TenCate Advanced Armor sets survivability benchmark for 2017




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Defence IQ was recently granted time with TenCate Advanced Armor, one of the world’s market-leaders in the application of technologies and materials to provide protection for both equipment and personnel. The company’s work extends through the complete process of design, certification, manufacture, and quality testing of ballistic protection solutions in accordance with strict regulations and industry standards. This includes platforms across land, naval and air services. 

Having already been working alongside major Middle Eastern and African defence businesses – including NIMR, Al Taif, Denel and FNSS – TenCate is preparing to exhibit new solutions in its vehicle range at the IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February. It is clear that the company is making new tracks to nurture dialogue not just with industry, but with land force personnel from the MENA states – particularly the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.

We spoke with Yohann Barnaud, Business Manager for Vehicle Protection (S&E Europe & Middle East), to find out why exactly connecting with the end-user is so important and the benefits TenCate is offering to this specific region, given the urgent and specific demands arising from Middle Eastern states as they face high-intensity conflicts and an expanding spectrum of threats…

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Defence IQ:   What key products is TenCate Advanced Armour offering to the military vehicle market for 2017 and beyond, and what makes these unique? 

Yohann Barnaud:   In the MENA region we are definitely looking at an area that is increasingly conscious about the survivability of vehicles, with special attention paid to mine threats, kinetic energy (KE), and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). From our perspective that means that our systems – such as TenCate ABDS and STANAG lv. 5 add-on armour solutions – should become more and more relevant given the political situation for a number of states in the MENA region. Especially for the states bordering Syria and the states involved in the conflict in Yemen, the prospect of conventional threats are increased, and that is something that we can react to by supplying them with high quality survivability systems. 

What sets our survivability systems apart from our competitors in the market is the holistic approach we take to survivability. We can supply individual components if that is what our customers are requesting, but we prefer to supply full systems to vehicles that allow the survivability system to operate at a level greater than the sum of its parts. For us to be able to supply that service to our customers, it is necessary for us to be a partner in the design phase to ensure that our solutions are incorporated in the full land system, and that each part of the system is complementary to the remaining parts.  

Take for example our spall liners which are, in our opinion, the best on the market: we employ the spall liners to be complementary to the system which means that they are integral parts of that specific survivability system. That allows the OEM to scale down other integral parts that are usually far heavier. The end-result is increased protection for the crew and passengers, and more nimble and mobile vehicles with lower life cycle costs. 

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We of course also provide the TenCate ABDS system which is a great leap in soldier survivability because we can provide protection for the crew against IED and mine threats that were definite killers in the past. What is interesting about the system is that it is dependent on the remaining systems we integrate in the vehicle. That means by preparing the vehicle for a TenCate ABDS system, OEMs will actually also prepare the vehicle for the whole survivability system portfolio we offer, and – with very few upgrades – the vehicle’s survivability retains STANAG lv. 5 protection.  

What is relevant is that there is a very intensive process in ensuring that the vehicle is operable with all these additions, which customers are often unable to assess independently or will need to assess with an independent test institute. We have the expertise in survivability solutions in-house and we are very happy to support our customers with that, including the provision of vulnerability analyses for the vehicle and managing the whole process of up-armouring a vehicle. The ability to perform as a survivability partner and the extensive portfolio of survivability systems we carry makes our offering unique.  

DIQ:   You of course have a substantial history and experience in the defence sector – taking into account your portfolios across land, sea and air. How does this feed into your work in the military vehicle arena, specifically? What do you offer that competitors may struggle to provide? 

YB:   One of the things that really sets us and our competitors apart is the fact that we are a survivability-focused company. We provide survivability systems and nothing more. A lot of our competitors are not only survivability companies, they are often subsidiaries of larger vehicle OEMs. That is relatively important because it basically means that an OEM can never be sure that their survivability solutions are the best available. The OEMs that hold survivability companies simply have very strong incentives to keep a card up their sleeve for their own main business: the vehicles they supply. We are not subject to the same limitations because we stand alone as an independent company and we don’t have the same incentives because the survivability solutions that we provide are only valuable when they are integrated on the OEMs’ vehicles. That puts us in a better position to develop the trust and intimacy between companies that is necessary to engage in a partnership. 

