A project to design state-ofthe-art body armour for soldiers of the future could be run from Warwickshire.
It will involve ceramics - not in its earthenware and pottery forms but specially engineered to ensure lightweight and more resistant bullet proof vests.
This inorganic, non-metallic substance has already helped Advanced Defence Materials take a lead role in supplying the ground-breaking technology for some of the most advanced body protection to the British Army.
The firm, which is based at the Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre in Rugby, acts as consultants in defence mate
rials engineering. It is the centre of military innovation, continually pushing ceramics-based technology to the limits as they search for solutions to the needs of defence industries around the world.
The firm has just completed a study for the Ministry of Defence, paving the way on the future of personal body armour of UK troops.
It is working on a new range of body armour which will be lighter and more as water resistant.
Company director Colin Roberson works closely with the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom in Swindon, a cutting edge research establishment, as well as local armour manufacturers like Aegis Engineering in Warwick.
He said: "It's such an important project to be involved with. The three most important things about body
armour is weight, cost and protection, and getting that right is the difficult part.
"Increasing protection often means you have to increase weight, but this restricts soldiers' mobility they've lost their first line of defence.
"What makes it all worthwhile is when you meet someone that has been saved by the armour that you have contributed your technology to.
"A soldier is almost carrying two thirds of his own body weight in equipment and he is expected to do this in a desert. So, if you have to carry around armour you know you have to keep it light because otherwise the man can't perform his duties.
"Armour now has to be tuned to be lighter and we are looking at ways to take 40 per cent of the weight out of what's called the 'fighting weight' of body armour - but of paramount importance is increasing the protection it offers them first of all.
"Peacekeeping can be a whole lot more dangerous than war fighting but in all cases a high level of mobility is crucial."
The company, which employs seven people, is now ensuring protective equipment used everyday by police officers and the military remains up to scratch.
Every day, key protective kit is battered and bruised by the rigours of life in service and when the ceramic element in the ballistic plate is damaged, say by impact, the protection level can be compromised.
"Soldier survivability" is a top priority and Advanced Defence Materials has teamed up with Coventry-based non destructive testing consultants NDT to ensure this.
Mr Roberson said: "The current ballistic plate that fits into the Kevlar jacket to protect against rifle fire is a complex composite assembly, which involves layers of Kevlar fabric pressed into a laminate with a ceramic plate on the front to destroy the incoming bullet.
"The goal is to ensure that body armour continues to give the full level of protection throughout its operational life - and the service we are offering becomes available to the UK and European military and police services early in 2006." ..SUPL: