Saturday, November 13, 2010

LROD Cage Armor from BAE

Russian-designed RPG shoulder-fired rockets are a widespread threat in many parts of the world, including the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. At present, the most common threats involve RPG-7 single warhead variants, which are also produced in quantity by China (to Iran for use abroad) and by Iran (direct shipment to Iraq and Afghanistan).

There are 3 standard approaches for protecting vehicles against incoming RPGs: (1) Heavy or layered armor the warhead can’t penetrate; (2) Reactive armor tiles that explode outward when hit, deflecting, disabling, and/or disrupting the rocket and its blast; and (3) “Cage armor” or similar add-ons that can prevent detonation, or prevent the shaped charge jet from forming, at least some of the time.* The bad news is that providing enough steel cage armor can add a couple of tons to vehicle weight.

Enter BAE Systems’ LROD, developed under a fast-response Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to provide RPG protection for Hummers and MRAP mine-resistant vehicles. The project led BAE to ask if steel was really necessary – and the answer was: no…

BAE Systems’ LROD aluminum cage armor alternative provides similar protection, at less than half the weight of traditional steel. The process isn’t quite as simple as making an aluminum cage and slapping it on a vehicle, of course. BAE invested considerable time and effort to develop a design that minimizes the odds of a shaped charge jet forming if an RPG hits its armor. US Army officials then conducted more than 50 live-fire tests, in order to verify that its performance met their standards.

Once that challenge was solved, the next step involved leveraging aluminum’s lower weight in another way. LROD attaches to small vehicles using bolt-on methods, instead of requiring welding, or even full-scale cutting and chassis modification as is the case with some cage armors.

Additional LROD engineering work is required for each different vehicle type, in order to ensure a setup that delivers enough protection, and has the attachments and brackets located in the right places to take the load smoothly. That requires more up front investment by customers, but it delivers 2 key advantages. One is that bolt-on systems made of numerous similar modules are easier and cheaper to remove and repair if and when the vehicle takes a hit. That life cycle cost advantage is paired with an operational advantage, thanks to other patent-pending aspects of LROD that work to make in-field change-outs easier.

LROD has become standard equipment on the US Army’s MRAP Class III Buffalo explosive ordnance disposal vehicles; over 100 kits have been delivered, and more are on the way for the USMC’s Buffalos. Force Protection’s MRAP Class I and II Cougar MRAPs have received them, and so has the MRAP Class I RG-31.

BAE is working on LROD variants for the tracked BAE Hagglunds Bv206/ BvS10 family, BAE’s amphibious AAV7 Amtracs vehicles, BAE’s new RG-33s, and other MRAP-type vehicles as requested.

To learn more about the history of this contract, click here.

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