BAE Systems gets first military contract for new UHMWPE composites

BAE Systems will supply Tensylon composite armor panels to the U.S. Army for the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) vehicles in a contract worth $2.6 million.

BAE Systems (Cincinnati, Ohio) has received a contract from the U.S. Army to supply trademarked Tensylon composite armor panels for the Army’s Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) vehicles. Tensylon is a family of ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) unidirectional tape and composite products. HET vehicles transport, deploy, recover and evacuate combat-loaded main battle tanks and other heavy tracked and wheeled vehicles to and from the battlefield.

The initial $2.6 million contract is part of the U.S. Army’s Heavy Tactical Vehicle Armor Program and is a direct result of BAE Systems’ cooperative R&D agreement with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL, Adelphi, Md.). The partnership with ARL, initiated in 2007, included testing and evaluation of composite armor solutions used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The results prompted development of a lightweight appliqué armor kit, using Tensylon material.

“Tensylon is a unique material that ultimately increases the protection provided to our men and women in uniform through a cost-effective, lightweight survivability solution,” said Tony Russell, president of the company’s Security & Survivability business.

The material is made by compressing UHMWPE powder into thin sheets.that are heated, calendered and cut into tapes from ~0.02 inch to 12 inches (0.5 mm to 305 mm) in width. Tapes can be woven or stacked in multiaxial fabrics, then impregnated with polymer resin to form composite helmets, inserts for vests, and appliqué armor for vehicles. Tensylon is said to be ballistically more efficient than materials now used in military vehicles. The company also claims that its Monroe, N.C.-based facility’s manufacturing process re- quires no environmental permits.