About the article by V. Shevchenko How a ceramic armor plate was created in the USSR
Authors: Dmitry Kuprunin, Evgeny Chistyakov
In the previous issue of Protection and Safety, a detailed article by Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences V.Ya. Shevchenko was published, telling in a fascinating way about the author's allegedly pioneering research in the field of accumulation and mechanics of destruction of materials, which led to the creation of a unique armored material for its time. On this basis, V.Ya. Shevchenko claims, under his leadership and direct participation, new anti-cumulative and bulletproof composite structures were developed, and the world's first ceramic bulletproof vest was created.
However, already at the beginning of the article, minor inaccuracies, distortions of reality, or even just mistakes, catch the eye. For example, the author's story causes a grin of specialists that models of laboratory shaped charges in the form of 5x5x5 cm cubes were used in the testing laboratory of the Research Institute of Steel. In fact, such models had a cylindrical shape, which is very important for field experiments. At the same time, he calls the mass of explosives in cumulative ammunition — 100 g, which is far enough from reality.
The author claims that as a result of his research conducted in 1978, he found that ceramics is an effective material for anticumulative protection. Apparently, he is still unaware that by 1978 the anticumulative properties of ceramic structures had already been not only well studied, but also used to protect the turret of the T-64 tank, and a little later in the form of sand rods, representing highly porous ceramics, in the protection of the towers of T—72A tanks. So protection against cumulative ammunition with the use of ceramics was created long before the research of V.Ya. Shevchenko. But even then it was clear to the developers that it was impossible to protect themselves from rapidly developing cumulative ammunition with ceramics, even the most unique. Therefore, completely new principles were found, consisting in the fact that the energy of the jet itself is used for protection. Protection based on these principles is now called NERA abroad; in the USSR, this approach was first used in the protection of the T-80 tank. In 1982, the Research Institute of Steel developed and implemented a means against cumulative ammunition — the so-called dynamic protection, which is orders of magnitude more effective than any passive, including ceramic armor. Today, the fourth generation of this type of protection reliably protects our military equipment from all modern and promising ammunition.
It is impossible to agree with the priority of V.Y. Shevchenko in his research of ceramics as a bulletproof material. Recall that already in 1971, the design of the helicopter pilots' backs was developed and implemented at VIAM using C-2 (SiC) ceramics on a fiberglass substrate. Even then, the developers understood that fragile ceramics could not work without a viscous support. This discovery was allegedly made by V.Ya. Shevchenko in the early 80s.
His primacy in the publication of the first Russian monograph on technical ceramics, published in 1993, is also in great doubt. We will cite only the monograph Physical Materials Science of carbides by G.V. Samsonov, V.S. Neshpor, published in 1974 in Kiev, which every developer of ceramic armor knows and uses. Let's also name the monograph Kingery U.D. Introduction to Ceramics, which is very popular among armored cars, translated and published in the USSR in 1967.
Finally, ceramics based on silicon carbide, which V.Ya. Shevchenko was engaged in, was never considered as armor for the first domestic ceramic body armor
And now let's tell you how the ceramic armor for this bulletproof vest was actually developed.
In the USSR, work in the field of armor ceramics was initiated by a special resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers No. 390-137 in November 1970. The resolution set the task of developing anti-discharge, anti-cumulative and bulletproof ceramic armor. An important stage in the relevant work was the decision of the Military-Industrial Commission under the Council of Ministers of the USSR No. 224 dated 8.09.1976, in which the Research Institute of Steel was identified as the lead developer of ceramic bulletproof armor for paintwork machines, and many leading research institutes were involved in the work.
The main direction of research was aimed at increasing the survivability of ceramic armor. The technologies of ceramic reinforcement, the creation of gradient materials were studied, and, of course, the issues of choosing and optimizing the substrate material were studied. More than 20 different ceramic materials were examined at the Steel Research Institute, including sapphire, carbides and oxides with a density from 2.03 (Ve2B) to 15.24 g/cm3 (WC).
