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AUSA 2021: Beyond Going Lighter

DoD Enhancing PPE

Part of the Pentagon’s shifting focus to winning peer- or near-peer contests consists of bolstering investments in personal protection equipment (PPE). MON investigates three of the myriad initiatives supporting this technology thrust.

Teledyne FLIR is developing the first mass-wearable chemical detector for US troops under the Compact Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (CVCAD) programme. This addresses a significant shortfall – that troops lack the protection of an individually-worn sensor, relying primarily on larger devices and alarms that alert entire units to chemical hazards.

Dr Jeremy Walker, Director of Science & Technology at Teledyne FLIR Detection, pointed out another major return on investment CVCAD. “The device will detect chemical warfare agents (CWAs), inclusive of G- & V-series nerve agents and mustard compounds, as well as a host of toxic industrial chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide, and a variety of acidic vapors.” The device will indeed be compact – under 18in3.

Teledyne FLIR is also on contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), under the Personalized Protective Biosystems (PPB) programme, to rapidly develop novel fabrics with embedded catalysts and chemistries to fight and reduce chemical and biological threats upon contact. The revolutionary fabrics will be incorporated into protective suits, boots, gloves and eye protection worn by troops on the front line.

The goal of PPB is to reduce the substantial weight and physiological burden of current PPE, particularly combining novel, lightweight protective materials with new prophylactic medical technologies that mitigate chemical and biological threats at vulnerable tissue barriers, notably eyes, skin and lungs. The complete system will enable troops and first responders to operate without the burden of carrying and wearing PPE.

The result after five years will be a suite of prototype protective fabrics and garments ready for transition to a program of record with the US DoD,” Walker noted.

Natasha Wellon, Global Marketing Director-Military at Avon Protection, explained that the F90 helmet, launched in August, uses the latest in ballistic-to-weight performance shell technology, complemented by the ‘Team Wendy’ liner and retention system to provide users with a lightweight, high-performance and comfortable helmet solution. “For enhanced ballistic integrity the F90 utilizes Avon Protection’s innovative No Thru-Hole technology. This design allows for the attachment of the retention, NVG shroud and rails to the ballistic helmet shell, without holes penetrating through the ballistic material, potentially risking protective performance.”

Beyond the military’s persistent message to “go lighter” for virtually all materiel, she noted other requirements are in play in the helmet market. “Integration with the range of soldier systems remains front-of-mind when Avon designs and engineers new products for the warfighter. Avon’s helmet designs are developed to integrate seamlessly with ancillary equipment, such as communications and other head systems,” she stated. She added that a recently-launched headset adapter for use with one of their helmets “[…] provides the user an intuitive means to adjust their headset without removing the protective helmet or compromising radio performance.”

Marty Kauchak reporting from Washington, DC for MON


Avon Protection has to date delivered over 200,000 helmets to the US military, and is responding to requirements beyond ‘going lighter.’ (Photo: Avon Protection)

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