Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cool new armor technology

A friend alerted me to this.  It's right out of Star Trek 4, if you are a Trekkie geek like us, you'll know what I'm talking about.  The boys go back in time to San Francisco circa 1986 and in the midst of their trials, Scotty teaches some industrialist to create this transparent aluminum that's stronger than steel.  It's supposed to be futuristic.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor -- stronger and lighter than traditional materials -- that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.
The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm -- as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles.

Traditional transparent armor is thick layers of bonded glass. The new armor combines the transparent ALONtm piece as a strike plate, a middle section of glass and a polymer backing. Each layer is visibly thinner than the traditional layers.

ALONtm is virtually scratch resistant, offers substantial impact resistance, and provides better durability and protection against armor piercing threats, at roughly half the weight and half the thickness of traditional glass transparent armor, said the lieutenant.

In a June 2004demonstration, an ALONtm test pieces held up to both a .30 caliber Russian M-44 sniper rifle and a .50 caliber Browning Sniper Rifle with armor piercing bullets. While the bullets pierced the glass samples, the armor withstood the impact with no penetration.

Mr. Hoffman also pointed out the benefit of durability with ALONtm.

    "Eventually, with a conventional glass surface, degradation takes place and results in a loss of transparency," Mr. Hoffman said. "Things such as sand have little or no impact on ALONtm, and it probably has a life expectancy many times that of glass."
    The scratch-resistant quality will greatly increase the transparency of the armor, giving military members more visual awareness on the battlefield.

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