Military Review

Aluminum armor for military vehicles

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BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle. The main body is made of steel; a characteristic hatch on the upper frontal part is made of aluminum alloy. Wikimedia Commons Photos


In the second half of the last century, armored combat vehicles became widespread, the protection of which is provided by rolled parts of one kind or another from aluminum alloys. Despite the apparent softness and other features, aluminum was able to show all its advantages over steel armor and even squeeze it in a number of areas.

Long story


Aluminum as a material for prospective reservations began to be considered only in the middle of the XNUMXth century. For example, in our country, work in this direction started in the late forties. Soviet specialists first looked for the possibility of creating light armor for aircraft; then the same project began in the interests of fleet. And only at the end of the fifties aluminum armor began to be “tried on” to ground BBM. Similar processes were observed in foreign countries at that time.

By the beginning of the sixties, Soviet and foreign metallurgists had found the best alloys of aluminum and other metals, capable of showing the desired strength indicators. By the mid-sixties, such alloys were used in real projects of light armored vehicles of a number of types. In some cases, aluminum was used independently, in others - together with other metals.


American BTR M113 with aluminum body. Due to new threats, its own armor is supplemented by overhead blocks. Photo US Army

Subsequently, new alloys appeared in our country and abroad - and new armored vehicles with similar protection. Ready-made vehicles repeatedly participated in battles and showed their capabilities. In tests and in practice, aluminum armor showed high performance and even advantages over other protection. All this allows her to still remain in service.

Aluminum samples


The first domestic BBM with aluminum armor was the BMP-1. She got a steel case, but the upper frontal part-the cover of the transmission compartment is made of aluminum alloy. In the same period, the BMD-1 was created, which received a full body of alloy ABT-101 / "1901". The same approaches were used in the following landing machines. The later BMP-3 has an aluminum spaced reservation with steel screens, which allows the frontal projection to withstand a 30-mm shell.

Of the foreign samples, it is first of all worth noting the American-developed M113 armored personnel carrier. Housing parts up to 44 mm thick are made of 5083 and 5086 alloys. The frontal projection is protected from 12,7 mm bullets, other surfaces from normal caliber. Modern BMP M2 Bradley is also built from aluminum alloys 7039 and 5083. The forehead and side are reinforced with steel screens.


BMD-4M airborne combat vehicles - like their predecessors, are built from aluminum alloys. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Other countries have long mastered the technology of manufacturing aluminum reservations. Such protection is actively used on BBM developed by the UK, Germany, France, etc. Some alloys and assembly technologies are developed independently, others are purchased from friendly countries.

Technology issue


Aluminum alone cannot provide sufficient protection for the BBM due to its softness and insufficient strength, but its alloys are capable of showing the required characteristics. The first to appear and gained distribution were non-heat-strengthened alloys of aluminum with magnesium - AMg-6, 5083, etc. When compared with other alloys, they show higher levels of splinter protection.

There is a group of alloys with an addition of up to 6-8 percent. magnesium and zinc are Soviet ABT-101 and ABT-102, as well as foreign 7017, 7039, etc. They are characterized by increased hardness, which gives advantages in protection against bullets or shells, but reduces the anti-fragmentation potential.


BMP-3. Unlike previous Soviet BMPs, it has an aluminum case with steel inserts,
Photo: army-news.ru

Aluminum armor can be subjected to additional processing, increasing its strength. First of all, it is hardening and hardening. From a technological point of view, thermal hardening is simpler and more convenient - in addition, it removes a number of restrictions on the production of parts.

The armor protection of one armored combat vehicle can include elements from different alloys with different thickness indicators, installation angles, and level of protection. So, to protect against bullets of normal caliber, up to 25-30 mm of armor is required. Large-caliber threats require an answer with a thickness of at least 50-60 mm. However, despite the considerable thickness, such armor does not differ in excessive weight. Perhaps the use of spaced barriers.

Long ago, light alloys began to be combined with other materials. Steel or ceramic elements are inserted into aluminum parts. Also in recent years, overhead elements of additional protection have become widespread, significantly improving the own performance of the BBM corps. The overall survivability of equipment can be increased by means of dynamic or active protection.


