BATTLESPACE Editor travelled up to Hobson Industries in Lincolnshire for our scoop story on the launch of the unique THEMIS Armour System©, designed and developed by Hobson Industries Limited.
Protection of light 4×4 vehicles on the battlefield has often been hampered by payload issues, thus armour and protection are limited to providing a vehicle with the protection and mobility within these parameters. Wars and conflicts show that cunning adversaries use overmatch techniques to defeat these protection systems to destroy these vehicles and their occupants on the battlefield. The harrowing photographs of soldiers and their vehicles being decimated by IEDS in Iraq and Afghanistan created a rush by the allied forces to produce a range of light vehicles with adequate protection for their occupants.
The History of THEMIS Armour System©
Peter Hobson, an ex-Naval Weapon Engineer having accepted the Sea Wolf surface to air missile system into Royal Naval service in the early 1980s, understood that the combination of ballistics, physics and materials could be a game changer. In 2004, Peter built his own in-house test range and set about putting his ballistic theories to the test, with Stanag level 1 being the benchmark, with the goal of stopping the Russian 7.62 x 54R and the 7.62 x 39 API (as issued) projectiles as the goal; thus, the THEMIS armour system© was born.
History of THEMIS development
Hobson Industries is a private company established in 1987 by Peter Hobson, after serving as a Charge Chief Weapons Engineering Artificer in the Royal Navy. Hobson Industries is an innovative and highly technical engineering business operating to the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System which is complimented with ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System and Cyber Essentials Plus. Hobsons offer Land Rover vehicle builds to original specification or complete with modifications and upgrades at the customers’ request. All vehicle refurbishment, reconditioning, homologation, armouring and integration is undertaken across all Land Rover models in house and in purpose-built facilities.
The development of the THEMIS Armour System© can be traced back to the Northern Ireland conflict of the early 1990s.
In 1998, an unscheduled visit to Hobsons by the Head of Transport Services Branch, Royal Ulster Constabulary was to change the way Hobson’s had refurbished Land Rover armour and this was the first time a large vehicle fleet was to be upgraded whilst still in service. He had been to Land Rover’s Government and Military Operations department for help in upgrading his aging Tangi armoured vehicle fleet based on the Land Rover Defender. It was at Land Rover’s suggestion that he contact Hobson Industries. An engine and two Tangi vehicles soon followed and were delivered to Hobsons.
At this same time, a message from Land Rover to Hobson Industries was “Give Transport Services what they want. You have the full backing and support from Land Rover.” Hobsons named the Tangi project THETIS, the father of Achilles.
It was clear from the outset that the Tangi vehicles had had a hard life and would require much more than an engine change to enable the Northern Ireland fleet to contain the IRA hostile activities. The upgrade programme developed not only included the chassis and powertrain but also addressed the activities associated with petrol bombs, pipe bombs and other IED’s with a range of ballistic issues, particularly the SS109 round and it quickly became apparent that this Tangi vehicle, then under the traditional armour and blast protection, was going to be well above the gross vehicle weight to stop the ballistic threat.
In upgrading the blast and ballistic package, a new chassis system was required. Hobsons produced a series of chassis enhancements, endorsed by Land Rover, which became known as the STORM chassis rated to 4.4 tonnes. The programme concluded in 2006 and with uprated blast protection against pipe bombs ultimately the fleet was well protected against the IRA threats and provisioned an eight-year life extension for the vehicle fleet, with in service upgrade capability, some of which are still in service today.
Peter then investigated the blast and ballistic solutions for the next generation THETIS replacement and the THEMIS armour system© was born.
The THEMIS Armour System©
The base point for THEMIS is the SNATCH VIXEN CAV S2 glass pod (or similar product), protected with a much-reduced thickness of high hardness steel. Previously the .556 and M193 rounds traditionally took more than 8mm of high hardness armoured steel to achieve. Peter’s knowledge of the physics associated with the ballistic event and the broad understanding of the properties of ballistic materials set about finding a lightweight ballistic protection system. This has been achieved at Stanag Level 1+ at around 50kg m² with the THEMIS armoured pod system and is probably lightest armoured lightweight vehicle in use at this time. The system can also be fitted as an appliqué system for upgrades to current in-service vehicles.
