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The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » September 30, 2013
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Ballistic Shields for Helicopters and VIPs
September 30, 2013   
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A group of engineers from southern Poland have developed a range of special ballistic shields that are lightweight yet strong enough to withstand armor-piercing ammunition.

The shields are designed to protect both military and civilian vehicles. They can be used to provide enhanced security for VIP convoys, for armored cars carrying valuables and for helicopters during war operations. “For a helicopter at risk of enemy fire, the most important thing is the thickness and weight of the armor protecting it against attack,” says Bart這miej P這nka, Ph.D., from the Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals in the southern city of Gliwice and head of the research group that developed the shield.

Standard armored protection systems are made of steel and very heavy. Meanwhile, a helicopter needs armor that is as light as possible so as not to restrict its mobility, P這nka says. Such a design is the dream of engineers around the world, he adds.

P這nka and his colleagues have developed a range of lightweight shields resistant to 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm rounds. The shields do not essentially differ from those used elsewhere in the world. Generally, shields contain laminates made up of several layers glued together and usually consisting of three basic types of materials: ceramics, metals and plastics. The secret of an effective shield is the right combination of materials from these three groups. They should be connected with each other in the right way so as to create a composite capable of stopping ammunition of a specific caliber.

The shields developed by the Gliwice researchers can be used to protect all kinds of military vehicles, including trucks and armored personnel carriers. They will also come in handy for civilian vehicles, including armored cars and vehicles used by VIPs such as heads of state and other senior officials.

Several companies around the world produce ballistic shields, including manufacturers from Israel, the United States and Germany. However, these are made of highly specialized materials for a narrow range of uses, mainly in the military sector. Many of these products are subject to special confidentiality clauses and secrecy.

Better and lighter ballistic shields have been in heavy demand in Poland in recent years in connection with the modernization of the country’s armed forces. The Gliwice engineers started working on their lightweight shields in 2006. “The idea came from industry, as a result of our contacts with the producers of the Sok馧 helicopter and the military version of the machine,” says P這nka. “There was a need for lightweight shields.”

At the request of the producers, the researchers began working to design shields resistant to ammunition with a caliber of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm. They submitted the results of their work for patenting.

For another project that focused on developing ballistic shields for helicopters and special vehicles resistant to 12.7 mm anti-tank rounds, the researchers received more than zl.1.5 million in a development grant from the National Center for Research and Development. The grant was in the field of state security and defense. The project was completed in 2011.

“Now we are waiting for a patent,” says P這nka. “We’re in contact with the Lubawa SA company, which is preparing to use the results of our work in practice. Production is due to begin soon. Then it will come up with a business proposal for the Polish defense industry, and later perhaps also for partners abroad.”

For now, P這nka says it is difficult to say precisely how much such shields will cost to produce. However, the price will be competitive, he adds.

Olga Majewska
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