The result of this period of research were the following conclusions: armor bulletproof ceramics can be considered a material having: hardness HRA not lower than 85, relative density — not lower than 95%, dynamic modulus of elasticity not lower than 20x1011n / m2, bending strength not lower than 900Mpa, elastic impedance — not less than 20x106n / m2, specific work of destruction — not less than 170 kg × cm/m2.
It was found that corundum (Al2O3), silicon carbide (SiC) and boron carbide (B4C) have the best characteristics.
So by the beginning of the 80s, when the question arose about creating ceramic armor for bulletproof vests and V.Y. Shevchenko began to study the theory of penetration, the developers of the Research Institute of Steel already had a complete understanding of the requirements for this material and its potential. But not only this predetermined the position of the Research Institute of Steel as the main enterprise for the development of the world's first serial ceramic bulletproof vest.
The Institute, by a special resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU dated February 10, 1979, has already managed to develop and organize, together with the Central Research Institute of the Garment Industry, VNIIIV and other enterprises, serial production of first 6B2 anti-shatter bulletproof vests, in the protection of which a new ballistic fabric based on TSVM-J-1 para-aramid fiber, an analogue of foreign Kevlar, and then bulletproof bulletproof vests 6B3T with armor elements made of high-strength titanium alloy VT-23. At the same time, these products were adopted. Recall that the 6B3T bulletproof vest had a mass of 8 kg and provided protection from conventional AKM and AK-74 bullets at a distance of 10 m and M16A1 rifle bullets at a distance of 100 m. Several tens of thousands of 6B2 and 6B3T bulletproof vests in various modifications were received by the 40th army, which fought in Afghanistan.
Today it is known what was the impetus for the production of ceramic armor for bulletproof vests. Firstly, it is the dissatisfaction of some leaders of the USSR Ministry of Defense with the 6B3T bulletproof vest, which did not provide protection from armor-piercing incendiary bullets to AKM and Dragunov sniper rifle bullets that appeared in the enemy. Secondly, information about similar work abroad was obtained through intelligence channels.
In the USSR at that time, there was no R&D on armored ceramics for individual armor protection. The development of these works was hindered by disagreements in the Ministry of Defense itself, where some of the military continued to rely on titanium.
But there were also specialists who already saw the prospect in ceramics. In particular, the Research Institute-3 of the USSR Ministry of Defense (v/h 42261) has been working on ceramic armor for bulletproof vests on an initiative basis for a long time. Among them were the deputy head of the Institute, Major General G.D. Mamyshev, head of the department B.G.Balashov, his staff Sobolev E.I., Lebedeva S.G. and others. They relied on boron carbide as the best material for personal protective equipment (PPE) for a combination of protective and mass characteristics. Moreover, together with the All-Union Research and Design Institute of Hard Alloys and Refractory Metals, by the beginning of the 80s, the staff of the Research Institute-3 had already created a prototype of an armor element based on boron carbide and fabric based on TSVM-J-1 fiber and obtained the corresponding author's certificates. Tests have shown that this sample meets the requirements of the military for durability.
However, it was still very far from creating a serial bulletproof vest with ceramic armor. VNIITS equipment hardly allowed pressing one tile with a size of 90x90 mm. Pressing was carried out with an effort of 250 kg / cm2 at a temperature of 2000-2500 ° C in a graphite mold, which crumbled after one or two compressions. The cost of one armor plate, thus, was about 1,500 rubles (recall that the engineer's salary at that time was 120-130 rubles). And for a bulletproof vest, such tiles required from 30 to 50 pieces!
In addition to the cost and lack of appropriate equipment in the USSR, there were other problems. For example, no one knew how to control the quality of the resulting ceramics. Finally, there were no requirements for the raw material, and the quality of the final product depended very much on it. And the experienced armor element itself was far from optimal. In general, it was necessary to start almost from scratch.
