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A Whole Lot of BULL?

5:54 PM, Jun 11, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Defense Daily reports today on a new armored vehicle, which, the manufacturers claim, is capable of defeating the simple but deadly explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) that have been causing so much trouble in Iraq. The report says that,

Ceradyne Inc.'s Vehicle Armor Systems in conjunction with its teaming partner, Ideal Innovations Inc., announces the introduction of a high-threat vehicle called the BULL. Specifically designed for close urban terrain, the vehicle can withstand the most lethal improvised explosive device threats, the company says. The BULL's armor provides protection against explosively formed penetrators, as well. "The BULL is a commercial derivative of a vehicle that successfully passed limited testing by the U.S. Government," Marc King, vice president of Armor Operations for Ceradyne, says. The details of the vehicle's complete capabilities are classified, but it has "clearly demonstrated a level of performance and crew survivability not previously seen in other armored vehicles," says King. "We feel this is a clear technological leap forward in crew survivability." (Defense Daily - 6/11)

If the vehicle lives up to the hype, no doubt the technology would be a "technological leap forward." But WWS pal Stuart Koehl was cautious in assessing the claim:

Ceradyne makes a kind of ceramic armor called FlexKit, which consists of panels of ceramic tiles backed with SpectraShield, encapsulated in a metal or composite box to keep it under compression. It has reasonably good multi-hit capability, and should be blast-resistant. I wonder at the EFP capability, though--if an EFP can bore through 40mm of RHA, I don't see how an inch or so of ceramic and composite is going to do better. There must be something under the ceramic--either a steel or aluminum shell, or some sort of metal composite. If it can really keep out EFPs, the whole system must weigh something on the order of 150 lbs per square foot.

I'm hearing more and more about ceramic armor lately, but the biggest advantage of ceramics is supposed to be the reduced weight. If Koehl's correct and there is an additional layer of metal armor underneath the ceramic plates, then this might be more of an evolution than a "technological leap forward." In any case, a vehicle that can withstand a direct hit from an EFP would be an excellent addition to the inventory.