US Army researchers pursue Soldier protection technologies

ADELPHI, Md: When faced with battlefield threats, American Soldiers depend more than ever on body armor to protect them. To adapt to the evolving dangers of getting shot, the Army created a flagship program dedicated to protection technologies.

At the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, leaders designated 10 research programs as essential. Soldier protection made the list.

“The United States fields the best body armor in the world, but near-peer adversaries have threats designed to defeat body armor,” said Dr. Christopher Hoppel, Physics of Soldier Protection to Defeat Evolving Threats program manager.

This essential research program, or ERP, directly supports an important modernization priority for the Army, Soldier Lethality. Soldier lethality spans all fundamentals: shooting, moving and communicating, protecting, sustaining and training, according to Army officials.

“We are working on the technologies to provide Soldiers with protection from those future threats while not placing any additional burdens on the Soldier.”

Army scientists and engineers aim to discover, innovate and transition effective yet lightweight body armor to defend Soldiers from next-generation ballistic threats — without restricting movements or increasing load.

The program has three research thrusts: terminal ballistics, armor materials and computational mechanics. In each of these areas, Army scientists partner with experts in the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, as well as industry and academia, to bring in additional knowledge and identify the most promising technologies in the field.

Working together, the researchers plan to improve Soldier protection technology using multiple approaches.

“In the short term, we are working to develop and demonstrate ballistic mechanisms to defeat small arms threats in a compact armor package,” Hoppel said. “At the same time, we are developing new ceramic composite materials technologies to minimize the weight and bulk of the armor.”

Testing is already underway with advanced ceramic blends such as synthetic diamond, along with …read more

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