The development of serial technology for the manufacture of armored ceramics based on boron carbide, work on the creation of an armored element and a bulletproof vest based on it were entrusted to the Steel Research Institute, which has the appropriate experience. Dozens of research institutes and enterprises of various ministries, as well as Research Institute-3, whose armored ceramics were taken as a basis, were involved in these works.
B.G.Balashov (left) shows representatives of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR tested armor elements and bullet remnants.1983 Research Institute-3 of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR
Demonstration of a prototype of an armored element based on boron carbide to the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences A.P.Alexandrov and the leadership of the USSR Ministry of Defense.1983 Research Institute-3 of the USSR Ministry of Defense
The main emphasis on the creation of a research base was placed on the institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, which were the most prepared to solve the problem. These are the Institute of Problems of Materials Science (IPM), the Institute of Problems of Strength, the Institute of Superhard Materials (ISM) named after V.N.Bakul and others.
The leading role in the formation of both the research and production base for the manufacture of armored ceramics based on B4S belonged to the director of IPM, Vice President of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR Viktor Ivanovich Trefilov. In the shortest possible time, he managed to acquire the necessary equipment for research and production. So 10 modern presses were purchased, the production of ultrapure graphite for molds was organized (also in Ukraine in the Dnepropetrovsk region).
The Research Institute of Steel (at that time p/ya 2652), as the head institute, coordinated all the work, conducted tests, developed methodological support, worked out a ceramic armor element and, of course, led the design of a bulletproof vest.
Borides, from which the raw materials for ceramic armor are obtained, namely B4C powder, were mined in the east of the country, and at that time they were almost completely exported to Japan. It was necessary to prepare a decision of the Council of Ministers of the USSR so that this raw material received the status of strategic.
But borides are only raw materials. In order to obtain B4C powder of the required quality and the required size of the Steel Research Institute, several technologies of their production were investigated and the most productive and economical one was selected.
From these powders, ceramic tiles up to 92x92 mm in size and 6.5 to 9.5 mm thick were pressed on ISM and IPM equipment, while the effect of the composition of special activating additives (amorphous boron, technical carbon, silicon dioxide, etc.) was studied, the total amount of which varied from 2 to 10%. Initially, two technologies for producing boron carbide plates were investigated: hot pressing technology and reaction sintering. The first technology by which the armor plate was manufactured at VNIITS was, of course, more complicated and more expensive than the reaction sintering technology, which consisted in the fact that a porous boron carbide billet pre-impregnated with liquid silicon was sintered without pressure at lower temperatures (about 1800 ° C) in a protective environment or in vacuum. The tiles were glued to a support made of several layers of ballistic fabric. The number of layers also varied from 26 to 70.
All samples were tested at the Steel Research Institute. At the same time, not only the resistance of the barrier was evaluated, but also the anti-barrier effect of the bullet. These tests showed that boron carbide obtained by hot pressing is superior to analogues obtained by reaction sintering in both physical and mechanical and armor characteristics, and it was this technology that was recommended for the production of armored ceramics for PPE.
The result of the work on the creation of ceramic armor plates for PPE can be considered the Technical specifications of the BK 90x7.5 PLATE (TU 06584-84) from 1984, according to which their serial production was organized. This document defines not only all the parameters for production, but also the rules for acceptance and quality control of armor plates.
These technical specifications were signed by those who created the world's first mass-produced armor ceramics based on boron carbide for bulletproof vests.
From the Research Institute of Steel B.D.Chukhin, O.B.Dashevskaya, M.I.Maresev
From the Research Institute-3 of the USSR Ministry of Defense B.G.Balashov, G.P.Mamyshev
From IPM L.L.Sukhoi, M.S.Kovalchenko, G.G.Karyuk
From ISM P.S.Sour
From SKTS and TM (Svetlovodsk Plant of Hard Alloys and refractory metals) M.N.Pivovarov.
