Dupont Kevlar XP sheets used in bulletproof inserts
Individual protection has become an integral part of modern soldiers' equipment, although it is still far from optimal. It is heavy and bulky, body armor still needs to be improved, this also applies to materials and configuration. Although helmets have recently been significantly improved, but due to the proliferation of roadside bombs, the question of additional face protection is acute. In addition, in order to reduce casualties among personnel, limb protection is also being developed.
The problem is that modern protective kits not only contribute to a significant increase in the mass that a soldier should wear, but they also influence both the heat balance of the soldier and his situational awareness.
The need to improve the protection of each soldier is illustrated by the Armor Challenge program - Phase 2 (booking objectives - Stage 2), launched by the Darpa promising research project agency, which includes vehicle armor and body protection. The goal of the Armor Challenge program is to identify the revolutionary and promising concepts of body armor for military personnel. Technically speaking, the surface density of a material or more precisely the surface density of a ballistic set, since it is most likely not just one material, it should remain less than 29 kg / m2 (this is about 20% less than today's materials) and should be able to counter the M992 7,52x51 mm bullet flying at a speed of 930-945 m / s. In addition, when developing new protective plates, another problem needs to be taken into account. This is the threat of multiple hits, caused by the fragments of roadside bombs, since, according to tests, plates that could withstand three bullets were required before. Currently, the number of hits can increase significantly, although the shock load can also vary considerably depending on mass and speed.
The use of new materials is not the only way to alleviate the burden of a soldier: until now, the armor vest and discharge vests were two separate entities. More and more ballistic vests currently perform the function of "tactical vests" or vice versa, that is, the ballistic set is embedded in a tactical vest, which itself often carries the basic set of protection. The ballistic plate holder usually has Molle standard mounts (a lightweight modular system for carrying equipment), which allows a soldier to equip a modular type in a unloading vest in accordance with a combat task, but when in turn unloading vests are used to carry ballistic plates, then all can be added or part of the pockets.
According to some estimates, the reduction in mass of the hull booking by 10 percent can be expected within three to five years. However, comfort depends not only on the masses: ergonomics is another key factor, especially considering the different morphology, not to mention the increasing presence of female soldiers. In addition, the development of protection kits for the limbs needs special attention regarding ergonomics, although this kits are definitely not put on in high mobility operations. Another important element is the ability to quickly remove a bulletproof vest in order to allow medical staff to pay attention to possible wounds; many of the systems currently in use are quite difficult to remove in an emergency. Another challenge is to maintain heat balance, especially when working in hot climates. Cooling vests are becoming increasingly popular; However, the integration of such systems into a ballistic vest / plate holder can be a difficult task, since a mass is added which becomes just a “burden” when cooling is not necessary.
Let's return to the materials. Improving the effectiveness of the ballistic kit could definitely help for the most part to reduce the mass while maintaining the same level of protection, or to increase the level of protection while maintaining the same mass. Basically, ballistic kits are made of ceramics and a substrate to help avoid blunt injuries. They consist of a different number of layers of para-aramid fibers or polyethylene fibers with a ceramic front surface, which is designed to stop high-speed armor-piercing bullets.
The two most famous para-aramid fibers are Kevlar and Twaron, which are manufactured by Dupont and Teijin Aramid, respectively. Since its introduction (at the start of the 70), Kevlar has been greatly improved; Various types of such materials have been developed, not only to protect against bullets weapons and guns, but also from puncture with sharp objects (knives), which requires a completely different approach. However, knives have become a new threat even when working in urban conditions, when unrest can force soldiers to act to suppress insurgency, therefore, the emergence of Kevlar MTP material (protection against universal threats) made it possible to protect against the threats posed by ordinary "civilian" knives and piercing weapons such as ice axes.
The existing body armor used by the Italian army is burdensome and therefore a new body armor is being developed.
The protection kit of the modern soldier’s French Felin system will significantly save mass compared to the existing gear.
External tactical vest from Armor Shield; This vest has a front buckle and is compatible with the Molle system.
The standard Kevlar used as body armor and helmets is KM2, which has excellent thermal stability at extreme temperatures, high hydrophobicity, chemical stability and resistance to products with oil fractions. Among the newest developments is Kevlar XP, which reduces backside deformation by 15% (and thus the likelihood of blunt trauma), and has high performance in 100% Kevlar plates, while at the same time reducing the mass by about 10 percent. M5 is another fiber developed by Dupont and its subsidiary Magellan Systems International. It is a high performance fiber with ultra high strength, high heat resistance and fire resistance; it will no doubt find its niche.
