel rifle plates, I can now unhesitatingly recommend steel as every bit as good as ceramic and UHMWPE if weight is not a primary concern. From this point forward, UHS should be considered “best practices” if one is considering steel rifle plates.

With the wearing of hard armor to defeat rifle threats becoming both more common, and more affordable, there seems to be conflicting opinions on plate sizing. One school of thought argues for maximum coverage- setting up the plate carrier with oversize side plates, and 11X14 (or even larger!) front and rear plates. The argument being, the greater area of coverage will result in greater survivability.

The other school of thought stipulates that the more steel or ceramic you strap on, the less mobile you will be. Smaller (8X10) primary plates, no side plates, or even omitting the rear plate, are all suggested to lighten the load, or to allow more ammo/sustainment gear to be carried.

Both schools have their merits. However, the latter school has a slight edge in my opinion (your mileage may of course vary). Smaller plates, while not providing as much coverage as larger plates, still do a good job of covering “the box” (Cardio-pulmonary box, containing the heart, large vessels/arteries, and a majority of the lungs). The role of armor is to allow you to stay in the fight longer, not make you invulnerable. A lighter, smaller plate improves mobility, resulting in less fatigue and more combat effectiveness. Not getting hit is always preferable to standing and taking rounds.

Secondly, omitting the rear and side plates (unless in a situation requiring the wearer to be stationary/defensive), may encourage a more pro-active/agressive mindset. Keeping “front towards threat” is not a bad habit to cultivate.

So unless you envision yourself in a fixed defensive situation, it may be worthwhile to consider lightening the load, and choosing smaller/fewer plates.

Over the past half century, the primary fiber for use in soft body armor applications has been Aramid fiber (known commercially as Kevlar or Twaron). And though continued innovations and improvements have kept this fiber at the top of the heap in overall effectiveness, it is nearing its plateau. There is only so much that can be done with the (admittedly excellent) fiber, and a worthy successor has been chosen.

Some time ago, it turns out.

Originally developed in 1998 by Azko Nobel, M5 was first produced by Magellan, and subsequently by Dupont, which purchased the rights from Magellan in 2005. With a modulus of around 310 GPa and tenacity of around 5.8 GPa, it exceeds every current high-strength fiber (with the exception of carbon nanotube fibers) by a large margin.

It derives its great strength, in part, from its ability to form hydrogen bonds in 4 axes (by comparison, Aramid only forms biaxial hydrogen bonds). In addition, it is more flame resistant than Nomex, and exhibits almost no degradation when exposed to UV light. It also tolerates humidity well. Essentially, it shows none of the weaknesses inherent in current ballistic fibers, while being far stronger and tougher.

So why are we not seeing this fiber in commercial armor yet? Well, it is in part due to the exceptional characteristics. M5 requires “tempering,” which is a combination of heat treating and tensioning of the fibers as they come off the spinnerets. Unfortunately, equipment designed for Kevlar would be destroyed if it was used for processing M5, simply due to the incredible strength of the fiber. It is thought that much of the delay in bringing this fiber to market is due to the massive retrofitting required to process it into fabric.

One thing is for certain- the translucent blue M5 fiber will eventually replace the iconic golden yellow Aramid fiber as top dog in ballistic armor. Keep your eyes on M5, it will make quite a splash when it goes live.

http://web.mit.edu/course/3/3.91/www/slides/cunniff.pdf

http://defense-update.com/products/m/m-5-fiber.htm

From time to time, I will post information about the cutting edge, or recently developed armor technology. The first installment will focus on carbon nanotube armor.

Carbon nanotubes are a fairly new material, a dividend from the growing field of nanotechnology (the technology which focuses on nano-scale structures and engineering). Based off of the C60, or “Buckyball” molecule, nanotubes consist of sheets of carbon atoms rolled into tubular structures. This morphology gives them unheard of tensile strength, currently the highest of any known material. So strong are carbon nanotubes, that they are projected as being the only current material suitable for use in the tether ribbon for the upcoming Space Elevator (using unidirectional sheets of nanotubes in a ribbon 8 feet wide).

The major stumbling block to widespread use of this material in body armor is COST. Producing even a few ounces of nanotubes is still prohibitively expensive. And producing a continuous fiber that can then be woven into a cloth is still at least a decade away.

Even so, several companies have started marketing “Nanotube Armor,” which is, unfortunately, not 100% true. My assessment of these armors has shown them to consist of a ballistic package made up of UHMWPE laminates, with a single sheet of nanotube-doped UHMWPE on the strike face. While this enhanced material does have higher ballistic effectiveness, the armor is hampered by the known flaws and weaknesses inherent in the UHMWPE laminates.

There is one area that nanotubes can and do have a significant affect on armor, and that is hard-face armors. Several companies are currently producing ceramics (including Boron Carbide and Silicon Carbide) containing both nanotubes and other nano-scale high-strength whiskers. This acts, on a much smaller scale, as rebar in reinforced concrete, allow for an increase in fracture toughness of the ceramics, which in turn improves the protective qualities of the armor. This subject will be touched upon again, when hard armors are discussed.

Until next time…