Aluminum BMP M2 Bradley. Photo US Army

Competitive Advantages


The main advantage of aluminum alloys is their lower density. Due to this, the aluminum structure with the same parameters of the parts is significantly lighter than steel. This mass saving can be used to reduce the weight of the BBM, to increase armor with an increase in the level of protection, or to solve other design problems.

Aluminum and alloys compare favorably with steel armor in greater rigidity. This allows you to remove the power elements from the design of the armored housing and thereby reduce its weight. In some cases, mass savings of at least 25-30 percent are achieved.

Aluminum armor performs well at small angles of contact, as well as at angles of more than 45 °. Under such conditions, aluminum alloys confidently extinguish the energy of a bullet or a fragment, preventing them from passing through the armor or knocking out fragments from the back. At large angles, ricocheting is also provided without serious damage to the armor. However, in the range from 30 to 45 degrees. steel shows the best results.


The defeat of the M113 armored personnel carrier on board 57-mm cumulative shells. The result - two through penetrations with damage to the internal compartments. Photo US Army

In the first decades of its development, aluminum alloys lost steel at the cost of production, which negatively affected the price of finished BBMs. Further progress and new technologies have reduced this gap. In addition, new booking options have appeared - no worse than aluminum alloys, but no cheaper than them. So, titanium armor, at least, is not heavier, and the combined protection based on ceramics allows creating a more stable barrier in the same dimensions. However, both the one and the other option are much more expensive than aluminum alloys.

Objective limitations


With all the positive differences from steel armor, aluminum has several disadvantages. The main one is the need to increase the thickness for the same level of protection. As a result, the implementation of powerful anti-shell armor made of aluminum alloy is not possible - both homogeneous and combined. Exactly because of this reason Tanks and other high-security BBMs still rely on steel.

Heat-strengthened aluminum alloys are more sensitive to high temperatures than armored steel. So, a steel armored corps during a fire can lose strength and protection characteristics, but basically retains structural integrity - if it is not destroyed by other factors. Aluminum armor during BBM burning first loses resistance to ballistic threats, and then softens and even melts. With a sufficiently long burning time, the machine literally folds or breaks up. All this poses a great danger to the crew and the landing, and also eliminates recovery.


The result of a fire in the aluminum M2 Bradley casing. The body melted, softened and fell apart. The tower failed inside. Photo US Army

At one time, there were problems with the introduction of aluminum booking in the production of equipment. Enterprises that previously worked only with steel were forced to learn new material and related technologies. However, to date, all such problems have been resolved, and aluminum armor is as familiar to factories as steel. The "honorary title" of a complex novelty eventually shifted to other developments.

Special solution


As you can see, aluminum alloys have certain advantages and are of great interest to developers of armored combat vehicles. Since the middle of the last century, such interest has resulted in the appearance of several dozen types of armored vehicles with one or another use of armor made of aluminum alloys. Some remained at the level of design and testing, while others were built by tens of thousands and successfully solved combat and other missions.

Aluminum alloys have proven their potential in the context of booking and therefore have found the widest application. They could not completely displace the usual steel castings or sheets, but in a number of directions they became a good substitute for them. At the same time, the development of protective equipment has not stopped, and to date, customers and developers of armored vehicles have a long list of various materials at their disposal - aluminum alloys occupy far from the last place in it.
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  1. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 7 July 2020 18: 40 New
    +1
    Thanks. Informative.
  2. polpot
    polpot 7 July 2020 18: 51 New
    +5
    Thanks for the article, the photo of what remains of Bradley is interesting.
    1. Magic archer
      Magic archer 7 July 2020 19: 02 New
      +5
      There was a video about the shooting of a Ukrainian column. Wash in the area of ​​Debaltseve. The remains of the BMD were most struck. Pancake with the remains of a gun, a melted engine and tracks. All!! There were not even bones from the crew. Horror...
      1. alone
        alone 7 July 2020 19: 45 New
        +1
        Quote: Magic Archer
        Pancake with the remains of a gun, a melted engine and tracks. All!! There were not even bones from the crew. Horror...

