Raytheon, one of the world’s-largest military contractors, says it has developed a new type of vehicle armor that also doubles as a battery.
There’s a big payoff for batteries that can stop bullets, the company says. Even as it can protect those in combat, it can also lighten their load by reducing the need for fuel convoys and lessening the need for engine run times.
First described in a 2015 patent—"Method and apparatus for armor having integrated battery power"—the armor was designed with multiple layers of electrical conductors, like what’s called high-hardened steel with ceramic insulators, that happen to also be bullet-resistant.
That means, Raytheon claims, that while bullets can’t penetrate the armor, power can go right through it.
The armor is said to be able to stop a 7.62mm sniper-rifle round. And even if a bullet penetrates the battery, only the affected cell will cease working while the others will continue to provide electricity.
Raytheon says the batteries are meant to store energy generated by the motion of the military vehicles. That means crews can switch to battery power when they stop moving, avoiding the necessity to keep the engine running simply to keep all the onboard electronics powered up.
This isn’t just academic. Raytheon cited a study showing that between 2003 and 2007, more than 3,000 Army personnel were injured or killed in attacks on fuel or water convoys. The study also reported more than 1,100 attacks on ground convoys in 2010.
The company’s engineers began working on the new armor a number of years ago after hearing about the dangers faced by military personnel by having to move so much fuel just for their electronics. Batteries that power radios, high-tech sensors, and other gear add at least 10 pounds to their already heavy loads, Raytheon said.
The goal of the project is to allow the military’s armored vehicles to operate in a stealth mode where their electronics—and gun turrets—are operational but the engines are off. Today, doing so drains the vehicles’ batteries too fast, or forces them to start up the engine, requiring the movement of additional fuel. That’s also dangerous, Raytheon argues, because starting up engines can give away a hidden position.
It's not clear how soon the military could start using the new technology.