Lockheed Martin UK’s ceramic material breakthrough

Posted on 11 Dec 2012

Lockheed Martin UK and a team at the University of Surrey have developed a new lighter-weight method to improve the protection of armoured vehicles used by the British Army.

Ceramic materials, which have increasingly replaced steel in armour plating to protect vehicles and their crews from attacks, are extremely resistant to penetration by hostile munitions while being lighter than traditional armour plating.

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 for composite backing.

The technique enhances the robustness of the protective armour to better meet operational needs in hostile environments.

The problem faced by manufacturers of this armour is that improved protection and lighter weight properties have been compromised by a weakness in the adhesive bonding that connects ceramic plates to their metal backing.

This rendered the approach less robust than traditional all-metallic armour.

“Our relationship with Lockheed Martin UK has enabled us to develop a method of treating the ceramic to considerably improve the effectiveness of ceramic armour plating,” said Andrew Harris, an Engineering Doctorate research engineer at the University of Surrey.

A step change in performance, proven in tests carried out by the university, has been the pre-conditioning of the ceramic surfaces before bonding onto the support structure.

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