BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold visited Tek Military Seating Ltd. At their UK Leicester facility
Some years ago the Editor interviewed an Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) officer who had risked his life to treat the crew of a British military vehicle which had been hit by an IED. His graphic and tragic descriptions of the suffering and carnage inflicted on that crew by a relatively small IED. So, any company which can produce technology to make the lives of soldiers safer is well worth visiting, one of those companies is Tek Military Seating.
“What was behind the formation of Tek Military Seating?” The Editor asked Paul Fleming, CEO of the Tek Group Plc.
“My father and I took over Transport Equipment Kingston (TEK) 35 years ago, a small commercial seat distribution company based in Kingston Upon Thames that was about to close its doors, I was just 17. Tek now specialises in the supply of all types of seating to civil and military customers in the truck, bus, agricultural, heavy construction, light commercial vehicle and marine markets, with facilities in Tunbridge Wells and here in Leicester, where we employ a total of 35 people. We have contracts with a number of key manufacturers and organisations. One key customer that demonstrates our depth of products is the Port of Felixstowe where we manage the seating for all their work vehicles, ship to shore cranes, tugs, fork lift trucks, container handlers, we also supply all of their office chair requirements. I bought Sitsmart 14 years ago which specialises in seating for 24/7 users such as emergency services, control rooms, various government buildings and CCTV operators, one of our largest customers is Network Rail. We also supply seating for individuals that may need something a little extra such as people dealing with a disability, the Army’s Headley Court facility is a regular customer. Nine years ago, given the terrible injuries received in Afghanistan and Iraq we saw a need for the design and production of specialist IED mine blast mitigation military vehicle seating, so Tek Military Seating was formed.”
“TEK Military Seating is a global supplier of ProTEK® OEM vehicle seating to the military vehicle sector. Designed and manufactured in the UK to the highest standards of safety and protection, the ProTEK® brand includes a wide range of Driver, Commander, Crew, Gunner, Turret, Loaders and bespoke seating for most types of military vehicle, both legacy and new build. With modularity and flexibility at the core of each seat design, ProTEK® seating can be modified to offer maximum fit and function without the need for additional tooling or major design changes, utilising innovative modules which can be attached to most seats to create the customers’ requirements. Most ProTEK® seats are available in Stanag 4569 AEP55 blast protection versions, in both stroking and non-stroking variants.”
“Who was your first customer?”
“MIRA in the UK approached us to design and build a blast and vibration mitigating seat for the Buffalo MRAP vehicle. For our first project we customised an existing civil seat. The seat was successfully tested and integrated by MIRA and entered service. We went through a big learning curve after this contract and developed a team of expert designers and engineers to develop our own range of military seating from lightweight Special Forces mesh seating to MRAP blast resistant seats. To that end, my brother Mike who was senior product designer for one of the major worldwide commercial seat manufacturers joined Tek.”
“How many seats have you sold since you formed Tek Military Seating and how many worldwide customers do you have?”
“As far as numbers go, let’s just say it’s in the 1000’s. For obvious reasons a number of our customers are confidential but we now number around 25 international customers and our customers include most of the major military vehicle manufacturers including BAE Systems, Jankel, Supacat, Lockheed Martin and Nimr. We were recently down selected by Scania for their Dutch DVOW contract which involves the supply of over 2000 vehicles.”
“Do you have a large R&D budget?”
“The international terrorist is a clever, cunning and innovative individual who is constantly inventing IEDs and other explosive devices to overmatch existing armoured vehicles. To that end our R&D and design team is dedicated to keeping abreast with all these devices as best they can to build in the resilience and safety factors into our seating products. Tek Military Seating is a major global designer and manufacturer of vehicle seating for the defence sector, with a wealth of experience and innovative solutions whilst raising protection and safety standards across all platforms. Innovation and modularity are at the core of our product development, which enables us to offer a wide range of modules to tailor seats to customer requirement, without the need of additional engineering and tooling. TEK Military is constantly looking for products to help improve safety and protection, to that end we developed our ProTEK® seating range. The development of ProTEK® seat belt pads are another example of simple, low cost products making a huge difference. The fitting of ProTEK® pads on a harness seat belt reduces shock impact by over 65% when a vehicle is involved in a blast event or traffic accident. The ProTEK® SV foam within the pads protect occupants from excessive shock forces, often experienced by occupants in such events. The ProTEK® buckle cover was developed using feedback from customers regarding the standard Stanag 25-9 harness used by NATO troops. Whilst an excellent harness seat belt, those fitted to vehicles with open tops and exposed to the elements where harness buckles are not used often, there is a possibility that water and dust could affect the buckle operation. With this in mind TEK Military has designed a simple, effective, cover which fits the Securon buckle and stops the increase of dust, sand and water.”
