Skills in disciplines including ballistics and detonics at the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) were utilised to develop a cost-effective protection solution to the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Protection against improvised explosive devices is a necessity for defence forces engaged in peacekeeping missions or deployment, especially when patrolling strife-torn regions according to the CSIR publication Science Scope.
Armoured personnel carriers are vulnerable to improvised explosively formed projectiles due to the formidable penetration capability of the devices into armoured steel. These carriers cannot be ‘up-armoured’ above certain weight limits as the thickness of additional conventional steel armour has a negative impact on manoeuvrability and mobility. Sophisticated lighter weight solutions have been developed to mitigate threats but are costly and difficult to implement. This leaves armed forces with a constant demand for lighter and more cost-effective solutions against continually evolving threats from IEDs.
Experts in the CSIR clusters for defence and security and manufacturing pooled expertise to investigate the challenge and develop a solution.
Manufacturing experts focused on material possibilities while defence experts analysed the threat and provided infrastructure for field experiments. The team succeeded in developing a solution ready for fielding against explosive threats.
The solution can be deployed in an add-on manner on vehicles, without unduly compromising vehicle mobility. This is necessary for deployments of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) on peacekeeping missions.
The final solution utilises specific manufacturing techniques to consolidate a combination of lightweight off-the-shelf materials in specific layouts against the threat. Optimisation of the layout was made possible by expert post-test analysis of fracture modes in the materials and analysis of high-speed photographic data from impact experiments. Both manufacturing techniques and layouts were optimised so that materials not usually effective against this threat alone could be combined cost-effectively in a passive layup.
The CSIR said its add-on armour is efficient and more realistic in weight and cost than similar solutions, although it is more bulky. The CSIR’s product makes use of spaced polymer panels reinforced with a combination of materials that are much more affordable. Despite appearing large, it is extremely mass efficient, the CSIR said.
“The technology is not only effective against EFP [explosively formed projectile] threats, but also counters most ballistic threats up to calibres of 20 mm and grenade launchers. The technology can be tailored in terms of mass and dimensions and can be used by all armoured vehicle manufacturers. It is either retrofitted in an add-on configuration onto vehicles or built into passive armour systems. The technology can also be combined with other protection technologies,” the CSIR said.
Apart from armoured vehicles, the technology can be implemented on other land systems and in the maritime domain.
The technology is fairly mature, having undergone testing in what the CSIR calls a representative operating environment. It has been fitted to a Casspir armoured vehicle.
According to the CSIR, “the main competitive edge of this technology is cost. Materials used in this solution are commercially available and manufacturing does not require sophisticated infrastructure. The exact materials and manner of positioning are key to the invention to be discussed under non-disclosure agreement with prospective partners.
“The technology has the disadvantage of being dimensionally less efficient than its expensive counterparts and it will only be for clients who can afford additional space on the outside of vehicles.”