What also differentiates us from other companies is our aerospace unit. Aircraft survivability is a completely different business than vehicle survivability but that does not mean that concepts that work in the aerospace business cannot be adopted in vehicle survivability. The requirements for aircraft survivability systems are often very light weight and very resistant to environmental threats. With the transformation in the vehicle industry in the last ten years, the lessons we learned in the aerospace industry has really enabled us to supply survivability systems that are on the front edge of development in terms of capability-to-weight ratios. In particular, our ceramic survivability systems are lighter than the systems our competitors offer, which provides us with a definite edge. But again, it is only because of our holistic approach to survivability that we can take survivability concepts from one realm and transfer them into another – but that is also very important because it allows us to contemplate what the next conceptual steps in the evolution of survivability could be. 

DIQ:   So how do you ensure partnerships with platform and system manufacturers run smoothly? Is there a ‘secret’ to your success…? 

YB:   I think that a lot of our costumers work with us because we see ourselves as partners and not as suppliers, because from our perspective those are two completely different entities. Suppliers hand you the specified product and the transaction is done. We are not very interested in those kind of relationships. We prefer to be a partner, meaning that we can function as consultant and as a responsible part of any project. We know that long lasting partnerships are more valuable for us and for our customers, although it can sometimes mean that we will have to do things twice or respond to urgent inquires when the office should have been shut. But that’s part of what it means to take responsibility for extensive projects such as vehicle projects and being a partner that can undertake the whole process of developing and integrating survivability solutions.

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There is of course more to it than simply being a responsible partner. We also invest a lot of resources into the development and product portfolios that will enable us to position us as partners. Before we become partners to Middle Eastern companies it’s necessary to have the right survivability systems pre-qualified and to show that we’re able and in the process of developing these systems to the next level. From our perspective, it is quite understandable that they set up these requirements for their partners because a real survivability provider should be ahead of the OEM in understanding survivability and the way that new weapons will affect the modern battlefield. If the partner stops doing this, he will remain a component supplier that just delivers on part in an intricate network of solutions. 

DIQ:   Generally speaking, what has the company considered to be the most interesting or revealing demands being requested by military vehicle operators today? And in what ways do your products enhance operational effectiveness on the front line? 

YB:   Vehicle OEMs are increasingly aware that survivability is significantly more complex than it used to be. Today, it isn’t sufficient to simply put on some add-on armour or design a v-shaped belly – there is a lot more to it. Also, the developments in asymmetric warfare we’ve seen in the last decade have increasingly affected operational tactics. The line between conventional warfare and asymmetrical warfare has blurred and that means that vehicles must be adapted to accommodate this new hybrid environment. For survivability system providers, it means that the systems must be able to withstand and defeat a wide array of threats that were typically avoided by either using adapted tactics or because the threat wouldn’t be expected in the conflict. When the vehicles are protected to withstand more threats, the weight of the survivability systems increase. That is not in the interest of the OEMs as it increases costs for the end-users and decreases the operability of the vehicle. 

The effect of this change is that OEMs inquire for systems that are able protect against a wide array of threats, preferring to deal with one partner that functions as an all-in-one survivability specialist. 

Tencate Advanced Armour’s ability to supply a large range of lightweight protection and survivability solutions, adapted to answer full OEMs or end-user requirements, is key for OEMs. From the design phase to the delivery of the solutions, we will support the vehicle’s complete design, taking into account the vehicle hull structure, mine protection system and add-on armour solutions in a global perspective, with the objective to develop a complete concept that allows us to achieve the most efficient weight for a vehicle that will fulfil the complete requirement. In other words, as a global partner, Tencate Advanced Armour is more than able to support OEMs and end-users to deliver complete solution package for their specific needs. 

DIQ:   TenCate will be visiting the IDEX in February to meet the leading companies in the ME. What do you see as the real benefit in meeting partners and customers in a face-to-face setting? 

YB:   Generally we see two big advantages to meeting people face-to-face at these various defence shows around the world. Firstly, there are the delegations at the shows which walk around and visit companies that are contributing or partnering on projects. They are there for largely political reasons but it is important to reciprocate the gesture showed by ensuring that they receive the right and relevant service. The other aspect is of course that the delegations often include senior officers that have influence over the organisations and the companies that supply material for the armed forces.  

Secondly, the shows provide an excellent opportunity to meet with people outside a formal setting. For us, that’s very important because it provides us with a chance to explain how our concepts work and generally offer a more open space for the development of new ideas. These shows are extremely relevant in this process – there’s only so much that can be said in marketing material, whereas the face-to-face setting allows sales people to establish concise information that we can provide before we enter into a formal partnership. 

DIQ:   Best of luck!

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Interested in learning more about these solutions? Visit the TenCate Advanced Armor website today.

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