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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War

VI After The Joint Project
i Change at Salsbury and Woomera
ii An Australian Empire
iii Multi-National Collaboration
iv Re-Organisation
v Applied Research in the 70s and 80s
vi Armour
vii Organic Materials
viii Aeronautics
ix Surveillance, Detection and Information

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Metallurgical research at MRL covered a number of fields. One topic which received particular attention was the investigation of armour and penetrating projectiles. The roots of the work lay in studies at the Alexandria, NSW, branch of the laboratories by L. E. Samuels and T. Mulhearne of the deformation associated with conventional hardness testing. They were concerned to relate hardness to strength, and studied localized deformation of the metal in what is now known as adiabatic shear. (Adiabatic shear is an instability where the rate of thermal softening exceeds the rate of work hardening associated with the deformation.)

On transfer of the work to the Maribyrnong laboratories, it was extended to higher deformation rates and the unconventional materials likely to be used in armour or projectiles. Because of the wide range of materials to be studied, and the great computing power required, the work was closely integrated with the other member countries of the TTCP. While the larger members of TTCP had interest in developing such things as main battle tanks, Australia's interest in these was limited to that of 'intelligent purchase'. Nevertheless, there were topics of common or even particularly Australian interests.

Some of these were generated by the nature of the war in Vietnam, where close combat required particular attention to the armour of light vehicles and personnel and the superstructure of ships, bridges and the like. The research studies the basic mechanisms of deformation, penetration, and spalling. Much work was done in background research for PROJECT WALER which was to have been a locally produced replacement for the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) M113. Unfortunately the project was shelved in 1985 on grounds of cost. The R & D on the armour was, however, not wasted, as it was applied to the M113 to extend its operational life -possibly to the year 2000.

The work on penetration mechanics,[63] led by M. E. de Morton and R. L. Woodward included laminates of metals and non-metals, reactive armour and spaced armour. As well as metallurgical relationships, studies were also made of the importance of geometry, aspect ratio, density and velocity of projectiles. One significant outcome was facilitation of the production of an Australian made tungsten penetrator for the Royal Australian Navy's Phalanx high-rate-of-fire anti missile gun.

Fragmentation studies received a stimulus after the war in Vietnam with the realization that so much greater lethality could be obtained by using new casings for shells and mortar bombs. 'Western' ammunition was highly inefficient because of the large 'overkill' near the point of burst. Research led by I. R. Lamborn gave a better understanding of the mechanisms of natural fragmentation and thereby improved the performance of a wide range of high explosive shell and mortars.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australia. Department of Defence; Material Research Laboratories; Project Waler; Technical Co-operation Program (T.T.C.P.)

People in Bright Sparcs - de Morton, M. E.; Lamborn, I. R.; Mulhearne, T.; Samuels, L. E.; Woodward, R. L.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 956 - 957, Online Edition 2000
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