The Army Rapid Equipment Force and the Air Force Protection Battle Lab are acquiring the Sandia Gauntlet body armor for "field evaluation." The Army will acquire 10 sets of the Sandia arm protection system, and the Air Force will acquire 50 sets. In addition, the Air Force has requested the balance of the Sandia inventory of an early version for training purposes.
Last year Sandia researchers conceived the concept of shoulder-to-hand protective sleeves for military personnel riding atop Humvees and other military vehicles during combat operations. The idea was to protect the entire length of a soldier's arm, including the hand, from blast and debris effects created by indirect hits from rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) against vehicle doors and turrets. The materials used in the original protective sleeve design were surplus, government-owned Kevlar, and thin, carbon inserts.
A Sandia-wide team was formed to transition the concept to the military. The team was able to balance the need for urgent delivery of protective equipment to soldiers in the field with the need to ensure that the delivered product met minimum standards for protection. The newest generation of the Sandia Gauntlets includes the latest version of commercially available Kevlar with a camouflage pattern, Velcro attachments to aid in connecting the sleeves to vest protection equipment, and additional layers of carbon fiber inserts to meet Army requirements for protection against small-arms fire.
Within the next two months, Sandia will also assist the military by validating commercially available Kevlar material. If the military decides to equip its forces with the gauntlet sleeves, Sandia will assist in identifying a commercial supplier for the Department of Defense (DoD).
Sandia researcher Jim Purvis conceived the project during an overseas trip in late 2003 after reading an article about a soldier who lost his arms during combat in Iraq. Purvis said he knew that something should be done to extend the protection from the vest to the arms.
Soon after, the technical requirements of the idea were discussed with several other Sandia experts. Purvis teamed up with Jack Jones (6955), Larry Whinery, and Richard Brazfield (both 2111) to construct a prototype.
Jack was instrumental in getting the project started.
"This project has been a high priority for all who have been involved since the inception of the idea for the gauntlets," Jack says. "If the Sandia Gauntlets can protect just one soldier, sailor, airman, or marine from losing an arm, then the effort put forth will be will worth it."
Sandia testing to validate protection standard
While the original concept showed merit in early, limited tests, Sandia was committed to using its engineering and technology expertise to confirm that gauntlets would meet minimum military standards for protection. Under time pressure and with a limited budget, Sandia's Explosive Applications Dept. 15322 planned a validated test program using coupon-size articles of Kevlar and carbon inserts. The test program included test setup with armor and witness plate placement, flash X-ray radiography instrumentation, projectile and breach loading, and post-test processing of the data to monitor projectile flight, degree of yaw, and velocity.
The controlled test series completed at Sandia's Explosives Applications Laboratory characterized the ballistic limit of the Sandia Gauntlet against different-sized fragment masses.
Sandia engineer Vanessa Berg (15322) led the testing.
"The experimental results indicate that the Sandia Gauntlet affords equal or better protection against light, high-velocity fragments when compared to the minimum criteria for the standard body armor," Vanessa says. "The current gauntlet design has a 28-layer carbon fiber insert which provides protection that exceeds the minimum criteria at all standard fragment sizes tested."
The Sandia Gauntlet meets the same standard as that for the Interceptor body armor.
Additional testing is planned to characterize the complete statistical distribution of penetration versus velocity for various fragments. Other effects to be evaluated via modeling or experimental testing include very large, energetic fragments produced from munitions such as the 155mm and 152mm artillery shells, indirect RPG hits, or traditional small arms projectiles. Evaluation also excluded variations in fragment impact angle, multiple fragment impacts, and combination fragment-blast damage.
"All of these phenomena could be accurately predicted via a mature computer model or a robust test program," says Vanessa.
Putting capability in the hands of the warfighter
Sandia's VP for DoD Programs Jim Tegnelia (15000) said the gauntlets will significantly make an impact on those in combat.
"Moving forward with the Sandia Gauntlets has been a high priority for Sandia during the last six months," Jim says. "We have been working with the Army and Air Force to ensure that all military requirements are met. This project is truly an example of how Sandia responds to the needs of our nation and to the safety of our soldiers.
