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Materials innovations forecast to play key role in armour protection for helicopters and boats

DSM Dyneema : 16 June, 2014  (Technical Article)
DSM Dyneema, the manufacturer of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMwPE) fibre, branded as Dyneema, and a specialist in life protection materials and high-performance fibres, sees next-generation materials technologies as an important facet. This view is supported by industry experts who predict the use of UHMwPE materials in armour applications will show double-digit growth in the next five years.
Advanced technology can solve challenges posed by new operating environments, proliferating electronics and extended supply chains for military, law enforcement and security vehicles
Emerging global trends are impacting the operating environment of light tactical interdiction vehicles for military, law enforcement and homeland security operations, particularly helicopters and patrol boats. As they engage in higher-risk scenarios, such as supporting clandestine operations and penetrating inner harbors and coastlines, these vehicles require enhanced armour protection that won't compromise their speed, agility, range and payload capacity. Simply adding armour made from traditional materials such as ceramics, glass, aramid and even polyethylene is no longer enough, whereas innovative, lightweight materials that can deliver top protection can optimize vehicle performance, fuel efficiency, capacity and maneuverability.
“DSM Dyneema has strategically focused our development of innovative materials for vehicle armour to stay ahead of evolving industry trends,” said Shitij Chabba, Global Business Segment Director, DSM Dyneema. “As helicopters, patrol boats and other light tactical vehicles increasingly take on higher-risk roles domestically and internationally, they will require advanced armour that is optimised for new missions and environments. A common challenge affecting all these vehicles is weight, which has a profound impact on performance, efficiency and agility. Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology, built on our Radical Innovation platform, is a disruptive breakthrough that cuts vehicle armour weight dramatically compared to traditional materials while providing higher ballistic protection.”
Macro Trends for Lighter Platform Armour 
“New growth markets and opportunities in ballistic protection are emerging, such as homeland security and defense, special operations units within traditional law enforcement agencies, and the armouring of first responders and their vehicles,” said Marcia Price, President of Vector Strategy, a market research firm specialising in the military and civilian armour industry. “The mobility of helicopters, boats, and small tactical vehicles used in these applications is negatively affected by weight gain, but they still need protection from a proliferation of ballistic threats. High performance fibres, and UHMwPE in particular, will be increasingly used to armour these vehicles.”
There are three important trends driving the need for lightweight armour protection for helicopters, patrol boats and other light tactical vehicles.
Operating environments are shifting. Vehicles that previously carried little or no armour protection are being used in new environments that pose additional threats and require new capabilities. In the case of helicopters, missions such as medical evacuations require more speed to reach critical areas of the battlefield rapidly and maneuver to evade enemy fire. Other missions have underscored the need for agile, quiet helicopters. On the water, piracy, terrorism and territorial disputes are driving the need for fast, armoured boats that can enter dangerous areas and defend themselves from attack. In general, asymmetrical, unconventional warfare, low-intensity conflicts and homeland security needs have significantly altered the traditional missions of smaller vehicles.
Ever-increasing electronics are weighing down vehicles. Today’s military, law enforcement and security organizations rely on sophisticated electronics systems. Even when disparate functions are integrated using so-called vetronics, or vehicle electronics, which comprise data control and distribution, computer resources, crew controls and displays and power generation and management, these components add significant weight and mass. As electronics proliferate, it becomes essential to compensate with weight reduction in other areas. Armour is an obvious candidate.
Fuel consumption raises supply chain and sustainability concerns. The weight of a vehicle is a key factor affecting fuel efficiency, which in turn impacts its operating costs, range and sustainability. In addition, as these vehicles are used in more distant locations, the cost and effort to transport fuel increases and fuel supply lines become a potential point of failure that requires precious resources to protect. Significant investments are being made by the US Department of Defense and other organizations to develop more fuel-efficient vehicle designs, for both environmental and operational reasons.
New Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology, which combines breakthroughs in polymer science, next-generation UHMwPE fibre technology and unique uni-directional engineering, addresses all three market trends by reducing the weight of hard ballistics armour by up to 25 percent. The benefits of significantly lighter armour include greater vehicle agility, speed, fuel efficiency and capacity. Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology is built on DSM Dyneema’s Radical Innovation platform, the company's newest product development program.
DSM Dyneema is showcasing Dyneema Force Multiplier Technology products for vehicle armouring from the company’s Radical Innovation platform at Eurosatory 2014, held June 16 – 20 in Paris.
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