NRL Scientists Recognized for Development of Extremity Body Armor

2/6/2006 - 6-06r
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Dr. Graham Hubler and Dr. Peter Matic, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), received Navy Superior Civilian Service Awards for their role in the development of extremity body armor that protects warfighters from improvised explosive devices. The award was presented in a ceremony held at NRL on January 27.

Drs. Hubler and Matic are specifically cited for:
Rapid and exceptional performance in developing body armor specifically designed to reduce the warfighter's arm and leg damage from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The extremity body armor incorporates new protective materials and new designs which where determined after exhaustive trade-off studies balancing vulnerability to injury and amputation against human factors such as weight, flexibility, comfort and appearance. These efforts required establishing many new contacts and much learning from the medical community, the ballistic testing community, and from the warfighters themselves. Such a rapid transition from laboratory to Marine Corps and Army use is a tremendous credit to NRL and to the dedication and leadership of Drs. Matic and Hubler.

Drs. Hubler and Matic began their development of this "extremity protective" body armor by assessing IED threats and the medical impact of these blast devices. The challenge was to design soldier protective wear specifically to reduce the number of amputees and extremity impairments on warfighters returning from Iraq. They consulted ballistics experts, members of the medical community, and the warfighters themselves to formulate a strategy to protect against IEDs. As a result of these meetings, a team was formed consisting of NRL, Army Research Laboratory, FS Technology LLC, and Oklahoma State University. This team has performed all the tasks associated with the QuadGard armor development. Beyond the research team, Drs. Matic and Hubler consulted clinical personnel at National Naval Medical Center, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Naval Medical Center-Portsmouth and other organizations in the military medical community on an ongoing basis.

The research team produced five concept prototypes in the first 30 days of the program to evaluate basic concepts for flexibility. They evaluated ten different combinations of ballistic materials before choosing the materials system from which to build the armor. Then 90 days later, the team completed 20 phase II prototypes with an improved design. The design protects 85% of the surface areas of the arms and legs while being lightweight, flexible, and compatible with weapons and other equipment. The design includes passive ventilation features to help thermal management in the desert climates. Twenty phase III prototypes were completed eight months after the program started. Throughout these three development cycles the prototypes were provided to Marine, Navy and Army units for evaluation and feedback.

As a result of the phase III design, the Marine Corps Systems Command funded additional specific features, testing and evaluation in a QuadGard IV design, along with modular coverage and ballistic protection options in a QuadGard V system design. Independent analysis of the systems suggests that it will reduce fatalities by 10% and serious injuries by 30-40%. QuadGard was in the process of obtaining safety releases and final ballistic certification for operational use in July 2005, when the MCSC received an urgent Universal Needs Statement directly from commanders in Iraq that requested extremity protection for 50-caliber turret gunners. Four thousand five hundred (4,500) units were delivered to the Marine Corps in Iraq between October 2005 and January 2006. Another 300 units were delivered to the Rapid Equipping Force in December 2005 for deployment to Iraq in support of the Joint IED Defeat Task Force efforts, and the Navy Seabees read about QuadGard and ordered 100 units for operations in Iraq, which are being delivered in January 2006.

Drs. Matic and Hubler both work in NRL's Materials Science and Technology Division as branch heads.

Dr. Matic came to work at NRL in 1985. He was promoted to a section head in 1992, and then to a branch head in the Multifunctional Materials Branch in 2000. He also serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

Dr. Matic received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. degree in applied mechanics from Lehigh University. He received a NRL Alan Berman Research Publication Award in 1989; the American Society of Naval Engineers, Jimmie Hamilton Award for Best Paper in 1989; an NRL Technology Transfer Royalty Award for Innovation in 2003; an NRL Review Publication Award in 2004; and an NRL Special Act Award in 2004. His publications include 41 journal articles, 39 proceedings articles, and three reports. He holds three patents. Dr. Matic is a member of Sigma Xi.

Dr. Hubler came to work at NRL as an NRC Post-Doctoral Fellow in 1972. He became an NRL employee in 1975. In 1982, he was promoted to section head and in 1994, he became head of the Surface Modification Branch. In 2004 he became head of the Material & Sensors Branch, the position he holds today.

Dr. Hubler received his B.S. degree in physics from Union College and his Ph.D. in physics from Rutgers University. He held an NRC-NRL Post-Doctoral Fellowship from 1972 to 1974. Dr. Hubler received NRL Publication Awards in 1980, 1980, 1991, and 1994; an NRL Invention Award in 1983, 1988, 1989, 1991, and 1992; an NRL 75th Anniversary Tech Transfer Award in 1998; a Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1999; an NRL Technology Transfer Award in 1994, and 2000; and an NRL Special Act Award in 2004. His publications include 82 journal articles, 47 proceedings articles, and 20 reports. He has edited four books and written three book chapters. He holds six patents.

Dr. Hubler is a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, Materials Research Society, and the Böhmische Physical Society.

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