Date of release: Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Saving soldiers' lives: 'Blast resistant panels' project launchedLives of soldiers operating in warzones could be saved thanks to a research project being led by the University of Greenwich.

The project aims to give military vehicles greater protection from bomb blasts. The research team is creating a new type of curved panel, specially designed to resist explosions from the ground, which can be fitted to the underside of military vehicles such as trucks and jeeps.

Made from a mixture of materials including metals and plastic, the 'blast resistant' curved panels will be lightweight so that they do not slow vehicles down, and they can be easily and quickly fitted and removed by troops.

Dr Michael Okereke, Senior Lecturer in Engineering Mechanics within the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science, is heading up the research. He says: "Our mission is to save lives, without compromising vehicle agility. Military vehicles in Afghanistan or Iraq, for instance, often need to move quickly, but are also subjected to blast attacks from mines or hidden bombs on the ground.

"Our goal is to design a protective panel which can withstand this type of attack. We believe that our work can lead to a significant reduction in fatalities among both civilians and military personnel, and also lead to greater peace of mind for those out on patrol in dangerous territories."

The university is working in partnership with Blast Absorption Systems Ltd, the inventors and intellectual property owners; Defence Academy of the United Kingdom; and Cranfield University (Defence and Security), in manufacturing and testing the protective panels.

Greenwich is leading the computational modelling challenge required to design these blast-resistant panels, while the research team is applying for more than £1million of EU funding to help bring the panels to the marketplace.
Research undertaken by Action on Armed Violence reports a steep increase in improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks in recent years, with the threat largely coming from car bombs and suicide attacks. A BBC defence expert concluded that IEDs are "soldiers' biggest enemies", accounting for hundreds of deaths, with inadequate levels of protection for military vehicles being one of the major reasons.

There is also a crucial cost-saving side to the project. Military vehicles, once fully equipped, can cost in excess of £100,000 each. The savings made by protecting the vehicles from sustaining serious, long-term damage would, therefore, also be substantial.

"The next generation of military vehicles must be equipped with adequate protection to resist these blasts, not only for the sake of those risking their lives in the line of duty, but also for anyone else who might be travelling with them at any time," Dr Okereke adds.

The technology behind the panels might also be used to provide extra protection for soldiers' body armour, ships, oil and gas pipelines, and tunnels.

To find out more about studying with the university's Faculty of Engineering & Science:

Story by Public Relations

Picture: A Jackal Armoured Vehicle at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Credit: Cpl Ian Houlding/MOD, via Wikipedia.