There may never be an armor system that can’t be overcome by force, trickery or volume of fire. Nothing withstands everything. But that doesn’t stop the Pentagon from trying to find one.
After a decade of roadside bombs and RPG attacks on U.S. and NATO vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on Israeli vehicles in Lebanon and Gaza, militaries have learned how much extra armor vehicles can take before mobility suffers, powertrains are overtaxed, and suspensions give out. Damage to the armor, however, hasn’t been as easy to diagnose.
That’s why a team that includes Thomas Meitzler of the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, is working on a “smart armor” system that uses transducers embedded in individual plates to monitor the real-time health of vehicle armor, transmitting that information to the crew and to mechanics back at base.
Meitzler says the transducer technology is also being evaluated for its ability to locate the direction of small-arms fire. “When we learn more about the signal processing associated with different kinds of bullets,” he says, “we’ll be able to identify the type of bullet being fired based on its acoustic signature.”
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