10/22/2013 Andrew Elwell - defenceiq.com
DARPA is experimenting with new designs to create a new generation of “ IED-proof ” armoured vehicles. In conjunction with the U.S. Army’s Research Laboratory and, a leading producer of aluminium and fabricated parts, crew protection is hoped to be significantly improved by designing a. No welds, no weak points, just one single fabricated piece of formed aluminium.
In addition to the performance benefits, it’s thought an aluminium hull would be lighter and thinner than traditional steel hulls used for armoured vehicles.
"For decades, the Army has recognised the survivability benefits of a single-piece hull due to its thickness, size and shape for ground combat vehicles," said Dr. Ernest Chin of the Army Research Laboratory in a statement. "Our collaborative effort to develop continuous and seamless aluminium hull technology has the potential to be a game changer for how combat vehicles are designed and made to better protect our soldiers."
“Alcoa has helped the U.S. military stay ahead of emerging threats by innovating durable, lightweight aluminium technologies since World War I,” said Ray Kilmer, Alcoa Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “Our experts are now developing the world's largest, high-strength aluminium hull for combat vehicles to better defend against IEDs, the greatest threat our troops face in Afghanistan, while meeting the Army's affordability needs.”
The UK has already mass produced an armoured vehicle with an innovative hull design – the Foxhound. Rather than aluminium, a combination of advanced, lightweight composites are used to provide structural integrity, protection and lightweight performance. The composite pod has a V-shaped hull to help deflect the blast wave in the event of an IED explosion. The UK MoD has high hopes for the export potential of Foxhound, indicating that composite and, presumably, single-piece hull designs are both achievable and desirable.
With Alcoa also developing a single-form bulkhead for the new F-35 joint Strike Fighter, the company is well placed to work with the US military in the development of aluminium components. The real question is if aluminium is the right material to be working with. Composites are stronger, lighter and thinner than most metals, shouldn’t that be the focus of the DARPA’s efforts for future armoured vehicle design?