University partnership leads to improvement in protection for armoured vehicles

Partnership with University of Surrey set to improve protection for armoured vehicles

AMPTHILL, BEDFORDSHIRE, Dec. 11, 2012 –  A new lighter-weight method of improving the protection and survivability of armoured vehicles, such as those used in operational environments by the UK army and special forces, has been boosted by research engineers at the University of Surrey, working in partnership with London-based Lockheed Martin UK (LMUK).

Ceramic materials, which have increasingly been replacing steel in armour plating, to protect vehicles and their crews from the effects of attack, are extremely resistant to penetration by hostile weaponry while being less heavy than traditional armour plating.

But a problem facing manufacturers has been that advantages in improved protection and lighter-weight have been compromised by a weakness in the adhesive bonding connecting ceramic plates to their backing. This has rendered the approach less robust than traditional metallic armour.

Now scientists at the University of Surrey have developed a method of treating the ceramic materials to improve the bond strength of both aluminia and silicon carbide ceramics to the composite backing. This greatly enhances the robustness of the protective armour to better meet operational needs in hostile environments.

 “Although ceramic armour has a great number of advantages over other protection methods, there are still some challenges” states Andrew Harris, Engineering Doctorate research engineer at the University of Surrey.

“Our relationship with Lockheed Martin has enabled us to develop a method of treating the ceramic to considerably improve the effectiveness of ceramic armour plating. Key to achieving a step change in performance, proven in tests, has been the pre-conditioning of the ceramic surfaces, prior to bonding onto the support structure.”

“The reduction in weight of armoured vehicles is an increasingly important requirement for the Army as it looks for the ability to more rapidly deploy an agile force into regions of conflict,” adds Steve Burnage, head of design at LMUK’s Ampthill facility in Bedfordshire.

Results have shown that using the technique on alumina and silicon carbide surfaces leads to increased bond strength. The tests revealed that when a 14.5mm armour piercing incendiary was fired at the panel it remained intact under a multi-hit environment.

In addition to military vehicles, the technology has potential in areas such as space systems where ceramic tiles are used to protect vehicles against the effects of atmospheric re-entry.

Last week, Lockheed Martin UK, part of Lockheed Martin Corporation, announced a new partnership, for the joint research and development of quantum and nanotechnologies, with the London Centre for nanotechnology (LCN) at University College London (UCL).

Both partnerships support undergraduate, graduate, post doctoral and faculty research and development programmes at Lockheed Martin, named one of the world’s top 100 most innovative companies in a Thomson Reuters list of global innovators.

LMUK’s continued success – and the UK’s engineering excellence – depends on a constant supply of highly trained, highly capable technical talent.  For this reason, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities are a major focus of the company’s education outreach.

STEM activities include pre-employment education activities to raise awareness of engineering, apprenticeship and graduate career programmes to attract and retain the workforce of tomorrow and academic partnerships which give students an opportunity to work with our engineers on innovative, practical projects.


About Lockheed Martin:

Lockheed Martin UK, part of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is a leader in systems integration, working on major programmes spanning the aerospace, defence and civil sectors.  Lockheed Martin UK works with more than 100 business partners and employs some 2,000 people at sites across the UK.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation's net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.


  Media contact:
  Phil Rood
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