Alcon applies motorsport technology to armored vehicles

With a rich heritage in supporting the motorsport industry, Alcon provides brake upgrade kits and bespoke design services to more than a dozen vehicle manufacturers in the defence and security market.
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From armoured SUVs to the largest military combat vehicles, Alcon brake solutions are available for a number of applications. (Picture source: Alcon)

Whether tasked to conduct direct action, military assistance or peacekeeping support missions, tactical ground mobility remains a critical capability for armed forces operating anywhere in the World. Responding to emerging security threats from state and non-state adversaries, armed forces continue to up-armour fleets of tactical ground vehicles to ensure maximum levels in the survivability of personnel- particularly those deployed to highly contested areas of operation.

However, the addition of ballistic and blast protection solutions on board already heavy ground vehicles often results in the degradation in performance and lifecycle of component parts including braking, powertrain and suspension technologies. Brake components, for example, can be negatively impacted by excessive heat, friction and hard-use wear and tear, forcing end-users to conduct exhaustive vehicle checks ahead of each and every mission and in extreme cases, compromising the effectiveness and safety of the vehicle and crew.

During recent counter-insurgency campaigns in Afghanistan, a NATO unit reported changing brake pads of tactical ground vehicles almost every day over the course of a six-month tour as legacy solutions strained to handle the additional weight of integrated armour solutions. After switching to alternative braking technologies, the same unit managed to operate for up to six weeks without changing braking components, Michael Jones, the Chief Engineer for specialist vehicle braking solutions at Alcon explained.

With a rich heritage in supporting the motorsport industry, Alcon provides brake upgrade kits and bespoke design services to more than a dozen vehicle manufacturers in the defence and security market. Customers include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Supacat, Patria plus armourers of commercial-based platforms (e.g. Ford, Toyota and Mercedes Benz) such as Jankel and Babcock. All of these companies, plus others, provide legacy and state-of-the-art tactical ground vehicles to some of the World’s most advanced armed forces, including Australian, UK and US special operations forces. “When armouring a vehicle or adapting it to fulfil a role it was not originally intended for, vehicle dynamics can often be compromised,” Michael Jones explained: “One such compromise that occurs when increasing the vehicle mass by adding armour is that the vehicle’s original braking system is not able to cope with the extra forces involved. Customers need to be confident that the braking system will perform safely when needed in potentially extreme circumstances.”

Additional armour weight means greater brake torque will be required for a given level of deceleration. This can increase the temperature of the brake discs, resulting in brake fade, fluid vaporisation and greatly accelerated pad and disc wear.

Providing a cost-effective and high specification solution to armed forces, Alcon provides original equipment manufacturers with some of the lightest, strongest and most efficient braking systems available in the market today. Reducing weight, increasing performance and extending through life durability all contribute to a considerable reduction in life-cycle costs.

Solutions feature larger brake pads and discs, designed to dissipate energy and heat generated during a deceleration. Alcon brake pad materials also provide vehicles with higher friction coefficients while the integration of iron callipers and reduced piston rollback also contribute to reducing hydraulic losses.

Alcon brake upgrade kits are designed, tested and certified for a wide range of ground vehicles. Upgraded braking systems also provide tactical ground vehicles with increased payload capacity.

Alcon engineers support customers with a detailed and collaborative approach, designed to provide the most efficient and cost-effective solution to end-users, no matter where they are operating in the world. It’s highly important that the braking system is considered very early in the development cycle of a new vehicle, a modified vehicle or a renovated vehicle so Alcon encourages all OEM’s and modifiers to get in touch as early as possible.

Whether a bespoke design for a large OEM or a kit provided to a vehicle armouring specialist, Alcon use the same validation procedures as those supplied to Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover and Audi, to name a few. In this way, Alcon Components ensure performance, strength, fatigue and environmental targets are satisfied over the full development and life cycle.