Teijin Aramid manufactures Twaron's other para-aramid fiber, which has similar characteristics and uses as Kevlar. But the company also produces CT Microfilament with different linear density for use in bullet-proof plates, for protection against knives, ice axes and protection against injuries. Among the high-tech products Twaron, you can see equal fabrics CT 612, CT 613 and CT 615, which provide significant weight savings in ballistic kits, while Twaron LFT-AT fiber is a combination of Merging Curv (manufactured by Propex Fabrics) and Twaron CT 707, offers a reduction in blunt injuries on 30 - 60%.
The family of high-tech para-aramid fibers, known as Artec, was recently developed in Russia by Kamenskvolokno with technical assistance and quality control of Swiss APT (Advanced Protection Technologies) and other companies.
Special products based on polyethylene include Dyneema and Spectra Shield, the first is made by the Dutch DSM, while the last is made by the American Honeywell. Both heavy-duty polyethylene fibers are obtained through proprietary twisting processes of a gel-like mass; their strength is 10 times higher than that of steel with an equal mass, and their specific strength is 40 times higher than aramid fibers. This helps to create lighter ballistic products for an equal level of protection (on average, 4 kg less than standard body armor) or vice versa more durable products while maintaining the same weight. Polyethylene fibers are not affected by moisture and they are buoyant, making them ideal for marine use. Among the various products of anti-ballistic protection Dyneema, Dyneema UD (Uni-Directional - unidirectional) has the widest application, in which the fibers are arranged in parallel, in the same plane, but each layer is rotated 90 °. This solution allows you to effectively and much faster distribute the impact of energy in comparison with fabric fibers. In Dyneema UD-HB, the last two letters mean “solid ballistic” applications. Using HB2 or HB25 grades Dyneema and using a high pressure cycle, you can get ballistic plates that can withstand rifle bullets (from ordinary low carbon steel), while in combination with other materials, they can stop even armor piercing bullets.
Honeywell Spectra Shield developed a new fiber family in the middle of 2007, called the Spectra Shield II. The new product on 20% has the best ballistic characteristics, while the Spectra S3000 fiber is specially designed for armor applications. Like all Spectra Shield products, new fibers can be quickly identified by numbers larger than 3000. The fiber consists of two layers of Spectra unidirectional fiber, which are cross-linked under 90 ° and are formed into a thermoplastic film. The latest addition to the Spectra Shield II product family announced at the end of 2008 of the year is the SR-3130, which includes a proprietary rubber compound that provides additional rigidity while maintaining ballistic characteristics. This helps to solve the problem of choosing between stiffness and characteristics, which is common for many ballistic materials.
The Dutch company Lankhorst has developed a new thermoplastic material, known as Pure, which is intended for ballistic applications. Pure has a density of about 0,8 g / cm3, it has until now been used to produce protective masks for demining experts, but has also been tested as a substrate for ceramic armored plates.
Figure which shows the different layers of the protective plate with a ceramic plate on the outside, a composite substrate and a layer of material that protects against blunt injuries
When creating body protection, nanotechnologies are increasingly used. AP Nano Materials in the United States has strong ties to Israel. Its main offices are located in New York, the research and development unit of OCR is based in Rehovot, Israel, near Weizmann Institute of Science, which granted AP Nano an exclusive license to manufacture, promote and sell unique nanotechnology products based on a new class of inorganic nanostructures. The Weizmann Institute discovered that fullerenes (spherical, ellipsoidal, or tubular molecules that were thought to be composed entirely of carbon) may also be made up of inorganic compounds that can be synthesized into fullerene-like structures, usually called inorganic fullerenes. Compared to other foamed polymers, this material improves the absorption capacity by 40% and the energy distribution by 25, while the amount of absorbed energy increases with impact force. Nano PU (PU - polyurethane) can be added to various polymer systems in order to reduce the impact impact and the corresponding pressure. It can be used to control impact in semi-rigid polyurethane, semi-flexible polyurethane and expanded polyurethane with closed cells, flexible foam polyurethane and elastomeric polyurethane, while in pressure reduction systems it can be used in soft polyurethane, semi-solid polyurethane and elastomeric polyurethane.
The system uses the so-called mutually penetrating structural technology, in which we see two polymer structures, a foamed polymer, which is a basic matrix of polyurethane, polyethylene and silicon foam, and a penetrating structure, which is made of specially developed polymer systems based on inorganic fullerenes. While the first structure controls the density, flexibility and hardness of the entire material, the latter increases the energy absorption and relieves pressure, transforming the impact energy into spring energy, viscosity and thermal energy at the same time.
Using this technology, the company has developed such impact-resistant composite materials, such as, for example, Nanoshield and Nanoarmor. Nanoarmor is used in coatings that absorb mine explosions, protective skins for ceramic vests and in anti-traumatic layers for vests and helmets. Independent tests showed that Nanoshield polyethylene foam absorbs energy more by 40% compared to conventional polyethylene foam.
