With 2016 coming to an end, TenCate Advanced Armour can look back at a prosperous year, with a lot of productive hours spent with our customers, providing the best survivability systems to end-users.
With the turn of the year we also remind ourselves that new possibilities and new projects are already in the pipeline. We will work harder and more dedicated to provide survivability to those that really need it in their job.
Happy new year to all of our readers, business partners, and end-users from the TenCate Advanced Armour team.
Enforce Tac, International Exhibition & Conference Law Enforcement, Security and Tactical Solutions, will already be celebrating its 6th anniversary. The latest in LE equipment for 360° security is again being presented by the special fair, from 1- 2 March, at the exhibition centre in Nuremberg, Germany.
The hard job of security experts from the police, judiciary, border protection, customs, military police and armed forces demands the latest security equipment and arrest, interception and overpowering techniques to ensure the best possible protection of operational forces against fatal injuries. Besides guns, ballistic accessories, optronics and tactical equipment, the exhibitors at Enforce Tac therefore present operational clothing such as bullet-proof vests, stab-proof vests, body protection, face protection, shields and helmets.
TenCate Advanced Armour provides lifesaving ballistic shields for the world's leading operators. The shields are extremely lightweight and maneuvrable thanks to expert engineering, complies to or exceeds ballistic standards, and can accommodate a wide range of auxillary equipment such as lights, D/N/IR cameras, periscops, harnesses, and much more.
Having already been working alongside major Middle Eastern and African defence businesses, TenCate is preparing to extend its partnerships in the Middle East region. 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.
What key products is TenCate Advanced Armour offering to the military vehicle market for 2017 and beyond, and what makes these unique?
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.
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.
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?
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 e.g. vehicle survivability but that does not mean that concepts that work in the aerospace sector cannot be conceptually adopted into vehicle survivability systems. The requirements for aircraft survivability systems are often entail very lightweight and very resistant to environmental threats. With the transformation in the vehicle industry in the last ten years, the lessons we have 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 sector 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.
So how do you ensure partnerships with platform and system manufacturers run smoothly? Is there a ‘secret’ to your success?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Riots are becoming increasingly violent and difficult to predict. Often, police officers are caught among the crowd, trying to evade the chaos and can fall victim to assaults from a variety of improvised weapons, from clubs, to full-size bricks and Molotov cocktails.
In their patrol uniforms and unprotected vehicles, the improvised weapons can have a lethal effect. The operability of police cars is greatly diminished when windscreens are smashed or tires are slashed. Even worse, Molotov cocktails can turn vehicles into death traps in a matter of seconds.
However, with the advances in material technology many of these threats can be decreased by employing innovative new solutions that does not compromise the external appearance of the patrol car. Special glass solutions can make the windshield resilient against hammers, clubs, and even full-size bricks. Run flat tires can provide the police car with an extra chance of exiting the situation before it escalates. Lastly, special coatings can employed that increase vehicles' ability to withstand heat and ensure that the cabin temperature never will rise to a harmful level.
The world is a dangerous place for the unprepared. At TenCate Advanced Armour, we are dedicated to decreasing that threat for everyone operating in hazardous environments.
TenCate Advanced Armour France had the pleasure to receive the French prime minister, Mr Cazeneuve, in his former role as minister of the Interior, for a complete tour of the facility and a presentation regarding the market sectors aircraft survivability systems, personal protection and vehicle survivability systems.
The minister, accompanied by several other senior government officials gave a very clear speech in both French and in English to our employees openly discussing the French market developments and intentions for the government to increase defense spending. Paying particular attention to the extensive range of the Personal Protection products he advised the local team to expect to be very busy in the coming years and gracefully thanked the local team and commended them on their contribution.
The minister paid particular attention to engage with all of the facilities employees and the visit has been very well received by all of our employees.
During the last 18 months, TenCate Advanced Armour in Primarette (France) has been actively adjusting and upgrading its production capacity. The attention of the production team, the director Aerospace Global and the project managers has been focused on developing a series of non-defence-related products for a supplier to Airbus – a tier one player that supplies systems directly to the aircraft builder. In this case, the aircraft concerned is the Airbus A350.
One of the requirements was the production of complex non-ballistic components in composite systems with metallic assembly points for application in aircraft galleys. The galleys are those areas where flight crews prepare the food and drinks for the passengers. Often these galleys are already equipped with ballistic protection from TenCate Advanced Armour and positive experience in this respect led the customer to invite the company to participate in the non-ballistic business as well. The new products are based on fibreglass fabric with metallic and rubber assembly points. This is a completely new product range for TenCate Advanced Armour.
Expansion in production capacity necessitated investment in tri-axial CNC (computer numerical
control) machining capability for tooling (mould building). The actual products are manufactured on a new five-axis CNC router for composite profiling, which came from the production facility of the Advanced Armour group in England. With regards to the tooling, the French collaborate with TenCate Advanced Composites UK, a specialist in this field.
According to Derek Sherwin, managing director of TenCate Advanced Armour France, this is ‘a new and exciting challenge from both a design and a manufacturing perspective. Never before have we had such equipment.’ This base technology of materials preparation was also new to project manager Mathieu Vilaltella. ‘The application of CNC machining to produce complex moulds and final products with high-quality finishing offers a further exciting opportunity.’
TenCate Advanced Armour in Primarette manufactures composite materials for vehicle
and personal protection. Since November 2011, the company has also had the production capacity for armour in aircraft, and the design, development, qualification, production and support for aircraft protection have been integrated. The development of gamma nonballistic products is in line with the strategic direction of the Advanced Armour group as set out by Jean Beugels, director Aerospace Global. ‘Jean has been developing the aircraft market for ballistic protection solutions and we now have many of the key aircraft customers. He wanted to develop non-defence business activities for the civil aviation market, which is why he approached the customer to look at solutions for this market. It gives us a broader basis. The non-defence-related market is important – for example, we are also going to develop more components for the automotive industry. Supported by the development of our painting and finishing operations over the past years, this is a step forward in process capability that has enabled a new range of products with extensive variants in terms of products for the portfolio for the aircraft market.’
The next challenge facing the team in Primarette is to match the increasing demand from the existing customer base and use the new technology for other applications, such as add-on armour solutions and non-defence-related product offerings. ‘Once we have established serial production for all the customer products, the next stage will be to look at other plastic and composite parts that we can produce for the customer. Our customers are highly positive as far as our quality, organisation and delivery reliability are concerned.’
Currently TenCate Advanced Armour in France serves three market segments: aircraft, vehicle and personal protection. ‘With this expansion in capacity and the development of a new series of products, we are able to meet greater demand,’ continues Derek Sherwin. ‘This applies to our vehicle capability as much as anything, and more aircraft applications are also possible. This CNC capability has added a more technical approach to our range and also enables us to be a one-stop shop for customers as we broaden our capability. Moreover, we are now gaining additional expertise in structural armour.’
TenCate Advanced Armour provides groundbreaking and innovative survivability systems for aircraft systems. By employing state-of-the-art technology to the finest materials, TenCate Advanced Armour can provide the world's leading survivability solutions for aircraft systems