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Liquid Armor, Armored Vehicles, and High-Tech Ballistic Fiber/Fabric…

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by David Crane
[email protected]


Armor Holdings, Inc.
would appear to be on a serious ballistic armor technology acquisition mission as of late. First, on February 4th of this year (2006), they announced that they are now the exclusive licensee of shear thickening fluid (STF) technology that has been developed by the University of Delaware Center for Composite Materials (UD-CCM) in partnership with the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Shear thickening fluid is an application of nanotechnology that the developers claim can enhance the performance of ballistic materials (ballistic fiber/fabric, etc.) when STF is incorporated into it.

In its normal state, STF is soft and fluid-like. However, when…

it’s struck by a high speed object, it immediately hardens and becomes more difficult to penetrate. Think "Stretch Armstrong" and "Stretch Monster" from the late 1970s.  Same principle.  Both of these (Stretch Armstrong and Stretch Monster) were filled with liquid (corn syrup, I believe) and were therefore both stretchable and easy to push into with your finger–if you did it slowly.  However if you tried punching them with your fist (flat or on the knuckles), they were hard as a rock, and didn’t give.  The development of Shear Thickening Fluids, a.k.a. "liquid armor", a.k.a. "liquid body armor", a.k.a. "flexible armor" was headed up by Professsor Norman Wagner (UD-CCM) and Dr. Eric Wetzel (ARL).

Now that Armor Holdings has struck this licensing agreement, Dr. Tony Russell, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Armor Holdings, Inc. will no doubt be getting involved with the project.

On February 27, 2006, just three days after the announcement on the STF tech agreement, AH announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Stewart & Stevenson Services, Inc., which is a major armored vehicle manufacturer. Specifically, Stewart and Stevenson manufactures and markets the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and other military tactical wheeled vehicles. Anyway, on May 25, 2006, Armor Holdings announced that the Stewart and Stevenson deal had been finalized. Previously, Armor Holdings had acquired O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, one of the largest manufacturers of armored vehicles in the world. The company is now called Centigon, and operates under the Armor Holdings Mobile Security Division.

But Armor Holdings wasn’t done. Just two weeks ago, on July 10 (2006), AH announced the acquisition of Integrated Textile Systems, Inc. (ITS), which manufactures a high-strengh "innovative" ballistic fiber (i.e. ballistic fabric) technology called Tensylon (TM), which is "derived from an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene polymer", and "has a wide variety of applications, including advanced fiber composites for use in ballistic products." There’s more. According to the Armor Holdings press release, "the Tensylon high performance fiber or tape can be processed into any number of specialty tailored composites, depending on the unique application. This acquisition will allow Armor Holdings to develop complete solutions for emerging blast and ballistic threats by starting with the base material."

According to an information page on the technology, Tensylon resists "creep", and is billed as the "second most slippery solid surface known to man." The Tensylon material apparently also has low specific gavity and high chemical resistance.

Liquid Armor, Armored Vehicles, and High-Tech Ballistic Fiber/Fabric… by
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About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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