BMT Defence Services, a subsidiary of BMT Group, has completed a major study of electric armour for armoured vehicles (ELAV) for the European Defence Agency (EDA).

BMT has investigated new armour technology to see how ready it is for real applications in armoured vehicles. The technology involves substituting traditionally thick steel armour plate with two much thinner plates, which are separated by an insulator. These plates are electrically charged to form a capacitor and when a shaped charge penetrates the plates, it closes the circuit to discharge the capacitor and so instantly diffuses the attack. BMT has concluded that electric armour has a place as part of a fully integrated suite of armour technologies, comprising of more traditional heavy plate, composite materials and reactive armours. If an integrated approach is taken, substantial savings in cost and weight can be achieved, significantly streamlining armoured vehicle design.

The EDA’s ELAV study is aimed at helping to focus research and technology (R&T) effort at European level, increasing co-operation, innovation, efficiency and exploitation of key technologies. BMT Defence Services’ work was undertaken over seven months and completed on time and to budget, covering electric armour’s fundamental principles and state of development across a wide number of the participating EU member states. It also addressed electric armour’s advantages and disadvantages, particularly its potential compared with existing conventional and reactive armour and its possible use in all-electric combat vehicles. BMT Defence Services also investigated the development of a test-case specification for a generic electric armour system integrated onto a 30t vehicle and developed a roadmap for key technologies, taking into account integration issues and the R&T context of participating member states.

In preparing the ELAV study, BMT Defence Services called on its systems engineering and in-house electrical engineering expertise. This was supplemented by specialist safety and environmental technical support from BMT Isis and subject matter expert professor John Brown, formerly of MOD agency Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

BMT Defence Services used a structured systems engineering approach to model a wide range of threats, including shaped charge improvised explosive devices (IED) and rocket-propelled grenades; the performance of passive and reactive armour, including electric armour, constraints such as weight, space and power generation, and future requirements and capabilities.

Stuart Olden, ELAV study project manager and business lead for Land Systems at BMT Defence Services, says: “By bringing together cutting-edge technical expertise from conventional armour solutions, power management, electric armour research and safety systems, BMT was able to give a comprehensive and balanced view of the ELAV concept and the current status of key technologies.” He went on to say: “BMT’s pragmatic, flexible and agile approach ensured an individually tailored study where the customer’s needs were met in full.”

Dr Andrew Shepherd, principal systems engineer at BMT Defence Services and lead technical analyst within the study, says: “BMT will use the knowledge and experience gained through this innovative project in its continuing Land domain activities. The specific technical knowledge and modelling work undertaken will have an ongoing benefit in our support for UK MoD in its delivery of Urgent Operational Requirements. Further work with the European Defence Agency is ongoing on other topics and represents the beginnings of a very fruitful relationship.”