“The ProTEK® seating range includes solutions for driver, commander and crew, as well as more bespoke requirements such as loaders, turrets and limited space seating within main battle tanks and tracked artillery howitzers. Our expertise within legacy fleets, improvement of safety and protection standards, improved functionality, utilising modern materials and processes to reduce weight, whilst making stronger seats, has become a benchmark within our brand. Working closely with our customers on both new build and legacy fleets, we offer a full CAD integration service and FEA modelling to maximise protection and safety levels, whilst keeping costs down. Our advances in blast attenuation seating have been industry and market leading, with the introduction of ProTEK® SV – a specially formulated foam insert which can be integrated into most seats. ProTEK® SV has been designed to reduce shock forces during a blast event in a none stroking seat – fully tested and certified it offers Stanag 4569 AEP55 blast protection at over 6mps. These levels of mitigation are normally only achievable in a fully stroking mine blast seat, the benefits of a none stroking seat are obvious, less weight, less space claim, less maintenance and lower cost”
ProTEK® Driver/Commander Seats
THE ProTEK® Driver/Commander seating range has been developed to offer superior seat ergonomics, safety and protection. Designed for use within military vehicles, with unrivalled functionality and comfort and the highest levels of Stanag 4569 AEP55 Vol 2 blast protection, the Driver/Commander seats can be floor, suspended or side mounted.
ProTEK® Crew Seats
THE ProTEK® Crew seat range has been developed with modularity and flexibility as the main driver of its design, offering unrivalled functionality and cost effectiveness with lightweight robustness and minimal maintenance throughout its life.
ProTEK® Mesh Seat
TEK Military Seating has designed and developed a new lightweight mesh seat to complement the ProTEK® range of military vehicle seats, specially designed for use within open top vehicles operating in extreme environments. This M2 safety rated seat, which is only 17kg, combines superior design ergonomics with modern production technologies to offer a cost effective, robust seat ideally suited for special forces. The option of comfort or heated pad inserts for the seat base overcomes the issue of use in cold climates. The ProTEK® Mesh Seat and ProTEK® DC seats are available in blast and non-blast variants, along with modules to meet operational requirements.
“What other technologies is Tek involved in?”
“Given new Health and Safety regulations for transporting troops, roll-over protection units (ROPS) is a big and growing market for us, we have had a number of successes with international customers and the Dutch Army and Marines are an important customer. The Royal Netherlands marines have replaced its aging fleet of logistic vehicles, which are based in the Caribbean, with a new fleet of Iveco Eurocargo 4×4 trucks, with many having the ProTEK® HTM Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) units fitted. The integration of the fleet has been carried out by VDL Defence Technologies in Eindhoven, with the fleet featuring a new composite flatbed to which the ROPS units are fitted. PROTEK® roll-over protection units are available in 2, 4, 6 and 8 seat units which are mounted to vehicle flat-beds either directly or by means of our Twistlok system, allowing units to be removed/fitted within seconds. Units can be fitted with a wide range of seating solutions, including our innovative blast protected crew seats featuring our removable blast dampers, allowing seats to be upgraded as required. All seats feature integrated harness restraints for maximum safety, side head guards and optional individual weapon mounts, stowage and environmental covers.”
“ProTEK® SKYDEX Protected Matting is another new product which adds to the protection levels of MRAPS and other vehicles and is easily retrofittable. THE PROTEK® SKYDEX Protected Matting is supplied as a vehicle kit that can be waterjet cut to fit the specific vehicle design, to both maximise protection and cost effectiveness. Ideally suited to vehicles with required blast protection, this innovative mat also offers vibration reduction and long-lasting durability. The SKYDEX engineered-geometry reduces force and shock by up to 75% as it absorbs and dissipates energy during a blast event – all in a low profile solution that is easily integrated with the ProTEK® range of blast attenuation seating products.”