Of course, this is not everyone who took part in the work on the problem, but it is this document that reflects the main role of the organizations and performers mentioned here.
Serial production of armor plates made of boron carbide was organized at the IPM facilities. In the future, with the expansion of the production of ceramic armor elements, the main production facilities were moved to Luga, Leningrad region.
When creating a ceramic armor element, which was developed by the Research Institute of Steel, there were also difficulties. So suddenly there was a problem with their acceptance from the customer. The military demanded to ensure the integrity of the element when dropping it on the concrete floor from a height of 5 meters. It was only after much debate that they were persuaded to conduct these tests not on a separate element, but as part of a bulletproof vest. In addition, it was necessary to introduce a special gluing of the corners of the armor element.
Then the customer demanded to prove that boron carbide, when ingested by a fighter, for example, when an armor element is penetrated, will not have a negative effect on him. At the Research Institute-3, a whole research project was organized and conducted to study the effect of boron carbide on the health of rats and pigs and it was proved that this mineral does not affect a living organism in any way.
Serial armor elements made of boron carbide for 6B4 and 6B5. 1989
An experienced armor element made of boron carbide tested with a 7.62 mm B32 bullet
(3 shots). On the left is the face, on the right is the rear (photo of the Research Institute of Steel, 2009)
Serial production of ceramic armor elements, which received the K-136 index, was organized at the Svetlovodsk Combine, later other enterprises were connected to the production of armor elements, in particular, the Leningrad Abrasive Plant named after him. Ilyich, who perfectly mastered not only the manufacturing technology of the armor element itself, but also performed a large amount of work on sewing fabric modules of a bulletproof vest.
The bulletproof vest with ceramic armor elements was not just created. The military insisted on a large area of enhanced protection and the first modifications (6B4-0, 6B4-P, 6B4-C) had an area of enhanced protection from 22 to 38 sq.dm. with a total anti-shatter area of almost 50 sq.dm. (for comparison, today army bulletproof vests have an area of enhanced protection of no more than 16-18 sq.dm.). On the reinforced area, protection was provided against bullets with a heat-strengthened core to the AKM and bullets of the M16A1 rifle almost at point-blank range. The weight of such a bulletproof vest reached 15 kg.
Operational tests of mock-ups of body armor with ceramic armor elements. Crimea, 1983
Therefore, the requirements were soon revised and a variant with differentiated protection was adopted. The front section with a reduced protection area remained with ceramic elements, and the back section was taken from the 6B2 anti-fragmentation bulletproof vest. As a result, the weight of the vest decreased to 7.5-8.7 kg, it received the index 6B4-01, adopted in 1985. It was in this configuration that he began to enter the troops.
At one of the meetings with the participation of the military, industry and science, held at the initial stage of work, the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Academician A.P. Alexandrov, said that if a ceramic bulletproof vest was adopted, he would organize a State Award to all those who took part in its creation.
It's hard to say how much this statement helped the developers, but it definitely added various intrigues. The promised prize was awarded only in 1989. Among the awardees from the Research Institute of Steel, 9 people were noted, from the Research Institute-3 — 4 people.
The combat history of this world's first ceramic bulletproof vest 6B4-01, unlike its titanium counterpart, turned out to be less vivid. At the end of the war in Afghanistan, a huge number of bulletproof vests that were in operation there accumulated in army warehouses and the Research Institute of Steel as a developer was instructed to produce repair documentation for them. During the inspection of this property, it was found that a lot of 6B4-01 bulletproof vests had no traces of operation at all, they simply lay in warehouses.
P.S. The authors thank B.G. Balashov and O.B. Dashevskaya for their help in preparing this article
About the authors
Kupryunin Dmitry Gennadievich
Chistyakov Evgeny Nikolaevich
JSC Research Institute of Steel
You can download the original article:THIS IS HOW THE ARMOR WAS CREATED
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