The French Directorate General for Armament (DGA) together a local firm, SOLCERA has developed an armored lightweight transparent ceramic window suitable for helicopter windshields and that of land vehicles.
In February 2020, for the first time, this shielding solution was tested in flight on a CARACAL helicopter. The test objectives were achieved such as resistance to vibrations and visibility in day and night, even in rainy weather.
Following this success, armor protection of the pilot and captain's side door glass of the NH90 helicopter in its “Special Forces” version is already being considered and could be quickly tested, a DGA release said Tuesday.
The DGA- SOLCERA team which also includes Nexter, Airbus Helicopter and the Defense Innovation Agency mounted the windshields which can withstand impact of 7.2mm bullets on the CARACAL helicopter. After the test, the project called SPINELLE has entered the next phase of development.
Several areas for improvement have been identified to perfect this solution: Produce larger plates (300mm x 300mm) to improve visibility and further increase the resistance of the device; Produce multi-curved plates to obtain a product completely adaptable to different glazed surfaces of a helicopter. Work has been extended until the end of 2021 to achieve these new objectives.
The SPINELLE project was launched in November 2014. It responds to a crucial need: that of optimizing the shielding of the glass parts of military helicopters. The helicopters of the ALAT (Light Aviation of the Army) are regularly deployed in the intervention zone and therefore exposed to possible enemy fire. Although they are equipped with the latest technologies to guarantee the performance and safety of the teams on board, the glass parts of these devices remain difficult to protect.
While a classic window armor (on a presidential car for example), made up of superimposed layers of laminated glass offers good ballistic performance, it weight becomes an issue when applied to a helicopter. The challenge of the project was therefore to develop a light, ultra-resistant material, as transparent as glass and adaptable to different types of vehicles in an affordable price range.
To develop this technical solution, the DGA called on SOLCERA which specialized in the design and manufacture of advanced ceramics as well as in glass-metal and ceramic-metal assembly.
After several years of research, SOLCERA has developed an ultra-light nano-structured ceramic (density 3.48), 6 times more resistant than glass (300 MPa), more than 80% transparent for a cost 30% lower than the price of sapphire.
This new technology implemented in the form of an assembly of plates (150mm x 150mm), offers in its aeronautical version, a level 2 ballistic protection (resistant to the fire of a 7.62 mm caliber ammunition) and is 50% lighter than a glass solution.