Another promising technology is the so-called “liquid armor”, which Armor Holdings (part of BAE Systems) has begun to market to the market since the end of 2006. The protective kit consists of layers of rigid fibers and liquid polymers; the latter are made of polyethylene glycol and silica nanoparticles; this “liquid” instantly becomes durable when a solid object strikes. After the dissipation of energy, it returns to the liquid state. Apparently, however, mass products based on this technology are not yet represented on the market.
The main model of the American army is the so-called Interceptor Body Armor (IBA). The modular system includes an Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) which weighs about 4,22 kg and provides the first level of protection from shrapnel and 9-mm bullets. The level of protection rises against rifle bullets due to the addition of Esapi (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts - Enhanced Small Arms) that weigh a little less 5-kg per pair and Esbi (Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts - improved side ballistic inserts) that add more 3,5 kg to the system. OTV is compatible with Dap (Deltoid and Axillary Protectors - plates to protect the shoulder and axillary areas), which contribute to the additional fragmentation of 9-mm bullets in the shoulder and underarms and add about 2,28 kg, which gives a total weight of the set about 15 kg. An improved external tactical vest (IOTV) is also available, it is lighter and equipped with a quick-release handle that allows you to instantly remove it in case of emergency.
While OTV opens in front, IOTV has side fasteners, which increases the coverage area. It features built-in protection for the throat and axillary area and is compatible with Dap. In addition, the lower back dilator protects the lower back, increasing the protection area by 335 cm2. In front of the vest, there is a single-stage quick-release lock that allows the wearer to remove the IOTV with one jerk. The inner corsage improves the distribution of mass between the shoulders and waist and helps in stabilizing the load.
When mobility comes to the fore, then the US Army provides its soldiers with new light ballistic plate holders for body armor. Currently, after evaluation in theaters of war, they are only compatible with Sapi plates (since Esapi is larger) and reduce weight by 1,7 kg compared to the IOTV vest.
Protective plate exposed to 7,62-mm and 5,56-mm armor-piercing bullets
As expected, nanotechnology will lead to gigantic progress in the field of ballistic protection materials. The pictures of nanotubes of various forms
Among the protective clothing used by the US Marine Corps, there is a Flame Resistant Operational Gear (Frog) working fire protection kit that protects against burns caused by roadside bombs.
In order to counter what was defined as “threatening ammunition that appeared” without additional specifications, the US Army began to acquire a new plate, known as the next-generation Sapi or Xsapi. According to some sources, the new threat may include new Chinese armor-piercing bullets developed by the method of reverse engineering (which is a familiar thing for the Chinese) of American ammunition. The new plates will weigh over 0,17 - 0,31 kg more compared to existing Esapi plates. 120000 kits from Ceradyne were ordered, this happened after testing the test plates and signing a five-year contract at the end of 2008.
The US Marine Corps is deploying a modular tactical vest (MTV), an IOTV version of the vest, as it has enhanced features, integrates better, and has an improved design compared to OTV. MTV weighs 6,52 kg, this mass should be added to the mass of two Esapi and two Sapi plates, not taking into account the protection of hands and feet, if there is a need for this (for all masses see table).
For the Marine Corps, two compatible carriers (waistcoats) for the plates are available for less risky operations: Esapi media and Scalable Plate media. The former accepts only the thoracic and dorsal plates, whereas the latter can be equipped with side armor inserts for better lateral protection.
Armorworks, one of the manufacturers of Sapi plates, also produces various types of “single-bent” and “multi-bent” plates. It also produces a V-Bass body armor (Vehicle Body Armor Support System), which connects to the seat of the car in order to unload most of its 28 kg per seat, providing highly efficient protection to passengers. California-based company Ceradyne has patented its protective armor technology, which includes boron carbide, silicon carbide and aluminum oxide to provide advanced protection for vulnerable areas of the body. The company produces one, two and three “curved” plates, as well as multi-impact systems that use boron carbide and silicon carbide ceramics. Ceradyne is one of the manufacturers of Sapi and Esapi plates used by US forces; she was contracted to produce the new Xsapi.
Pointblank is one of the OTV and IOTV manufacturers. She produced over 1,4 million OTV and, based on this experience, developed the International Interceptor, which with considerable success is offered to the foreign market. BAE Systems is involved in the production of Outer Tactical Vest and Advanced OTV, as well as Sapi plates with the assistance of Simula. She also created two other systems designed for special forces; one for the forces of covert operations called Enhanced Combat Military Protective Vest (improved military military protective vest), which is barely visible under the clothes, and the shoulder flaps provide the possibility of quick medical care.
Bullet-proof vests are increasingly equipped with additional components in order to increase the protection of the neck, hands and other areas.
