SoldierMod.Com :: Soldier Modernisation
  SoldierMod Volume 13 - June 2014
Volume 13 Articles
AuTx Advanced Aramid Technologies logo

The Weight is Over

Soldier Modernisation talks to
Haslen Back, CEO of AuTx Advanced Aramid Technologies

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Kamenskvolokno & Alchemie are the co-developers of AuTx yarns and Alchemie produces textile and composite solutions from AuTx yarns - a next generation aramid, with twice the toughness of para-aramid. Alchemie claims that it can produce combat clothing which can provide up to 10 times more protection at significantly less weight.

Q: Since the last time we spoke, please tell me of the progress you have made with introducing your super-aramid fibre to the defence industry?
A: In the early part of the year we made a supply to the UK MoD and since then we have been in continuous production of fabrics used for making body armour for a major special forces unit. We have been focusing on areas where a very clear cost benefit analysis can be demonstrated or the end users see the weight of solutions as the major factor in their decision making process.

The protective apparel and load carriage equipment weight currently consists of 15kgs (assault order) to 25kgs (winter patrol order) of textiles and 5-8kgs of ceramic composite armour plates. Therefore, even in a best case the dismounted soldiers only have 15kgs of effective payload, or only a maximum 43% of their load is truly functional if they carry an “Irreducible Minimum” load. By replacing “low performance” textiles with high performance multi-functional textiles the mass of a dismounted soldiers personal protection and load carriage equipment can be reduced to 5kgs.

Despite having demonstrated this, procurement of our systems is proving more challenging then we had hoped. It requires changing mind-sets, as much as it does creating innovative technology! A number of the world’s leading soldier systems solution providers we work with would love to use AuTx, but their problem is overcoming a price driven, not a performance driven procurement process and a very disconnected procurement process that requires developing a new procurement rational based on through life benefit vs cost for dismounted soldier equipment.

However, despite such difficulties, as you know, last year we developed a comprehensive line of high-end personal armour systems and with our clients we have been actively bidding on a number of tenders for military and specialist police units. The body armour market at the moment is highly competitive with prices dropping almost monthly for commodity materials and where government procurement budgets are still limited by post crisis fiscal budgets there is a very little appetite for premium body armour apart from a very specialist knowledgeable end users.

One of our AuTx clients, Gaddum Group a veteran owned business, has established production in Leek, Staffordshire, UK for a full AuTx soldier system, and we are also working with other specialist manufacturers to deliver ultra-light weight solutions to the dismounted soldier and special forces operator in a number of countries. We are actively seeking manufacturing and distribution partnerships for textiles and finished products so would love to hear from your readers.

Q: So where are we in terms of development of AuTx uniforms or other gear that incorporate AuTx fibre?
A: Along with Kamenskvolokno JSC and other supply chain partners we are continuing to make a large investment in textile development again this year building on the R&D of last year. As you probably know stable printing of para-aramids has previously been impossible, so the work we did last year was really ground-breaking and we now have prints with very high colour fastness of 4-5 for wash, rub and light. Having overcome the technical issues of printing AuTx we were then faced with the commercial issue which is minimum order quantities, which required us to go through very large amounts of fabric to set up machines to produce specific colours for the Israeli Defence Force & US Ranger green, blues and blacks for specialist law enforcement units, as well as dark greens and browns for north European camouflage, and the most challenging of them all, multicam and MTP. We found that for the knitted items printing was stopping the inherent stretch in the knitted textiles, so this year we had to develop the dyes and the dyeing process that keeps the softness and stretch of the knitted fabrics.

So the second part of this year will be spent producing these textiles and sets of completed soldier systems for client trials.

Q: Of course a company such as AuTx by its very nature is constantly innovating, and discovering new things. Since our last issue six months ago, have you made any new discoveries, or new uses for your fibre that you may not have known before?
A: This year we have been developing AuTx nano particle reinforced composites for armour and structural applications. What we have found is that in composites AuTx is far tougher than high strength carbon fibre, with a higher specific modulus and specific compression strength.

Currently we are working very actively with a client who is developing a light weight offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for use in counter narcotics and human trafficking using AuTx composites. The reason the client is using AuTx as the main structural and armouring material is because they could reduce the total vessel “dry” weight by 50% and the payback in fuel savings and additional range per day means that it’s much more effective to operate than a glass fibre composite OPV. Key components which will be made using AuTx nano composites are the hull, the superstructure, propellers, hydrofoils and armour.

Q: With what you are at liberty to disclose of course, what should we expect to see from AuTx-Alchemie over the next six months to a year?
A: In addition to the OPV program, we are working on a detailed feasibility study with a leading aircraft leasing company by looking at every item that could possibly be replaced with a lighter AuTx composite version (both STC & PMA components). We can then compare this data to estimated weight and cost of a component made using AuTx and then define the weight savings “through life value” by calculating the cost of fuel saved and the value of the incremental payload increase (USD/kg/km). Current estimates are that on a commercial aircraft such as a 767, Airbus A340, etc we could take out 10 tons of current components and replace them with 5 tons of components made from AuTx. This would include walls, floors, ceilings, lockers, galleys, toilets, fuel & water tanks, wheels, leading edges and control surfaces, etc. Can you imagine the money which would have been saved by ISAF members supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq if every flight in could have had another 5 tons of payload out and 5 tons lighter on the way back, a complete set of AuTx refitted components would have paid for themselves in weeks.

AuTx Advanced Aramid Technologies logo For more information visit:
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