The US Army is experimenting with new, advanced composites, to improve vehicle and body armor, providing lighter, and more effective protection from different threats, including bullets, fragments, IEDs and mines.
One of the most promising materials is the new high strength M5 fiber, developed by Akzo Nobel central research labs and currently produced by Magellan Systems International. It has extraordinary potential for use in armor systems for personnel and vehicles, flame and thermal protection, as well as in high performance structural composites. Based on initial tests, it is estimated that fragmentation protective armor systems based on M5 will reduce the areal density of the ballistic component of these systems by approximately 40-60% over Kevlar KM2 fabric at the same level of protection. Potential Army applications of the fiber include fragmentation vests and helmets, composites for use in conjunction with ceramic materials for small arms protection and structural composites for vehicles and aircraft.
It enables the fabrication of advanced lightweight composites into hard and soft ballistic armor. M5 offers significant advantages over both steel and carbon, which is currently used for fabrication of aerospace and automotive structural parts. When development reaches maturity, the M5 fiber is expected to offer much higher protection levels, and improved environmental (UV), and fire resistance. In April 2005 DuPont acquired majority holding in Magellan Systems International, developer of the M-5 fiber.