Subbu Venkatachalam, Head of Marketing, CUMI

By Subbu Venkatachalam

New Delhi. 14 August 2023. Throughout history, the science of materials has wielded considerable influence in the art of warfare, with breakthroughs in metal alloys, ceramics and polymers playing crucial roles in weaponry, armour, and vehicle evolution. From safeguarding soldiers with durable armour to propelling cutting-edge aircraft with advanced composites, material science stands as the driving force behind innovation, enabling heightened efficacy and sophistication in defence and aerospace strategies.


As conflicts assume multifaceted dimensions and adversaries employ intricate tactics, there is now a need for increasing investment in research on material sciences. Here is a look at how advancements in material sciences are revolutionizing the way we approach defence and aerospace technologies.

 Personal armour

Soldiers, especially those in combat zones, obviously rely heavily on personal protective gear/ personal armour (bulletproof vests and helmets) that is capable of withstanding the impact of high-velocity projectiles and other explosive devices. Today, an array of innovative substances, such as high-strength aramid fibres, ultra-fine silicon carbide, high purity alumina, sintered silicon carbide and zirconia toughened alumina, are used in personal armour, as they can disperse and absorb the energy emitted by projectiles and explosives.

This ground-breaking suite of solutions encompasses a broad spectrum of applications, ranging from ballistic helmets and shields to bulletproof vests. Each facet of this comprehensive range of ballistic solutions undergoes meticulous design to surpass international benchmarks, including the rigorous National Institute of Justice (NIJ) ‘Level IV’ standards. Whether manifested as single-curve or multi-curve plates, square or hexagonal tiles, or even cylindrical segments, the materials employed in crafting personal armours are intrinsically tailored for unwavering performance and uncompromising safety.

Vehicle armour

In the realm of vehicle armour, where weight holds critical significance, advanced composites have emerged as a transformative element. Modern solutions encompass hybrid composites meticulously tailored to fortify vehicle undercarriages against explosive blasts, provide ballistic shielding for floor and side panels, and deploy ceramic tiles to establish a comprehensive ballistic defence for vehicles. Whether stemming from intricate design or collaborative ingenuity, these advanced, high-performance lightweight ceramic materials are intrinsically designed to deliver unparalleled levels of protection, rendering armoured vehicles impervious to both ballistic threats and explosive forces.

The spectrum of ceramic products engineered for battle tanks encompasses an array of components, such as hatches, top deck covers, side plates and fuel tank covers. These versatile materials find application not only in conventional armoured vehicles but also align with the burgeoning trend of unmanned ground vehicles. The seamless integration of innovative materials into the structure of vehicle armour significantly boosts the agility and resilience of defence troops in the ever-changing arena of combat.

Unmanned aerial vehicles

The proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has brought about a transformative shift in modern warfare, delivering vital capabilities for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. The effectiveness of these unmanned platforms relies heavily on their agility and airborne manoeuvrability. Among the paramount materials in crafting UAV airframes, carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) has risen to prominence, attributed to its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio.

Through the strategic integration of CFRP into UAV construction, defence forces can unlock unparalleled flight performance and significantly extend operational range. The lightweight composition of CFRP translates into reduced power consumption and augmented payload capacity, empowering UAVs to accommodate advanced sensor arrays and communication systems, thereby enhancing situational awareness and data transmission capabilities. Moreover, CFRP boasts impressive resistance to both corrosion and fatigue, thus ensuring the longevity of UAV airframes, even in demanding environmental conditions. Furthermore, the non-magnetic attributes of CFRP position it as an optimal choice for stealth-oriented applications, reducing radar signatures and bolstering evasion capabilities. This material’s inherent flexibility enables the creation of intricate and streamlined UAV structures, amplifying overall performance and minimizing aerodynamic drag, leading to heightened fuel efficiency and extended mission endurance. 


Missiles are central to contemporary defence strategies, delivering precision and devastation to enemy targets. The incorporation of advanced ceramics, such as silicon carbide and alumina, has notably enhanced missile effectiveness, enabling efficient penetration of fortified objectives. These ceramics possess exceptional hardness, allowing warheads to effectively neutralize armoured adversaries with precision.

Ceramic radomes are an essential component of missiles and are designed to protect the antenna and associated electronics from the surrounding environment and elements. Ceramic is considered an ideal radome material given its ability to withstand extremely high temperatures.

Ceramic innovation extends beyond missiles, finding applications in diverse sectors. Structural ceramics contribute to vital missile components, while metallized ceramics enhance triggered spark gaps within missile systems. The lightweight nature of ceramics bolsters payload capacity without compromising range or accuracy, fostering versatile and potent missiles for varied mission profiles, from anti-tank warfare to air defence. As ceramics redefine modern warfare, their unparalleled properties drive advancements across defence and aerospace sectors, reimagining strategic possibilities.


The intricate synergy between material sciences and modern warfare has surely ushered in a new era of defence and aerospace capabilities. The evolution of innovative substances has reshaped the landscape of modern warfare. As we stand at the crossroads of innovation, the boundless potential of material sciences continues to chart the course of modern warfare, forging a future where defence and aerospace technologies stand ready to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving global landscape.

(Subbu Venkatachalam, Head of Marketing, CUMI, Carborundum Universal Limited (CUMI), which is a part of the 120-year-old Murugappa Group. CUMI is listed on the National and Bombay Stock Exchanges and is a leading materials science solutions company that produces Abrasives, Industrial Ceramics, and Electro Minerals. The views in this write upvare the author’s solely. He can be contacted at