A post today on Strategy Page points out that some experimental nanotechnology armor for Humvee turrets is being fielded in Iraq for testing.
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 very expensive to manufacture) nanotech armor was used to construct a 200 pound armor turret that can stop 12.7mm (.50 caliber) bullets.
The turret is called the SAG (Save A Gunner) turret and it mounts on the existing turret rings for Humvees. The nanofiber armor is over 100 times stronger than steel. The goal of the tests is more to see how the material holds up in the field than to see how it performs against enemy fire. As Strategy Page points out, live fire testing is more safely performed on the firing range.
A quick google turned up this March Yahoo! News story on najaco.com.
The S.A.G.(TM) Turret weighs less than 200 pounds and offers rapid rotational capability. Traditional armored turrets are far too heavy and impede a gunner’s ability to effectively and rapidly rotate the turret during battle situations. The S.A.G.(TM) Turret is approximately 4 feet in diameter, is designed to interface precisely with military HMMWV rotating turret rings and can be installed by two people in less than one hour using common hand tools.
The S.A.G.(TM) Turret, made primarily of USGA’s proprietary G-Lam(TM) nano-fiber material, is designed to be impervious to petroleum distillates and to maintain performance at temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In one test using 7.62 cal ammunition, six successive strikes in the same spot did not penetrate the armor, outperforming ceramic faceplates in conventional composite systems.
The original plan was to shoot the ring with various ammo types but, considering the cost of fabricating the device, company officials wisely decided to offer up 12-inch plates of the material for the evaluation. The 1.25-inch-thick plates are formed from a G-Lam/ceramic composite.
With the plates propped up in front of a target stand, a CheyTac marksman loosed a .408 round (419 grains/2,950 fps) from a distance of about 50 yards. The round punched through the plate.
The LeMas team then decided to see what its .300 WinMag HAARP round (130 grains/3,700 fps) could do: It, too, tore through the plate.
It’s a distinct understatement to say that the representatives from Global Nanospace were surprised by the effects of the CheyTac .408 and the RBCD .300 WinMag on their plates. But most observers realized that the terminal effects of both these rounds are different from those produced by NATO-standard .50-caliber ball ammo. Acknowledging that fact, we later rounded up some .50-caliber ammo and put it through an FNH Hecate II from 100 yards away. To the relief of the Global Nanospace folks, their heavier (1.4-inch-thick) panel withstood the impact of all three rounds.
So it appears that the nanotech armor isn’t perfect, anyway. Still, I commend the military for trying out the new armor in Iraq. Hopefully, enough will be learned to help improve the armor and to allow planners to make an informed decision about buying and using the material.