Thanks to indigenous technologies from the country’s leading academia under the Indian Army’s trilateral program involving Army, Academia and the Industry, we may soon see companies like Larsen and Toubro (L&T) develop high-tech light weight solutions on the much needed bullet proof jackets for the defence forces including the Indian Army, Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other police forces.
India currently spends close to Rs 20,000 crore of valuable foreign exchange crores in procuring bullet proof composite materials for various applications in defence and aviation sectors from American and European companies like Hexel, DuPont, Huntsman, Victrex and others.
India’s leading defence company, L&T may soon partner with the Coimbatore-based Amrita University as the industrial partner for development and mass production of “Light Weight High Temperature Thermoplastic Composite or the TCF technology.”
Detailed parleys on the tie up are underway between a high level team from L&T that is in Coimbatore presently, holding discussions with Amrita University.
The Road Traveled:
In August 2016 the Indian Army team led by Lt Gen Subrata Saha former Deputy Chief of Army Staff had conducted a trilateral Army – Academia – Industry Seminar in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. The Seminar was followed by a display of Artillery and Infantry Equipment. Coimbatore is a rapidly advancing industrial hub in South India. Coimbatore and its vicinity has 73 engineering institutes.
This event was part of the Indian Army’s strong drive towards ‘Winning India’s Wars with Indian Solutions’, an initiative launched by Lt Gen Saha under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Make in India.
Post the Seminar Dr Shantanu Bhowmik of the Amrita University Coimbatore submitted a research solution on an indigenous technology for “Light Weight High Temperature Thermoplastic Composite or the TCF technology”. The solution was taken up by the Army and sponsored to India’s leading defence R&D organisation–DRDO.
Recognition: The DRDO has since shortlisted this technology and recommended for providing grant under the technology development fund (TDF) to Dr Bhowmik of the Amrita University in collaboration with L&T.
“L&T sees this partnership with Amrita university is a step towards strategic material program that will have across the range applications in Defence & Aerospace sector,” said Jayant D Patil Head Defenc and Aerospace L&T.
The technology has vast applications in supersonic and hypersonic aircrafts, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, long distance missiles, light weight tanks besides light weight bullet proof jackets, helmets, vehicles (light and heavy) and shelters for defence forces.
Dr Bhowmik said that India was currently spending close to Rs 20,000 crore of valuable foreign exchange crores in procuring materials for various applications in defence and aviation sectors. Presently, procurement is being done from American and European companies like Hexel, DuPont, Huntsman, Victrex and others.
This technology, he said, has already been vetted and recommended for use by the Indian Army that is fighting daily wars against militancy in forward locations. “It has also been shortlisted by DRDO and we have been asked to furnish a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the same,” he added.
“I have personally seen the present bullet proof jackets being used by our jawans in the Army, BSF, CRPF and Police….they are heavy Bullet Proof Jackets and weigh anywhere between 15 to 18 kgs. Now imagine if these same jackets are replaced with light weight jackets weighing 6-8 times less at just 1.5 kgs and with same applications,” said Dr Bhowmik.
Besides, the ultra light bulletproof vests that are the need of the hour, the TCF technology has vast applications in supersonic and hypersonic aircrafts, long range missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, light weight tank armour and light weight bullet proof helmets, vehicles (light and heavy) and shelters for defence forces.
The Way Forward: So what is delaying the use of this technology in Defence forces? Asked to comment, Dr Bhowmik said he was awaiting sanction of around Rs 9.81 crore of grant under the technology development fund (TDF) of DRDO. “I have the solution, but I need seven specific equipments that I have sought under grant from TDF. The project is pending sanction of the DRDO for several months now”, he said.
These seven equipments that include High Temperature and High Pressure Autoclave; High Temperature Film Casting Machine; High Temperature Twin Screw Extruder; Two Stage Hypervelocity Gas Gun; High Temperature Thermoplastic Welding Machine; Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Equipment and Goniometer.
Senior officials of the Army, Rapid Action Force, CRPF and BSF have acknowledged the potential of this technology. Recent meetings were held with Durga Prasad Kode (Ex-Director General CRPF), Mr Sanjay Sharma (Principal Scientific Officer: Bureau of Police Research & Development), Mr. Chauhan (Regional Director: CRPF), Mr. Jayakumar (Regional Director: Rapid Action Force (RAF)), and Maj Gen Prasad (Vice President: L&T, Coimbatore).
“They all were highly impressed with this invention. Besides this technology’s high usage in developing Bullet proof jackets, they also emphasized on the use of these light weight high temperature resistant thermoplastic composite in cars as bullet proof vehicle armours in order to reduce the weight of the cars significantly. They mentioned that in bullet proof buses which carry police/army personal, the weight of the vehicle armour presently is 1.5 Tonnes. Hence, they clearly understood the urgency for the use of light weight high temperature thermoplastic composite in vehicle armours. They also expressed concerns on use of polycarbonate sheet as a barrier against stone pelting; and expressed significant concern on the damage caused on the sheet due to stone pelting,” Dr Bhowmik revealed.
“Companies from Germany, Switzerland have approached me and are asking to send them few sample of these composite plates for ballistic testing and gauging their impact resistance at their laboratories considering the huge applications for this type of composite…..,” said Dr Bhowmik.
Dr Bhowmik, who has patented this technology, feels that DRDO should speed up the process to release grant so as to be able to gain access to this technology and help the defence forces fight daily wars on the border with ease using indigenous solutions.