Army R&D center solves Marine armor dilemma, receives patent award
ARDEC engineer Matthew Hummers uses pieces of cardboard to determine the best configuration for armor protection.

The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and seven ARDEC engineers will receive 2011 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Awards for the invention, "Blast Shield for Armored Vehicle."

ARDEC engineers Thomas Kiel, Allen Brokaw, Frank Petrosillo, Katrina Tubayan, Matthew Hummers, Ryan Hooke, and Kirk Deligiannis will receive a patent award in the defense category for the award, which will be presented Nov. 10 by the R&D Council of New Jersey at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J.

"The team understands the manufacturing science of armor," said Kiel. It is composed of experts in geometric modeling, material and manufacturing analysis and fabrication.

The Picatinny Blast Shield is an armored kit that protects the vehicle commander and 25mm gunner in the Marine Corps' Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). The kit is positioned on the turret of the vehicle to protect the Marines who operate outside of the hatches.

Development for the shield began in 2005, when ARDEC invited personnel from the Marine Project Manager for Light Armored Vehicles to Picatinny Arsenal for a technology review of its lethality and force-protection portfolio.

Within four months, the team delivered initial kits to Marines in Iraq, said Kiel.

The team presented information on the new titanium Stryker Cupola Shield they had developed for the Army's Stryker Fire Support Vehicle and Stryker Reconnaissance Vehicle. Strykers and LAVs are wheeled vehicles that share many physical attributes.

The team also demonstrated a simple and rapid approach to developing custom shield designs, said Kiel.

"We were challenged to develop a solution that would protect the Marines against the emerging threats of rifle fire and improvised explosive devices," said Kiel.

Like the Picatinny-developed Stryker Cupola Shield and the Objective Gunner Protection Kit, the Marine's demanded a solution that offers a delicate balance of sufficient protection, coverage, visibility and the ability to engage targets effectively.

"Typically there is a trade-off between protection and the ability to maneuver weapons and designate targets effectively," said Kiel.

"Our team was able to dial in the right balance that provided very good protection while enabling a high degree of visibility through transparent armor."

The Marines also had unique and challenging requirements that required custom solutions.

One gunnery sergeant described the Marine's need for a "plug and play" solution -- meaning they needed a kit that was easy to install and tear off at the unit level without the need for special tools.

"The project manager did not allow any modifications to the vehicle such as drilling or welding," said Kiel, and it was not obvious where they would be able to mount the protective armor.

After a brainstorming meeting, team members realized they could mount the turret on "eyes" atop the vehicle used for lifting the turret during maintenance.

Shortly after the presentation at Picatinny, The team went to Camp LeJune, N.C., to meet Marines from a LAV reconnaissance battalion that had recently returned from Iraq.

CRITICAL ASSESSMENTS MADE
There, the team and the Marines discussed the critical areas to protect and used pieces of cardboard to envision the protective regions and the effects on visibility and weapon maneuverability.

Prototypes and initial production were performed at the at Picatinny's Prototype Integration Facility, where highly skilled machinists, welders and technicians developed a robotic welding operation for the shield.

The production facility also offers such modern production techniques as laser cutting and automated forming.

The skill of the PIF workforce and the modern techniques contributed to the rapid delivery needed to meet the urgent requirement and also helped make the systems more affordable.

The solution that the team eventually delivered to the Marines was arrived at after "extensive live fire testing," said Kiel.

It included ballistic-grade materials including armor steel and transparent armor that leveraged common materials from the Objective Gunner Protection Kit.

The R&D Council established the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award to ensure that the "significant and diverse research and development work done by scientists and their respective New Jersey organizations receives the superstar recognition it deserves in this state," says Ian Shankland, chairman of the reseach council.

Awards will be presented to 40 people from 12 New Jersey companies, plus ARDEC personnel.

The 32nd presentation of the Edison awards will be at the home of the nation's largest IMAX Theater, where a short film will honor the work of the winners.

The ARDEC team has been interviewed for the film. The patent is U.S. Patent 7,942,092.

Page last updated Thu September 29th, 2011 at 00:00