US forces have developed a series of body armor and plate carriers in order to provide the best possible protection for their soldiers.
Removable body armor of special forces is compatible with Molle standard equipment and has a quick release mechanism for emergency access that can be triggered from any arm. Both of these products are compatible with the Eclipse Solar multi-bent plate family (low viscosity armor for special operations forces) from BAE Systems, created to specifications defined by advanced special operations force requirements as part of the Body Vest / Unloading System program. Diamond Back has developed the Praetorian Rapid Cutaway Ballistic Vest body armor, which features a low profile front pocket for pistols or stores, while the wire system allows the vest to be divided into pieces in a few seconds. Since the vest can also be fitted with floating plates, it has a reset system for quickly removing heavy plates.
Pinnacle Armor has developed flexible armor based on 5 diameter ring disks that are superimposed like fish scales; There are three levels of armor protection: the Sov-2000 Level Level III and the Sov-3000 Level IV and Level V, the latest model can withstand the hit of an Dragunov armor-piercing bullet. He was named Dragon Skin, the advantages of such armor over conventional plates serve as a source of heated discussions in the US about ensuring adequate protection for troops deployed in theaters.
Germany, like other states, develops promising soldier systems, integrated body armor and unloading vests
In collaboration with the Italian Special Operations Forces, NFM has developed hexagonal armor plates. These plates increase the protected area and improve the freedom of movement of the soldier.
Returning to the Esapi plates, numerous US companies, including Pinnacle Armor, Armorworks, Armor Holdings, Ceradyne and Simula, are suppliers of the US military. The recent controversy about test procedures and the effectiveness of the plates seems to gradually subside.
The British contingent deployed at the time in Iraq and Afghanistan was issued an improved combat body armor Enhanced Combat Body Armor; He was followed by an Osprey body armor that provides protection for large surfaces and can be fitted with a collar and shoulder protection. Although Osprey became the object of criticism due to the lack of comfort (heavy plates and other disadvantages), he, however, helped save many lives in the war. Also then a new Osprey Assault body armor was ordered in the amount of approximately 10000 sets. He “absorbed” the experience gained from his predecessor Osprey; it installs thinner and lighter plates produced by Morgan Armor, which, however, provide the same levels of protection as the previous model.
The main British manufacturer of personal protection systems is the company NP Aerospace, which produces Osprey plates from the substrate and ceramics Dyneema. The company's products include combat body armor and specialized combat vests of various models for special forces, some even for combat swimmers. Another well-known manufacturer is Vestguard UK, which won a contract from the US Department of Defense for the supply of the Afghan army and police 160000 systems, a modification of the universal open tactical vest (VOTV). The VOTV vest is unbuttoned on the sides, all the fasteners are of the Velcro type (Velcro), it has a full Molle standard system and is equipped with pockets for shoulder protection and a detachable collar with inserts, as well as groin protection.
Reinforced armor inserts (Hapi) in front and behind can provide a level of protection corresponding to the NIJ Level 4, while side armor inserts give maximum protection to Level IIIA. Esapi plates can also be used in the vest, while the newest protective plate from Vest Guard is Maxl, which can withstand nine hits of 5,56 mm and 7,62 mm armor-piercing bullets; weight of one plate 1,7 kg.
The Israeli company Plasan Sasa is the main specialist in protection and provides ballistic solutions for airborne, sea and ground weapons systems, as well as solutions in the field of personal protection. Her best-selling product is the Advanced Tactical Assault Vest (Type III), designed to meet the requirements of special forces. With a mass of less than 9 kg, it provides Level III protection with anterior, posterior, renal, and lateral plates. Plasan Sasa produces various plates: single plates weighing 2,8 and 3,4 kg (front and rear) are heavier and guarantee complete protection without additional backing, while plates inserted into a Type III vest have a weight of 1,9 kg for Level III protection and a weight of 2,7 kg for Level IV.
The Norwegian company NFM Group produces modular protection systems that can be used to protect against various modern threats. They are in service with various European countries, such as Italy, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Latvia, Estonia and Cyprus, etc. Among the company's new designs are hexagonal plates (respectively called Hexa), developed in collaboration with the special forces of the Italian army to provide better frontal protection along the 60 ° arc, while allowing freedom of movement when working with a rifle.
Israeli company Achidatex produces a series of modular body armor with scalable ballistic protection and built-in capabilities for carrying cargo. Two models are available: one with front opening, the other with side opening. Ion also produces Velcro-type fasteners for the Israeli army, as well as an AC-331-D vest of ergonomic design that maximizes individual comfort and increases functional efficiency without reducing the maximum protected area. All models are available with Aramid, UD Polyethylene or Gold Flex ballistic materials.