        I saw BMP 2. I don’t know what they got, but there was, besides what you listed, half a boot. Horror is somehow
        1. Lopatov
          Lopatov 7 July 2020 19: 48 New
          +2
          Quote: lonely
          I saw BMP 2. I don’t know what hit

          Itself most likely burned down

          Quote: lonely
          low shoes

          If you search, in BMPshke and not such can be found laughing
          1. alone
            alone 7 July 2020 21: 02 New
            0
            Quote: Spade
            Itself most likely burned down

            Yes, no .. there was a double hit in my mine .. This was a must see .. a terrible sight.
            1. Lopatov
              Lopatov 7 July 2020 21: 43 New
              +2
              I have never seen them burn out after being hit. But spontaneous combustion, a bunch
  3. kenig1
    kenig1 7 July 2020 18: 53 New
    +6
    Not a hatch on the upper frontal part, but a ribbed sheet.
  4. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I 7 July 2020 21: 06 New
    +5
    Yeah .... it was a glorious good time! The last quarter of the 20th century! ,, 0coughing ,, various types of armor: aluminum, magnesium, titanium, fiberglass (!), Ceramic ...! It was interesting to live! No one was in a hurry to die! Everyone wanted to live up to the promised time to make sure: the promise was fulfilled or did not happen! There were also prototypes of fiberglass armored vehicles in the USSR! By the way, in the USA not only M113 ... but also M114, M551 ... were made from luminium in England - ,, Scorpio ,, ...!
  5. Vadim237
    Vadim237 7 July 2020 21: 14 New
    +3
    More preferred would be armored metal based on the VT 32 titanium alloy, lightweight and an order of magnitude stronger than current aluminum alloys.
    1. VicktorVR
      VicktorVR 8 July 2020 14: 51 New
      +1
      That's just the price tag for titanium alloys is several times higher than aluminum, machinability is ten times worse. I don’t know how to weld, it is also possibly worse than that of “luminium”, but certainly much more problematic than that of steel.

      Which, however, does not stop making individual parts of the "flying" machines from the "titanium", or even the hull of the submarines.
      1. Vadim237
        Vadim237 9 July 2020 11: 42 New
        +1
        2000 rubles a kilogram, such alloys are welded in helium argon in a ratio of 80 to 20 - aluminum is most difficult to weld only with direct current with reverse polarity to destroy the oxide film. At the expense of machinability of titanium alloys, this problem is no longer standing now, as new machines and materials for drill cutters have appeared - a variety of STM, carbide, ceramic, superhard materials.
        1. VicktorVR
          VicktorVR 11 July 2020 07: 26 New
          0
          That's about the workability of "titanium" I do not need to talk :). N
          Actually, chip performance is about ten times worse than steel. And it doesn’t depend on the machines at all, on the contrary, on old Soviet ones, chip performance is noticeably higher due to the box / wild torque and a design more loyal to impacts. Finishing is of course on modern machines, but their capabilities are not used at 10% due to low cutting speeds and low feeds. And how many instruments have you tried ...

          By the way, as far as I know, on some machines they put steel parts for repairs, instead of worn out "native" "titanium" ones. Just because of the high cost and inaccessibility of the "titanium" parts.
      2. doubovitski
        doubovitski 10 July 2020 14: 48 New
        0
        Quote: VicktorVR
        That's just the price tag for titanium alloys is several times higher than aluminum, machinability is ten times worse. I don’t know how to weld, it is also possibly worse than that of “luminium”, but certainly much more problematic than that of steel.

        Which, however, does not stop making individual parts of the "flying" machines from the "titanium", or even the hull of the submarines.