"We appreciate the generous support of all Sandians involved with the project, DOE, Lockheed Martin, US Representative Heather Wilson, and all others who have been instrumental in this project." -- Michael Padilla
By John German
On a South Texas highway one Saturday afternoon in August, a sniffing device developed at Sandia helped law enforcement officers quickly identify an unknown liquid, hidden in a false compartment under a car seat, as methamphetamines.
In the Kingsville, Texas, living room of a single mom last February, officers used results from the device to turn a young life around, coaxing a teenager to confess that he was addicted to cocaine and prompting his entry into a drug rehab program.
The incidents are two of many that demonstrate the usefulness of the Hound hand-held sniffer for helping stem the flow of illegal drugs northward into the US, say members of the South Texas Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force. In a few cases the officers credit the device with saving lives.
Sandia loaned the Task Force one of its prototype Hound systems in November 2003 as part of a field trial to evaluate the system's value in drug detection. Since then the Task Force has used the Hound at border checkpoints to help screen hundreds of vehicles per day for illegal drugs.
The loan of the Sandia system to the Task Force was made possible through funding from the National Institute of Justice.
Drugs in fingerprints
The Hound system includes a front-end sniffer developed by Sandia for sample collection and a commercial chemical detector, says Dave Hannum of Contraband Detection Dept. 4118-2, one of the developers of the Sandia preconcentration technique that makes the Hound highly sensitive.
Although the approach was originally developed at Sandia to improve sample collection for the detection of explosives, the switch from explosives to drugs is relatively simple within the commercial detector, he says.
The sniffer works by drawing a bathtubful of air through its nozzle, trapping heavy organic compounds in the air on a filter, then heating the filter and redistributing the collected compounds into a smaller air sample. The compounds are identified in a commercial ion mobility spectrometer-based detector that is part of the system.
It's the equivalent of netting hundreds of fish in a vast ocean, then releasing those fish into a pond and fishing for them, with highly increased odds.
The Hound system can detect narcotics in nanogram concentrations, says Dave, which means it identifies drug residues left in fingerprints on objects touched by drug users, such as door handles, steering wheels, and locker latches.
Sandia pioneered the preconcentration approach in the mid 1990s and has since developed a family of explosives-detection systems based on the technique, including hand-held detectors, vehicle detection systems, and a walk-through portal that can sniff trace amounts of explosives on people's skin and clothing.
A commercial version of the portal is now being used to screen airline passengers at a checkpoint at New York's John F. Kennedy airport as part of a Transportation Security Administration pilot project.
During the field trials, the Task Force is incorporating the Hound into border checkpoint screening procedures, using both drug-trained dogs and the Sandia sniffers to canvass a selection of vehicles that was diverted by officers into a secondary screening area, says Task Force Commander Jaime Garza.
Task Force officers also respond to requests from the local sheriff's department and US Border Patrol agents to investigate suspicious vehicles and items, Garza says.
"There are not enough good things I can say about this tool," Garza says.
He says the Hound system has on numerous occasions helped officers detect covert narcotics shipments in vehicles at checkpoints; locate nitro, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana in middle schools and high schools; seize drug money going south into Mexico; and in one instance build a case against a suspect involved in a nightclub shooting on whom gunpowder residues were found several hours, and showers, after the shooting.
"The Hound system is performing very well," Task Force officer Richard Kirkpatrick wrote to Dave in a February 2004 progress report. "We continue to operate and implement the detector with our main focus on drug detection."
Prior to the field trials, Dave traveled to Kingsville to conduct training sessions with Task Force narcotics officers. Since then he's returned to the area to consult with US
Customs agents about a possible future use of the Hound to search incoming ships from Mexico.
Even with the help of the latest tools, he says, only a few of the estimated 100 daily drug shipments through the area are detected.
"It was truly an eye-opening experience to learn about the magnitude of the drug problem that is happening every day in that part of Texas," Dave says. "One Hound system cannot even put a dent in that drug pipeline. It is a tool that can clearly help officers detect and correctly identify certain illegal substances that they have to deal with on a daily basis."
