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Why Composites are Essential in Defence Applications?

Composite materials are essential in defence applications because of their unique ability to reduce weight while maintaining strength, increase durability and enhance stealth capabilities.

ADVANTAGES OF COMPOSITES IN DEFENCE APPLICATIONS

Composites offer a number of advantages over traditional materials, including:

  • Lightweight: Composites can offer a much greater strength-to-weight ratio than traditional materials. This makes them ideal for aerospace applications, where weight reduction is essential for performance and efficiency.
  • Strength: Composites can be tailored to resist impact, withstand extreme forces and harsh conditions which provides critical protection to soldiers and equipment from enemy fire.
  • Durability: Composites can have exceptional fatigue and corrosion resistance, making them well-suited for military applications that require long service life.
  • Stealth: Composites have excellent Radar signal and Radio Frequency (RF) absorption capabilities which makes them useful for stealth applications. This makes composites valuable for vehicles designed to evade enemy detection.
Advantages of composites in defence applications - NORCO Composites & GRP

COMPOSITES APPLICATIONS IN DEFENCE

Final 15m Hull Delivered - NORCO Composites & GRP

Composites are commonly utilised in defence applications, including:

  • Aircraft: Composites are widely used in military aircraft, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 Lightning, due to their ability to reduce weight while maintaining superior structural properties.
  • Ground vehicles: Military vehicles that transport soldiers and equipment can also leverage composites to provide critical protection against enemy fire as well as reducing mass, allowing increased speed and range.
  • Naval vessels: As with aircraft, composites are used in naval vessels to reduce weight, enhance speed, and improve fuel efficiency. They are particularly valuable in submarines, which require lightweight materials that can withstand high pressure at great depths.
  • Missiles and weapons: Composites are used in rockets and other weapon systems, providing lightweight and durable structures that can withstand extreme launch and flight conditions.

FUTURE OF COMPOSITES IN DEFENCE APPLICATIONS

The use of composites in defence applications is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. This is partly due to the increasing demand for lightweight and robust materials, as well as the development of new manufacturing techniques that have made composites more affordable.

Some of the key trends in the use of composites in defence applications include:

  • Additive manufacturing (AM): The ability of 3D printing to manufacture composite components is rapidly advancing, making it possible to create complex shapes and structures that were not previously feasible. For example, multi-part complex metallic ducts are now being replaced by single piece 3D printed composite structures.
  • Nanotechnology: Nanocomposites is a rapidly growing field that has the potential to revolutionise the use of composites in defence applications. These materials incorporate nanoparticles into the composite structure, enhancing strength, durability, and other properties.
  • Smart materials: Composite parts can be designed to have built-in sensors and other electronic components, making them particularly valuable in applications such as un-manned aerial vehicles and other autonomous systems, where remote monitoring of performance and structural health is essential.
Future of composites in defence applications - NORCO Composites & GRP

POTENTIAL LIMITATIONS OF COMPOSITES IN DEFENCE APPLICATIONS

Potential limitations of composites in defence applications - NORCO Composites & GRP

While composites offer many advantages, there are also some limitations to their use in defence applications so careful consideration of the best areas for their use needs to take place.  For example, they are typically vulnerable in high-wear scenarios, the image shows the leading edge of a rotor blade where airborne particles such as sand and dust, have abraded the coating revealing the metallic leading edge behind it.  Here, the best alternative is a sacrificial metal plate.

Maximising the benefits of composites requires leveraging the best properties of each material to achieve the desired outcome. Whether embedding metallics for tapping and joining thus allowing  repeated removal and refit of a structure, or using a core material to improve a structure’s stiffness whilst maintaining low weight, there is always an optimum material solution.

Unsure of how to best approach your composite structure? Get in touch with Norco’s composite experts.

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