        Some titanium alloys are famous for burning in the air no worse than magnesium.
  6. DeKo
    DeKo 7 July 2020 21: 17 New
    -7
    The best nanobron models are produced in Ukraine. The first view is 30 layers of fiberglass, lubricated with each other with epoxy resin, and the first layer is ceramic tile. They say 12 gauge with 25 meters holds. And the second view is steel-rubber-grate-steel. This one also holds 12,7 point-blank
    1. Usher
      Usher 7 July 2020 21: 40 New
      +3
      It's sarcasm?
      1. DeKo
        DeKo 7 July 2020 21: 59 New
        -2
        It's true. Type on homemade armor plates on YouTube and look. It's about fiberglass. There are main videos from Ukraine. Well, about iron and rubber, the Internet is there to help
    2. Nastia makarova
      Nastia makarova 8 July 2020 08: 52 New
      0
      in Ukraine, except rapeseed, they do not produce anything anymore))))
      1. DeKo
        DeKo 8 July 2020 14: 00 New
        -2
        I look cons the true Ukrainians put me. Looks like they pierce their eyes
        1. Nastia makarova
          Nastia makarova 8 July 2020 14: 06 New
          0
          cons set for nonsense
          1. DeKo
            DeKo 8 July 2020 19: 27 New
            +1
            What nonsense? Search Google for fiberglass armor. This is your Ukrainians do. And iron-rubber also shows your ukroboronprom. And they also show a machine gun from the Polish PPS 43, with a wooden butt. Yes, they also invented a revolver, under the Kalashovsky cartridge
            1. Nastia makarova
              Nastia makarova 9 July 2020 07: 11 New
              -1
              urains are no longer industry
              1. Vadim237
                Vadim237 9 July 2020 11: 44 New
                +1
                In general, that is, including the production of titanium alloys.
  7. Usher
    Usher 7 July 2020 21: 40 New
    0
    Question to armor specialists: why are they using it now homogeneous armor, not heterogeneous? Have they quenched? Reading articles about armored vehicles, I constantly see the words "rolled homogeneous armor", and why not heterogeneous? More complicated, more expensive?
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 7 July 2020 21: 52 New
      +7
      Quote: Usher
      rolled homogeneous armor

      In terms of armor penetration and penetration resistance?
      Typically, “rolled homogeneous” is used as a reference.

      That is, for example, some kind of armor "resists BOPS in the same way as N mm rolled homogeneous." Well, or the opposite - "BOPS punches N mm rolled homogeneous"
    2. Couchexpert
      Couchexpert 8 July 2020 09: 15 New
      +2
      Heterogeneous is used mainly on MBT and things similar in terms of protection level, and even there it is possible to do it practically only in the frontal projections of buildings / towers - in other places it is corny lacking dimensions (they use active protection / screens / gratings, etc. ) Combined armor has been produced and improved since about the 1960s. Well, rolled as an equivalent for booking was chosen because it is much easier to achieve uniformity of mechanical properties in the entire volume of a part during its production (if it’s simpler, rolled armor is better than cast similar thickness due to a more complicated casting process that creates various stresses inside the part) . For example, a 20-mm rolled wall of a welded structure has the same properties regardless of where it is used, and a 20-mm-thick part of some complex cast part (for example, a tower) can exhibit slightly different properties in different places. Also, cast structures are generally more prone to splinters. However, the process of manufacturing complex parts by casting had an advantage in terms of cost and laboriousness, which was relevant for mass aircraft (look at the turret tanks of the military / early post-war period IS-3 for example). Currently, rolled armor (+ high-quality welding) has almost replaced casting.
      1. Usher
        Usher 12 July 2020 23: 12 New
        0
        Have you read my question? In the performance characteristics of modern MBT they write the composition of the armor, that is, the design, etc. So everywhere they write rolled homogeneous. Not as an equivalent, but a composition. And why not use heterogeneous. And all that you wrote above, I already know.
  8. Kostya Lavinyukov
    Kostya Lavinyukov 7 July 2020 22: 14 New
    +1
    It would be interesting to know what is the ratio of the hardness of aluminum to steel.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim 7 July 2020 22: 47 New
      +4
      For aluminum alloys of type 7039-T65l manufactured by Alcan up to 170 HB. Armored steels have 300 - 600 HB.
      1. Vadim237
        Vadim237 9 July 2020 11: 45 New
        +2
        For armored materials, the main indicator is the impact strength.
    2. VicktorVR
      VicktorVR 8 July 2020 14: 47 New
      0
      But hardness, even in metalworking and general engineering, is only one of the parameters by which the material is evaluated.
  9. Alien From
    Alien From 7 July 2020 23: 04 New
    +1
    Thank you, Cyril, I know a lot along with your articles!)
  10. lshka
    lshka 8 July 2020 01: 32 New
    +1
    My father told how working in the Konalyu company they went to inspect the accident of the Konalyushki Rossinkaskaya (loaf with mounted aluminum armor) with Zil, in Zil the engine from the mounts was ripped off. I asked him- "a loaf driver is a corpse?" He replied, "Only two legs broke and that's it."
  11. sen
    sen 8 July 2020 04: 44 New
    +2
    I once read about such a composite armor material: a binder - aluminum, a filler - pieces of ceramic based on aluminum oxide. Adhesion is ensured by the presence of aluminum in both materials.
  12. Cottodraton
    Cottodraton 8 July 2020 05: 53 New
    +3
    The most durable of our V95s - (6) after that have up to 700MPa, but lose their properties after heating more than 130+ degrees.
    Amg6, as I recall, do not blame. But if it is glued, then the hardness will increase up to 30%. However, AMG is not the hardest.
    In general, the main “Achilles heel” of aluminum alloys is their low heat resistance. Even all sorts of “heat-resistant” alloys like ak4-1 lose their properties after 200 degrees
  13. Ingvar 72
    Ingvar 72 8 July 2020 10: 16 New
    +3
    A good article, only the author in vain inserted a photo of the defeat of the BMP with Kamulative shells - they will also break through thicker steel armor. And aluminum is even more so.
  14. VicktorVR
    VicktorVR 8 July 2020 14: 45 New
    +1
    Aluminum alone cannot provide sufficient protection for the BBM due to its softness and insufficient strength, but its alloys are capable of showing the required characteristics.


