Test to Pass…. Or Test to Fail?

For the 20 years I’ve been involved with blast and ballistic protected vehicles, there has been much discussion as to the optimal level of testing that an uparmouring company should conduct when certifying and verifying their vehicles.

To start, let me say that testing should fundamentally be for the verification of the ballistic (and blast) protections qualities of the vehicle design. In this way, the tests will provide confidence to both the uparmourer and the users that the vehicle, built as it was designed and tested, will provide the occupants with the level of protection as is claimed. Now without stating the obvious, the tests also need to be carried by an independent agency using well established international standards.

But the question needs to be asked as to what is the optimal scope of these tests? Should the tests be confined to that scope that will enable to vehicle design to be “certified” simply to get a certificate that will assist in the selling of the vehicle? Or should the scope of the tests go further so that both the uparmourer and the users get a better understanding as to what it will take to “break” the vehicle? In other words, what amount of protection does the vehicle actually provide?

To be sure, this question will raise lots of comments by our readers. We all recognise that the threats faced in operations are simply not confined to those that are used as part of certification tests. Don’t forget that the bad guys want to hurt you and not just shoot at you with 3 rounds in a nice and neat 120cm triangle.

There certainly needs to be a specific test regime that will lead to certification (as long as the vehicle passed the said tests). If not, then there would not be any consistency across various tests and certificates issued by the various international agencies. That is obvious. However, I would argue that this then limits the users’ confidence as to the ability of a vehicle to protect against real operational threats. So, for example, is a ballistic test using 300 rounds sufficient to give users the required confidence? Maybe it should be 500 rounds… or 750 rounds? Of course, this will depend on the user’s threat appetite and the uparmourer’s desire to test their design to the limit.

In the end, when we put people’s lives in danger, is it not better to understand what it will take to “break” the vehicle, rather than just simply know that the vehicle design protected against the minimum number of rounds required to get the international certification?

There is no simple answer to this fundamental question. What is important is that every organisation that designs and builds, or strategically uses armoured vehicles, needs to have this discussion openly and honestly before they go and spend millions of dollars of this critical protection asset.

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