How Innovative Materials Can Bolster Defence Capabilities

Subbu Venkatachalam
04 Oct 2023
08:30 AM
4 Min Read

For unmanned aerial vehicles, carbon fibre-reinforced polymers provide the agility and range necessary for successful reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

Advanced Materials in unmanned aerial vehicles

Ensuring the safety and effectiveness of our soldiers on the front lines demands equipping them with the finest materials. In the modern defence landscape, materials play a critical role in providing protection for soldiers, defence equipment, and machines. From advanced ceramics and ballistics solutions in personal and vehicle armour to carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) in lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ceramics in missiles, innovative materials play a key role in building strength and resilience in defence equipment.

Advanced Materials 

The protection of soldiers in combat zones heavily relies on advanced materials that can withstand the impact of high-velocity projectiles and explosive devices. Personal armour, such as bulletproof vests and helmets, employs a range of innovative materials, including high-strength aramid fibres, ultra-fine silicon carbide, high-purity alumina, sintered silicon carbide, zirconia toughened alumina. These materials work in tandem to disperse and absorb the energy from incoming threats, ensuring that the soldier remains unharmed.

The ultra-fine silicon carbide is characterised by its sub-micron powders, exceptional chemical purity, and controlled specific surface area. This ultra-fine silicon carbide powder serves as a vital ingredient in advanced ballistic solutions that have been engineered with precision, marking a departure from conventional bulky and heavy metal armours. 

These ground-breaking solutions encompass a wide spectrum of applications, ranging from ballistic helmets and shields to bulletproof vests. The entire range of ballistic solutions is now being meticulously designed to meet and exceed international standards, such as the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 'Level IV,' ensuring robust protection against modern threats. Whether in the form of single curve or multi-curve plates, square or hexagonal tiles, or even cylindrical segments, materials used for personal armours are engineered for uncompromising performance and safety. 

In vehicle armour, advanced composites have emerged as a game-changer. Cutting-edge solutions encompass hybrid composites tailored for safeguarding vehicle undercarriages against blasts, providing ballistic protection to floor and side panels, and deploying ceramic tiles for comprehensive vehicular ballistic defence. 

Whether through meticulous design or collaborative creation, the advanced, high-performance, lightweight ceramic materials are purpose-built to deliver the utmost ballistic and blast-proof protection for armoured vehicles. The ceramic product spectrum for battle tanks spans hatches, top deck covers, side plates, and fuel tank covers. These materials can be applied in conventional armoured vehicles and the emerging trend of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). By incorporating innovative materials into vehicle armour, we can enhance the mobility and survivability of our troops in the field.

Carbon Fibre-reinforced Polymers In UAVs

The proliferation of UAVs has revolutionised modern warfare, providing critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The success of these unmanned platforms hinges on their ability to remain agile and manoeuvrable in the air. CFRP has emerged as a key material in the construction of UAV airframes due to its outstanding strength-to-weight ratio.

Defence forces can achieve unparalleled flight performance and extended operational range by utilising CFRP in UAVs. The lightweight nature of the material reduces power consumption and increases payload capacity, enabling UAVs to carry advanced sensor systems and communication equipment for improved situational awareness and data transmission.

CFRP also offers excellent corrosion and fatigue resistance, ensuring UAV airframes' longevity, even in harsh environmental conditions. Additionally, its non-magnetic properties make it an ideal choice for stealth applications, as it reduces the platform's radar signature and enhances its ability to evade detection.

CFRP can be easily moulded into complex shapes, allowing for the design of aerodynamic and streamlined UAV airframes. This characteristic not only enhances the platform's performance but also reduces aerodynamic drag, leading to greater fuel efficiency and extended mission endurance.

Ceramics For Missiles 

Missiles are pivotal in modern defence strategies, capable of delivering precise and devastating strikes on enemy targets. Using ceramics in missile construction has significantly improved lethality and payload capacity. Advanced ceramics like silicon carbide and alumina offer superior hardness, allowing missile warheads to penetrate hardened targets efficiently.

Meanwhile, structural ceramics are employed in crucial missile components like radomes, along with metallised ceramics playing a pivotal role in triggered spark gaps. Spare parts, including ceramic fasteners, contribute to missile systems' intricate yet robust assembly. 

Ceramic radomes are regarded as an essential, state-of-the-art technology for missiles. Radomes are structures/enclosures designed to protect antenna and associated electronics from the surrounding environment and elements. Since missiles undergo extremely high surface temperatures while travelling through the atmosphere, ceramic is considered an ideal radome material due to its ability to withstand extremely high temperatures.

Ceramic materials also possess exceptional properties, including high strength and hardness. These characteristics make ceramics ideal for missile warheads, where the ability to pierce through armoured targets is crucial. Using ceramics enhances the missile's effectiveness and ensures that even heavily fortified enemy positions can be precisely neutralised.

Moreover, the lightweight nature of ceramics enables missile designers to increase the payload capacity without sacrificing range or accuracy. This advancement has given rise to versatile and highly effective missiles that can be utilised for various mission profiles, from anti-tank warfare to air defence.


Innovation in materials is the backbone of defence equipment's safety, protection, and performance. Our soldiers' ability to protect us effectively on the battlefield hinges on the superior armour and personal protective equipment crafted from advanced ceramics and other innovative, cutting-edge materials. For unmanned aerial vehicles, carbon fibre-reinforced polymers provide the agility and range necessary for successful reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The strategic use of ceramics in missile construction has led to effective and versatile weapon systems, ensuring defence capabilities remain cutting-edge and adaptable to emerging threats. 

Pursuing material advancements is the foundation for building a secure and resilient defence apparatus to protect our soldiers and nation. Through constant innovation in materials, we can confidently face future challenges and maintain our position at the forefront of modern defence technology.

Subbu Venkatachalam, Head of Marketing, Carborundum Universal Limited. Views expressed are personal.

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L&T, DRDO Showcase Unmanned Ground Vehicle

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