A military vehicle than can withstand explosions by bouncing back into shape is under development.
Aerospace and defence firm BAE Systems is using a bendable titanium alloy made from the same type of material used in flexible glasses, which enables the vehicle’s suspension to return to its normal form after impact.
The design was inspired by the hard shells and flexible legs of ironclad beetles.
Initial trials have been carried out a BAE’s Telford testing ground in Shropshire.
The company believes that the vehicle suspension system could be available within the next decade.
While the hulls of most existing combat vehicles are currently protected from blasts, parts of the suspension can still be easily damaged.
‘This unique use of memory metals could prove a real game-changer for combat vehicles taking part in operations,’ said Marcus Potter, Head of Mobility at BAE Systems Land (UK).
‘Being able to adapt to changing situations is hugely important to maintaining effectiveness, and this application of bendable titanium could give armed forces the required flexibility – and survivability – to complete tasks in challenging areas.’
The memory metal alloy was first developed by the US Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1960s.
However, engineers at BAE Systems believe that this is the first time that it has been used to build an entire suspension system.
The material enables engineers to remove the spring from the suspension system, further simplifying and strengthening it.
A small-scale prototype has already been built and tested as part of BAE’s response to competition run by the Government’s Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory for an ‘unmanned Highly Robust Ground Platform’.
The mockup underwent five increasingly powerful explosive tests, showing resilience against the blasts.
The firm is look looking at developing the memory metal suspension for full-size combat vehicles.