Information Warfare: Real Time Armor Analysis


June 30, 2011: Having added more and more sensors to armored (and unarmored ) vehicles, to monitor electrical and mechanical systems, the U.S. Army is now going to do the same to the armor itself. Sensors to monitor engines and other systems have been in aircraft and ships for decades, and are now common in cars and trucks. The new armor sensors report on bullet or shell hits in real time, and also track damage. This sort of thing is useful because it's noisy in combat, and difficult to keep track on what part of the vehicle (like an armored hummer, MRAP or M-2 IFV) is getting hit by bullets. The new sensors will also report what type of fire (caliber, machine-gun or single shot) as well as where. This makes it much easier to decide where to take the vehicle, and where to return fire. And, it also keeps track of how "healthy" the vehicle armor is.

All this is part of an ongoing trend. For example, the U.S. Air Force is retrofitting sensor-type tech on older aircraft. With that done, you can plug the older aircraft into existing aircraft test systems. The older systems would just tell you if a component is working, or not. But the newer systems uses software, and a large database of information on how the aircraft works, or doesn't, to quickly resolve complex maintenance problems. Often, maintainers can spend hundreds of hours trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with an aircraft. The problem is that many OK, but slightly off, components can combine to create a failure. Such problems are very difficult to diagnose. This test system not only finds the problems much more quickly, but usually can provide step-by-step instructions on how to repair it. In the past, maintainers often replaced perfectly good, but suspect, parts in vain attempts to get $50 million aircraft flight ready.

Most recent aircraft, like recent automobiles, come with similar test systems. The automobile industry has been using similar systems for over a decade, but has not created such systems for older automobiles, because the older cars don't have the sensors and microprocessors built in for this sort of thing. But in the aviation industry, it pays to build computerized diagnostic systems for older aircraft if the current maintenance costs are high enough.

Now, new combat vehicles are not only getting access to the power diagnostic systems, but armor that is also monitored, and analyzed with all the other vehicle systems.





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