A technology used by stock car racers and adapted six years ago by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for military use is now available for use on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in Afghanistan.
NASCAR has been using tear-away film on race car windshields since 1997, and DLA Aviation—then Defense Supply Center Richmond—adapted the material six years ago for use on Black Hawk helicopters and other systems, at the suggestion of two Army National Guard mechanics from Virginia. Now DLA Land and Maritime supplies a similar laminate, Cold Lava, to protect the expensive ballistic glass on MRAPs in Afghanistan.
Use of the laminate has saved thousands of dollars. In the case of an aircraft application, the Army saves nearly $14,000 every time it can avoid a windshield replacement, officials said.
With the average piece of MRAP ballistic glass costing $2,000 plus labor, officials estimate the government could save as much as $75 million annually by using the laminate.
For years, NASCAR officials have required drivers to use Lexan, a clear tough plastic, for car windshields to protect drivers from flying debris. Since Lexan tends to chip and scratch after several hundred miles of racing, the windshields can become nearly impossible to see through. The polycarbonate/glass material used on shatterproof aviation windshields has similar weaknesses that are solved by the laminate, which Soldiers apply using a simple tool kit.
“The MRAP Cougar uses a five-layer sheet protection on the exterior windshield glass to allow sheets to be removed as they become worn and damaged, which in turn keeps occupant visibility optimal,” said Scotty Achatz, Readiness Support Lead in DLA Land and Maritime’s Land Readiness Room.
“We often use a nomenclature of ‘transparent armor,’” added Brent Watson, a Weapon System Support Manager for DLA Land and Maritime.
Scratches, cracks from rock strikes, sand abrasion, and delamination that impairs the vision of the occupants are the primary reasons for replacing MRAP glass, Watson said.
Introducing the laminate wasn’t a simple matter of taking the NASCAR version and fitting it on military vehicles, however. Modifications were necessary to allow use of night vision equipment. Also, the filmlike material has a tendency to retain electrostatic energy, a problem that had to be fixed. This was accomplished by adding a layer of material.
The materials now used for the MRAP are quite different from the product used for NASCAR, officials said.
As a DoD combat support agency, DLA sources and provides nearly all of the consumable items that the U.S. Armed Forces need to operate, including food, fuel and energy, uniforms, medical supplies, and construction and barrier equipment. DLA also supplies more than 80 percent of the military’s spare parts. For more information about DLA, go to www.dla.mil, www.facebook.com/dla.mil, or http://twitter.com/dlamil.
- TONY D’ELIA is a Public Affairs Specialist with DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, OH.