Armor: November 18, 2003


Combat zones are excellent places to test new technologies, especially if it involves experimental items that will save lives. One example is a lightweight armored turret for Humvee vehicles in Iraq. Because of its light weight construction, you cannot put a turret on a Humvee that weighs more than 400 pounds. Armor, even Kevlar fiber armor, can only provide so much protection within the 400 pound limit. But an experimental (meaning expensive to manufacture) nanotech armor was used to construct a 200 pound armor turret that can stop 12.7mm (.50 caliber) bullets. The G-LAM fiber uses nanotecholgy (where magnetism or other forces create customized molecules with special properties.) The nanofiber in the Humvee turrets looks like fiberboard, but it is 17 times stronger than Kevlar (which is itself six times stronger than steel). At the moment, G-LAM costs nearly a thousand dollars per square yard, and it's going to be several years before the cost gets anywhere near Kevlar's levels (about $50 per square yard of fiber). The experimental turrets are being used to see how the material stands up to field conditions (heat, cold, moisture, vibration and so on.) Most Humvees in Iraq are not getting shot at, much less hit, and the Iraqi gunners are not using any heavy machine-guns (like 12.7mm.) But it's easier to test how bullet proof the stuff is on a rifle range, than it is to see what kind of damage day-to-day use in a combat zone will do. 


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