The influence of personal protection equipment, occupant body size, and restraint system on the frontal impact responses of Hybrid III ATDs in tactical vehicles

Objective: Although advanced restraint systems, such as seat belt pretensioners and load limiters, can provide improved occupant protection in crashes, such technologies are currently not utilized in military vehicles. The design and use of military vehicles presents unique challenges to occupant safety—including differences in compartment geometry and occupant clothing and gear—that make direct application of optimal civilian restraint systems to military vehicles inappropriate. For military vehicle environments, finite element (FE) modeling can be used to assess various configurations of restraint systems and determine the optimal configuration that minimizes injury risk to the occupant. The models must, however, be validated against physical tests before implementation. The objective of this study was therefore to provide the data necessary for FE model validation by conducting sled tests using anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs). A secondary objective of this test series was to examine the influence of occupant body size (5th percentile female, 50th percentile male, and 95th percentile male), military gear (helmet/vest/tactical assault panels), seat belt type (3-point and 5-point), and advanced seat belt technologies (pretensioner and load limiter) on occupant kinematics and injury risk in frontal crashes.

Methods: In total, 20 frontal sled tests were conducted using a custom sled buck that was reconfigurable to represent both the driver and passenger compartments of a light tactical military vehicle. Tests were performed at a delta-V of 30 mph and a peak acceleration of 25 g. The sled tests used the Hybrid III 5th percentile female, 50th percentile male, and 95th percentile male ATDs outfitted with standard combat boots and advanced combat helmets. In some tests, the ATDs were outfitted with additional military gear, which included an improved outer tactical vest (IOTV), IOTV and squad automatic weapon (SAW) gunner with a tactical assault panel (TAP), or IOTV and rifleman with TAP. ATD kinematics and injury outcomes were determined for each test.

Results: Maximum excursions were generally greater in the 95th percentile male compared to the 50th percentile male ATD and in ATDs wearing TAP compared to ATDs without TAP. Pretensioners and load limiters were effective in decreasing excursions and injury measures, even when the ATD was outfitted in military gear.

Conclusions: ATD injury response and kinematics are influenced by the size of the ATD, military gear, and restraint system. This study has provided important data for validating FE models of military occupants, which can be used for design optimization of military vehicle restraint systems.