    Oddly enough, few people need iron itself, but its alloys ... called steels.
  15. Momotomba
    Momotomba 8 July 2020 20: 00 New
    -1
    The question is simply out of interest: is the magnet sticking to aluminum armor or not?
  16. Momotomba
    Momotomba 8 July 2020 20: 06 New
    +1
    Many write that aluminum armor does not like high temperatures. Why heat it up during the operation of the machine?
    1. Usher
      Usher 12 July 2020 23: 13 New
      0
      A fire may be during the battle, the tank will catch fire, or drive through a burning car.
      1. Momotomba
        Momotomba 13 July 2020 19: 44 New
        -1
        I’m not a tanker, maybe I’m mistaken, but if the tank caught fire, then you need to run out of the car ... And there the BK can explode from fire ... And did the BK turn the car around or the armor couldn’t stand the temperature - what's the difference ??
        1. Usher
          Usher 14 July 2020 11: 46 New
          0
          Well, the Arabs are fighting. And if you need to drive through a burning building?
          1. The comment was deleted.
          2. Momotomba
            Momotomba 14 July 2020 13: 35 New
            0
            Then I ask you to explain: how long does it take to go through a burning building so that the armor is heated to the temperature of destruction? And what will be the temperature inside? Will the monitoring devices remain intact with such heating?
            1. Usher
              Usher 14 July 2020 16: 00 New
              0
              Well, when the house is on fire, the temperature there is very high. If you did not know. Exactly more than 200 degrees. Well, the instruments are small and not everywhere. And the case is the case. If it melts, what about appliances. And on the tanks there are armored caps and flap armor.
              1. Momotomba
                Momotomba 14 July 2020 19: 39 New
                0
                Quote: Usher
                Well, when the house is on fire, the temperature there is very high. If you did not know.

                I guessed.
                It turns out that in the case of steel armor there will be a vacation of steel with a loss of its qualities, and in the case of aluminum armor everything will fall apart ... Why then go through the fire if the armor eventually loses its qualities? So it’s not worth worrying about, that Laminium keeps the temperature worse than steel. Right? So the question is: why are they worried?
                1. Usher
                  Usher 14 July 2020 19: 41 New
                  0
                  At least drive and continue to perform tasks, and not melt. Have you melted aluminum? I melted lead and aluminum and copper. Not so much heat is needed.
                  1. Momotomba
                    Momotomba 14 July 2020 20: 45 New
                    0
                    I even melted steel when I studied materials science wink
                    But you must admit that there is simply nowhere to heat the hull to 200 degrees except in case of dropping into a fire and decaying there ... And even if it succeeds, the crew will die from overheating long before that ...
  17. Vladimirsky
    Vladimirsky 9 July 2020 19: 10 New
    +1
    when it melts, it "poses a great danger to the crew and the landing" - if there by this time anyone else has survived?