An industry-sponsored Ballistic Protection Day recently shone the spotlight on developments in the armour industry, from clear ceramic armour to the latest advances in run-flats and armoured steel.
The Day, hosted by South African company SVI, was aimed at keeping local armoured vehicle manufactures up to date with some of the latest technology on the market, according to Benny Jiyane, Executive Director at SVI. SVI is a technology innovation company that has been providing solutions to the military industry since 2004.
Tobias Beutgen, Commercial Director: Defence at American Glass Products (AGP), told attendees that there have been some innovations in the field of transparent armour, notably the use of ceramics in place of glass. Transparent ceramics are much stronger and lighter than glass and have less optical distortion. Beutgen also detailed the use of layered composites, involving glass, ceramics and polycarbonates, and integrating de-icing/de-misting materials into the glass using invisible metal coatings rather than conventional tungsten wires.
AGP supplies armoured class to civil and military customers around the world, including those in South Africa, such as Denel, Comenius, SVI, Land Mobility Technologies and Paramount. The company sends around 200 shipsets a year to South Africa worth some $1.2 million. Beutgen said total demand from South Africa is 1 000 units a year, mostly from commercial vehicle manufacturers.
SVI is the local representative for AGP, Flatsover and BCA, which is based in South America. BCA provides aircraft, vessel and vehicle composite armour solutions. Flatsover manufactures run flats that do not require a split rim. Instead, the two-piece rubber run-flat is held in place with steel cables and can be installed using conventional tire fitment equipment.
Heikki Kinnunen at SSAB provided an update on their latest Armox armoured steel, which is seven times stronger than regular mild steel, and Ramor thin steel for lightweight applications, which SSAB claims is more than a third lighter than similar steel on the market.
Armscor’s Jan Ferreira gave a presentation on the differences in ballistic testing specifications and the latest armour trends, comparing South African and NATO protection standards. He noted that there is increasing use of 14.5×114 mm, RGP-7 and .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition but few classification standards measure such protection levels against these threats.
He also noted problems with classification and testing; for instance a certain type of armoured steel was penetrated by AK-47 rounds coming at 35-40 degrees but resisted the bullets at all other angles, and that the STANAG classification system is not perfect as it sometimes misses these cases.
Jaco de Kock, Director of SVI, said that one of the current trends at the moment is a shift towards composite armour as steel is coming close to its performance limits.