Annex E. International Armaments Strategy
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)

2. High Density Tungsten Carbide Ceramics (France)

Description: With increasing battlefield threat performance, current and future combat vehicles will require armor technologies which obtain maximum protection within compact structures and armor. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently initiated development of a new class of high density ceramics, defined as any ceramic whose density is greater than steel (7.85 gm/cc); these ceramics inherently offer high space effectiveness.

ARL research has centered on examining high purity tungsten carbide (WC) ceramics with a density of 15.5 gm/cc. This material is not a metal/ceramic cermet, but a 99.5 percent pure ceramic which can be processed as a conventional hot-pressed ceramic. The research strives to eliminate the traditional liquid metal sintering aids as found in conventional cermets. Ballistic testing of initially developed WC ceramics have provided space efficiencies nearly threefold (as compared to steel).

Justification: While conventional ballistic ceramics offer excellent protection against conventional small arms threats, these low density materials suffer damage accumulation effects and reduced space effectiveness as the impact threat increases, particularly against modern, high density eroding rod penetrators. Ballistic uses of this technology include any compact armor applications such as hatches, roofs, front glacis, or turret/hull side armor.

During a recent exchange France provided their initial data on a concurrent development of high density ceramics which centered on low metal binder content tungsten carbide cermets. A near term objective is to accelerate the optimization of these high density ceramics for ballistic application.

Implementation: A cooperative program has been proposed and drafted as a Project Agreement (PA) to the U.S./France Memorandum of Understanding on Technology Research and Development Projects. The cooperative effort has also been proposed as a Nunn program.


Dr. Rodney Smith
Army Materiel Command
5001 Eisenhower Blvd
Alexandria, VA 22333-0001
e-mail: [email protected]


Mr. Stephen Cohn
Army Research Laboratory
2800 Powder Mill Road
Adelphi, MD 20783-1197
e-mail: [email protected]