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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

In May 2006 Lockheed Martin announced that it had developed and demonstrated a new lightweight, low-cost tactical vehicle armor that promises exceptional multi-hit survivability against armor-piercing rifle bullets and high-speed fragments from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The new armor TekShield will provide armor-piercing, bullet, fragment/shrapnel and blast protection with tactical theater durability and maintainability at a very low cost. The armor-as-a-system was developed by Lockheed Martin as a solution to the coupled threat effects often encountered in today’s urban tactical environments, such as a bomb blast followed by a swarm of projectiles or armor-piercing sniper fire.

BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold interviewed Dr David Hunn, Key Scientist for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control

“How did Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control get into the armor business?” the Editor asked

“Two reasons, one was that Lockheed Martin Corporation has developed a considerable expertise in the development of composites for space applications, we build the nose and space cap for the shuttle and have been developing applications for 20 to 30 years. The second reason is that as a missile company we have to build warheads to defeat the most advanced armors, thus we are continually testing our missiles to destroy armor, thus we turned this capability on its tail and became a developer of armor using the benefits we developed from lightweight and affordable composites, thus TekShield was born,” Dr Hunn said.

“Composites are known to have a very high costs per square foot, how do you make TekShield affordable?” the Editor asked

“We believe TekShield is a breakthrough in protective technology. TekShield armor promises to provide an entirely new level of vehicle and personal protection to our forces that could save lives. And it should prove much less expensive than current ceramic armors once in production,“ Hunn continued.

TekShield armor is undergoing ballistic testing and has successfully shown protection against realistic armor piercing and fragmentation threats with no penetration, at a weight approximately 50 percent less than its equivalent in steel armor protection, one fifth of ceramic weight and one tenth the cost. Lockheed Martin has briefed the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps on preliminary testing results, and provided TekShield armor samples to the services for independent testing. Results of those tests should be available later this year. TekShield armor is made out of a Lockheed Martin-developed macro-composite material encased in shock-absorbing polymers with a metallic strike face and spall plate. In recent testing, TekShield successfully stopped four successive shots of 7.62mm armor-piercing bullets striking at high velocity within a four-inch diameter circle.

“In addition to its capabilities against IEDs and armor-piercing bullets, we plan to study TekShield’s ability to provide a level of protection against hand grenades, mines and other battlefield threats. In addition the armor contains an ability to dissipate blast, a key element in defeating IEDs,” Hunn added.

“When do you expect TekShield to become available?” the Editor asked

“We are continuing our development and testing of TekShield armor to collect more performance data on a variety of threats, and prepare the material for future applications. We estimate that we could have TekShield in production within nine months. We envisage being able to build whole vehicles out of the material rather than bolt it on to existing vehicles thus adding the overall Gross Vehicle weight”

Although developed for military ground vehicle applications, Lockheed Martin also envisions potential application for commercial armored cars and vehicles, helicopters and ground attack aircraft applications.

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