The role of fiber in protective equipment
Opinion article by João Fidalgo Neves – Lieutenant Captain from a division of Portuguese Defense Ministry
Individual and/or collective protection has always been a major concern of defense, since immemorial times. Mechanical protection aspects (impact, cutting, drilling, etc.), thermal, camouflage, or other, represent a tactical advantage factor that, along with other components, has allowed distinguish losers from winners.
Technological developments in this area has also become a differentiating factor and is far from perfect, is the fact that evolution itself so demonstrate, similar to what happens in Moore’s Law, is the fact that the evolution of own threats also requires defenders of the fundamental rights of the company an ability to protect themselves effectively.
From defense point of view of, this is always a matter of great importance and where investments do not stop (and can not stop) because the areas of interest in which the armed forces operate are characterized by a variety of factors, to date, it has proved impossible to deal with a solution of the type “one fits all.”
At the level of national defense these concerns have clearly present state in recent years with very clear bets on research and development projects, cooperation protocols or collaborative actions, desirably, are transferred to acquisition procedures and modernization of the Armed Forces.
These bets are the materialization of a superiorly defined set of documents and at the level of Defence, begin by deriving the own Strategic Concept of National Defense, across all its vectors and lines of strategic action, either by position of Defense via International Portugal, the promotion of financial stability and economic growth or through Knowledge Enhancement, Technology and Innovation.
It is the Directorate General of Resources for National Defence, part of the organic structure of the MDN, it is for the mission to design, develop, coordinate and implement human resources policies, armament, equipment, property and infrastructure necessary for national defense. Specifically, DGRDN pursues these assignments within the research and development of policies necessary to the armed forces and national defense, directing that his action through Research and Defense Development Strategy.
In this strategic guidance document are covered by a set of priority technologies such as advanced materials, nanotechnology, operating environment and to specifically individual protection. Naturally, the fibers are not specifically addressed this strategy document since they are an asset. But they are perfectly framed by the above-identified technologies and allow bridge, each time more effectively, the problems at the level of the gaps of the National Forces System.
One of the most pragmatic examples of this commitment and the respective support materializes through AUXDEFENSE project, which was selected from a wide range of national projects submitted to MDN within a Call for R & D projects in 2014, after a process of selection by an independent jury and attended by representatives of national authorities various sectors (civil and military).
This project aims to develop innovative products of high performance in terms of mechanical protection (impact, cutting and drilling) having for advanced auxéticas structures base, has 8 national partners and got one of the best scores for its innovative technological character, but also by high interest which is for the military and for its high future economic potential. That is, a perfectly adjusted framework for the objectives of the above documents but which also fall into more cross-cutting policies to other national sectors, such as science, education, economy, industry, etc.
However, there will still be stressed enough that the sector of fibers and advanced materials has been one of the technological sectors that has grown the most in Portugal sustained and objectively recognized not only in terms of defense, through a very active national participation and extensive in international programs, including the EDA and NATO, but also in programs and civilian projects.
Programs such as the future soldier, personal protection, force protection, materials for protection and robustness of land vehicles, marine (including submarines) and air and advanced materials for spacecraft (permanence in space and re-entering the atmosphere) which are of high interest to the armed forces, they have been a motivating factor and catalyst that will promote national concentration of knowledge of excellence civil-military use.
It is not expected that in all these environments they are the fibers (the most basic design of the term), but for all environments and uses the technological knowledge which results from this will be an invaluable contribution to continue to play a key role in the proper position Portugal in the world (… fiber!).