Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR DEC-JAN 2017 Contents 19
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 27 | DEC/JAN 2017
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Engineers at BAE Systems’ Telford facility in the UK have,
remarkably, been inspired by the incredibly hard exoskeleton
and flexible legs of the ironclad beetle in developing a new
bendable titanium alloy suspension system for military
Designed to improve vehicle blast protection and
survivability, the alloy is made from the same type of material
used in flexible spectacle frames and allows double-wishbone
suspension arms to flex out of shape without breaking and
‘bounce back’ into shape following a blast incident, according
to BAE Systems. The company is using the phrase ‘memory
metal’ to describe the material.
Maintaining the integrity of the suspension system following
an under-vehicle blast reduces the possibility of an enemy
achieving a mission kill and provides a higher degree of
retained mobility should the vehicle need to drive through an
ambush, break contact or self-deploy back to a support area
for repair rather than requiring recovery by another vehicle.
New military vehicle suspension inspired by nature US forces testing improved jungle boots, uniforms
The memory metal alloy was first developed by the United
States Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1960s, although
engineers at BAE Systems believe this is the first time it
has been used to build an entire suspension system. Using
memory metal also enables the coil spring to be removed
entirely from the suspension set-up, thereby strengthening
and simplifying the system further.
A prototype of the new suspension system has already
been constructed and successfully tested by specialists at
BAE Systems as part of its response to a competition held
by the UK Government’s Defence, Science and Technology
Laboratory for an unmanned Highly Robust Ground Platform.
The small-scale prototype underwent five increasingly
powerful explosive tests, showing significant resilience
against the blasts as a result of its highly robust construction.
BAE Systems believes the new memory metal suspension
system could be made available in the next decade.
– Mario Attopardi
LEFT INSET: The ironclad beetle. Inspiration in a tiny package.
ABOVE: A US Marine tests a prototype jungle uniform during
recent training in Japan. Image: USMC
Years of operations in dry, arid theatres have left US
soldiers gearing up for a refocus towards the Asia-Pacific
wearing uniforms and boots unsuited to the environmental
demands of operating in regions with high humidity, rainfall
and dampness underfoot.
The US Army has been conducting trials with various
uniform styles and fabrics since early 2015 in a quest to
find an improved tropical uniform and boots better able to
cope with tropical climates.
The work is being led by the US Army Natick Soldier
Research, Development and Engineering Center
(NSRDEC), with a team of researchers collecting data
from soldiers conducting training in jungle environments
for their Jungle Fabric and Architecture Development Effort
Soldiers have provided feedback on a variety of materials,
fibre blends, weave types and finishes during recent
training in Hawaii, with the data collected to be used in
laboratory testing and in the formation of requirements
for a better jungle uniform. Some of the differences in the
prototype uniforms include moisture wicking, breathable
materials and added ventilation ports via open weave mesh
sections to allow for more rapid cooling and removal of
pockets to assist with faster drying and cooling.
The aim of JFADE is to arrive at a new tropical uniform
design that is made of material that is lightweight when
wet, comfortable, quick-drying and durable by 2018.
Unsurprisingly given its role in a reaffirmed US military
presence in the Asia-Pacific, the US Marine Corps
(USMC) is also seeking a better tropical uniform. Several
hundred Marines have already test-worn prototype tropical
uniforms during a recent three-week wear test at the Jungle
Warfare Training Center in Japan.
Like the Army, the USMC also plans to introduce a
new jungle boot and is trialling a variety of commercial-
off-the-shelf products to understand the attributes the
new boot should have. For the trials, 100 pairs of jungle
boot prototypes were purchased from the four nominated
suppliers (Original Footwear, Bates Footwear, Belleville
Boot Company and Rocky Boots). The Army and USMC
both require lighter boots that dry faster than the current
Data collected from the boot trials will inform formal
requirements for each service, whereupon acquisition
programs for new service-wide jungle boots can be
planned and implemented.
– Phillip Thianos
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