Navy Research Lab Develops New Body Armor for 2016
Navy Research Lab Develops
New Body Armor for 2016
By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. — (DoD
News) — May 15, 2015 — New lightweight, flexible and buoyant body armor
developed at the Naval Research Laboratory could be in field use by 2016, the
lead scientist who has overseen the armor’s two-year development said yesterday.
Research physicist Raymond M. Gamache of the lab’s chemistry division was one
of dozens of exhibitors in the Defense Department’s first “Lab Day” at the
Pentagon to display the latest innovations that will advance DoD’s Force of the
Future, DOD officials said. Gamache said his new armor will replace the existing
enhanced small-arms protective insert to mitigate the impact from bullets and
Armor Protects Torso, Spine
He displayed two forms of his flexible armor: a fabric for the torso that
resembles dimpled foam rubber, and an insert of interlocking pieces that lock up
into a solid piece upon impact.
Using both, he noted, would provide torso protection, while the insert could be
used in a warfighter’s back to shield the spine from damage.
“It’s a great solution for [spinal injury],” Gamache said. And while the
insert can’t stop blunt-force trauma, “you’ll still be alive,” he said.
While Gamache’s armor is intended for protection from bullet fire and
fragmentation, it would only offer some degree of protection in improvised
explosive device blasts, he said.
Armor is Like Fabric
“You hear stories about troops who won’t wear their armor because it’s both
heavy and it is very restrictive,” Gamache said. “This is like wearing a fabric,
[and] it’s loose,” he said of the material that resembled dimpled foam rubber,
noting that the new material is about 2 pounds lighter than existing body armor.
“The beauty of it is no matter what your body contorts into, you’ll always have
the same amount of protection,” Gamache said.
The proximity of the tiny spheres of boron carbide and silicon carbide is
what protects service members from the vulnerability of bullet impact and
fragments, he explained. “You can twist and turn, but you’re always going to
maintain the same protection against bullets,” he said.
The armor can be used all around the globe in any environment from the Middle
East to the Asia-Pacific region, Gamache said. There is no temperature variance
with his armor, he added, although ventilation can be added for greater air flow
in warm climates.
“With this technology, we’re trying to essentially make lighter, more
compliant materials that people will be willing to wear [that] still gives
equivalent protection,” Gamache said. “And that’s the bottom line.”
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