He says the information gathered during these trials is being used to improve the Hound for drug detection applications. Commercialization efforts are under way.
Just last month officers used the Hound system to discover and quickly identify ecstasy pills on board a public school bus transporting high school students from an event where the students were mingling with college-age students.
With the Hound the officers were able to begin to locate the source of the drugs immediately.
"Without the ability to rapidly identify the pills as ecstasy on the scene, this could have been a three-week or three-month wait" for lab results, Garza says. "This is a small rural town. Many people had no idea."
'A life saver'
Although the Hound isn't a silver bullet for the drug problem, says Dave, the Task Force has documented situations this past year where the use of the Hound has helped to save lives.
In the case of the concealed under-seat compartment packed with bottles full of liquid methamphetamines, the identification capability turned out to be a life saver, according to Jose Ibarra, assistant commander of the Task Force.
When Texas Department of Public Safety officers punctured one of the plastic bottles containing the liquid, Ibarra wrote in a letter to Sandia, the substance reacted to air and began to crystallize. Officers were not sure what they were dealing with and contacted the Task Force, which used the Hound to identify the liquid meth, which is highly toxic and flammable, then called dispatch for a HazMat response.
"The Task Force is very grateful to have received this system for testing," Ibarra wrote. "Our officers were able to detect a very toxic material which could have had dire effects. Because of this tool, we were able to detect the hazardous material and handle it with all the necessary precautions....I feel that on August 7, 2004, it truly saved the lives of several officers."
"I am proud and grateful that Sandia has helped make this happen," adds Dave. -- John German
By Michael Padilla
Sandia and the multicampus University of Texas System have announced an expanded relationship. The announcement came last Thursday after the UT System Board of Regents unanimously approved a new memorandum of understanding between the system and Sandia.
The MOU calls for:
Sandia President C. Paul Robinson noted that Sandia has been working for many years to establish and maintain strategic partnerships with outstanding national institutions in academia, industry, and the government.
"This action strengthens one such strategic relationship, which was created several years ago between the University of Texas System, including its medical research institutions, and Lockheed Martin Corporation and Sandia," Paul said (Lab News, April 2, 2004). "It will allow Sandia to further develop its people and enhance its technical abilities to better meet the national challenges we face."
Mark Yudof, chancellor of the UT System, said the agreement represents a "tremendous opportunity to advance the strong, existing relationship between our System and one of the country's premier national laboratories. This is a great opportunity for our faculty, our students, and our researchers to be involved more directly in the unclassified, cutting-edge science and research being conducted by Sandia National Labs. Managing the peer review process of this research is an honor and significant contribution to the vital role that Sandia plays in its service to the nation. . . ."
The five-year agreement states that UT System has agreed to develop, perform, and be accountable for the peer review process of the Sandia Assurance System for Science, Technology, and Engineering.
The reviews will cover the effectiveness of the unclassified research for Sandia's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, the Research Foundations of the Nuclear Weapon Program, and research sponsored by DOE's Office of Science as well as Sandia-based science, technology, and engineering research sponsored by other agencies.
A newly designated UT System position on the Sandia Board of Directors will organize and lead technical reviews of Sandia's Science and Technology Foundations, working through a newly formed subcommittee of the Mission Committee of the Sandia board. This subcommittee will be made up of at least two Sandia board members and at least two advisors from universities, two from industry, and two from government agencies or other federal or national laboratories.
As part of this activity, the UT System will open an office at Sandia. The office will be staffed by Oct. 1.
Another key aspect of the MOU will add to ongoing Sandia/UT System activities by undertaking joint technical research projects and collaborations that take advantage of their complementary competencies in simulation engineering, high-energy-density physics, sustainable energy security for transportation, and in health security.
The MOU calls for Sandia and the UT System to use joint appointments so Sandia scientists can serve as staff for graduate programs at UT institutions and UT faculty, staff, and students can have long-term involvement in Sandia research programs. In addition, the UT System plans to have its professors provide both on-site and distance education courses to Sandia personnel.
The UT System has 15 campuses, including nine academic and six health institutions, and an annual operating budget of $8.5 billion. With more than 76,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in Texas. -- Michael Padilla