U.S. ARMOR PLATES’ BALLISTIC PROTECTION SCRUITINIZED FOR SOLDIER SAFETY
06 Dec 13. A team of U.S. Army engineers is enhancing Soldier safety in ground vehicles by scrutinizing and validating improved alloys for armor-plate applications. The military’s ground systems require better structural armor plate materials to meet the ballistic and blast threats from America’s adversaries while withstanding the corrosiveness of harsh combat environments, the group said.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, known as ARL, one of seven organizations that make up the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, is leading the effort. The group has turned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense Comparative Technology Office for funding. As aluminum manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, developing a new alloy to be considered for America’s ground forces, ARL engineers place the product through a series of standardized tests to validate the material’s performance in the ballistic protection level, corrosion resistance and weldability. Because ARL has the expertise for all three technical areas, its engineers perform the tests concurrently.
“We are the independent evaluators,” said Rich Squillacioti, materials engineer and leader of the Specifications and Standards Office, explaining that ARL evaluates the claims of manufacturers to ensure that Army requirements are met. Adhering to the requirements for all three aspects — ballistic protection level, corrosion resistance and weldability — is critical to Soldier safety because a failure could be catastrophic, said Brian Placzankis, team leader for the Corrosion and Surface Science Team at ARL.
“The ARL Weapons and Materials Research Directorate is trying to down-select viable plate alloys for the Army to use. We separate the contenders from the pretenders,” Placzankis said.
The group is composed of five ARL Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, or WMRD, engineers — Placzankis; Squillacioti; Tyrone Jones, mechanical engineer in the Armor Mechanisms Branch; Denver Gallardy, general engineer in the Armor Mechanisms Branch; and Kevin Doherty, materials engineer in the Lightweight and Specialty Metals Branch.
SUPPORT FROM THE COMPARATIVE TECHNOLOGY OFFICE
While the ARL engineers possess the research knowledge and capability to provide the improved armor plate, funding is required for materials and equipment such as bullets, X-rays, guns and powder. They used the Office of the Secretary of Defense Comparative Technology Office’s Defense Acquisition Challenge and Foreign Comparative Testing programs.
“FCT provides foreign vendors the ‘on ramp’ to Army acquisition,” said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project officer at RDECOM headquarters. “When a foreign company has a mature technology or product that the U.S. Army has a requirement for, FCT allows program management offices to leverage OSD funds to test and evaluate the technology for procurement.”
Because the group took advantage of both DAC and FCT opportunities, it was able to simultaneously evaluate alloys from domestic and foreign aluminum companies. The Department of Defense established DAC in 2003 in response to a Congressional mandate for a program that was innovative, flexible, competitive and affordable to integrate mature technologies into the acquisition cycle. FCT’s mission since 1980 has been to find and evaluate “here and now” solutions to meet operational needs regardless of the origin of that technology.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense Comparative Technology Office evaluates the proposals and selects candidates for funding. The RDECOM Global Technology Integration Team manages the programs for the Army. DAC was funded through fiscal year 2012.
CREATING, AND MAINTAINING MILITARY SPECIFICATIONS
Squillacioti said ARL is responsible for creating and maintaining the Army’s material specifications that include armor-plate specifications for steel, aluminum and magnesium. The