The THEMIS development caught the eye of a UK Government customer and Hobsons was tasked to supply a test vehicle for evaluation. The vehicle was independently ballistically and blast tested to PAS300 methodologies. Vehicle handling characteristics have also been independently validated and certified to PAS301.
The THEMIS Characteristics for a lightweight and a highly mobile blast and ballistically capable vehicle complete with through life support.
- The appliqué armour system addresses many of the problems associated with current
hard armour systems. THEMIS at 50m² on new vehicles is the lightest Stanag 1 and PAS300 tested and certified blast and ballistic system in service and is well within the GVW.
- The ballistic glass system is also unique being of cassette design and although it forms part of the armour system, damaged transparent armour can be replaced in the field in minutes.
- The blast protection system is also a Hobson innovation and captures event projectiles and absorbs and deflects the blast shock wave. It is well in excess of Stanag 1 and PAS300 requirements.
- There is no welding requirement on the vehicle. The THEMIS armour system© is fully repairable either through RTA or enemy action.
- The THEMIS family is fully through life supportable for an expected 8 – 10-year service life and is upgradable at half-life within its pod structure capability to meet new threats.
- The appliqué armour for post fit has a simple attachment system and is on the principle that the vehicle is fitted for but not with a THEMIS appliqué system to achieve vehicle ballistic upgrade.
- A gun mount THEMIS protection shroud is in development, this will be shown on Hobsons’ stand at the DVD event.
- A new pod system with lightweight structural and ballistic integrity is also in development with outstanding results, the goal being full AP integrity. The INEOS Automotive Grenadier with its 4-tonne armour ready chassis is one of the vehicles of choice for the future.
- THEMIS has been tested against M193, SS109, M855, M80 Ball, 7.62 x 39 API, 7.62 x 54R Iron Core and a range .308 and .223 rounds. None penetrated the THEMIS armour system.
- The enhanced STORM chassis was to play a significant role for the future of Land Rover armoured vehicles in military service having been taken up by the Ministry of Defence when upgrading the SNATCH 2. These are now being re-purposed with further upgrades for an alternative use using the THEMIS armour system© as full Stanag 1 armour protected vehicles.
- The THEMIS armour system© is being fitted on to a Land Rover WMIK platform which forms the basis of Hobsons’ Gunship with the resultant weight saving making the traditional WMIK platform a high mobility vehicle as it was originally intended.
The weight reduction using THEMIS armour system© gives the opportunity for an electric drive train for covert and stealth operations. The electrification of the Land Rover WMIK is currently under development by Hobsons with its drive train partner.
- A new gun system is being integrated and remains well within the gross vehicle weight.
The re-purposed and upgraded and ballistically protected CAV 100 SNATCH and Land Rover WMIK Gunship platforms fitted with the THEMIS armour system© will be on display on Hobson Industries stand OR-35 on the Off Road Centre at the MoD DVD Exhibition being held at Millbrook Proving Ground on the 21st and 22nd September 2022.
Peter Hobson said, “the THEMIS system is a quantum leap in ballistic event management with appliqué armour at around 20.kg² on a CAV100 SNATCH pod upgrade and as a full ballistic solution to Stanag Level 1+ at around 50kg² for new vehicles. The THEMIS armour system© is a result of a combination and understanding of ballistics, physics and knowledge of materials in integration and this opens up areas of ballistic management protection solutions to both new vehicle design and post design for existing in-service light armour protected vehicles.”
THEMIS is the Goddess of Justice and had the power to put a protective shell around the people she loved and this is exactly what Hobsons THEMIS appliqué armour system© achieves.