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Get connected: advanced cooling systems for military vehicles

06 May 2015

With help from Stäubli quick release connectors, NAR Group, a manufacturer of automotive radiators for vintage, classic and modern sports cars, has now successfully applied its skills to the challenging demands of the defence sector.

A NAR cooling group showing the St?ubli connectors in situ

NAR is a Tier 1 supplier to Aston Martin - having more than 70 percent of the latter's radiator and oil cooler production - as well as being key suppliers to Jaguar Land Rover and many other well-known marques.

For over 47 years NAR have been widely recognised as a specialist manufacturer and repairer of radiators; if you need a replacement for your E-type Jaguar or Aston Martin DB4 this is the place to go. The company will provide a radiator that looks exactly the same as the original, but its innovative internal structure and design usually provides a better performance than that of the original.

The improvements in radiator performance result from the deep understanding of cooling systems that NAR has built up over many years. Combining this with its manufacturing expertise in forming and welding aluminium, the company is able to produce a radiator not only superior in performance, but also a fraction of the weight of traditional copper and brass designs. The operational advantages of these high performance radiators have now been recognised by the defence sector.

The Scorpion CVRT, a light weight tracked reconnaissance class of vehicle deployed in the hot and hostile environment of the Middle East had been experiencing overheating issues following the retrofit of heavy armour, when NAR was called upon to provide replacement radiators. These not only performed better than the originals but were also lighter in weight. Another issue with these vehicles’ cooling systems was their maintainability.

To answer this, Stäubli quick release air-conditioning connectors were specified for the condenser attached to the radiator. This allows the complete condenser and radiator group to be quickly removed from the vehicle and replaced without any need to de-pressurise, vacuum and recharge the refrigerant in the system. An operation that would normally take 2½ hours was reduced to just 30mins.

Reliability was considerably improved too, by eliminating the mechanical stresses on the condenser connection pipes which had been fracturing due to bending on removal and refitting of the condenser. The substantial reduction in maintenance time afforded by the use of connectors meant an improvement in vehicle availability and decreased exposure of maintenance engineers to dangers arising from the vehicles’ deployment in combat zones.

Following its success with Scorpion, NAR turned its attention to the Panther class; a highly modified IVECO light multirole wheeled vehicle. Overheating problems were being experienced, particularly in convoy situations, and the radiators were clogging as a result of exposure to the fine dust of the Afghan desert.

NAR’s response was to analyse the complete cooling group on the vehicle – water radiator, oil cooler and air-conditioning condenser. The internal air flow characteristics were modified by designing a louvre core to prevent the clogging effect of the fine sand. All the cooling elements were brought together into one compact cooling group and Stäubli connectors were again chosen for this new arrangement. By installing clean break connectors, the removal and refit of the cooling group can be achieved without draining the refrigerant, saving hours on each maintenance task.

The use of application specific quick release connectors on military vehicles provides a safe and secure method of disconnecting and re-connecting essential liquid and gas lines with no draining and refilling, thus enabling faster maintenance without the need for specialist tools, equipment or training.

Vehicle air-conditioning circuits used for personnel cooling are deemed essential in hot climate operation and they pose an important maintenance responsibility. St?ubli’s high integrity, leak-free refrigerant couplings provide a simple method for breaking cooling lines, ensuring reliable operation, as well as avoiding spillage of ozone depleting gasses and the ingress of contaminants. 

These innovative developments were so successful that the operational efficiency of the vehicle fleet was significantly improved, resulting in reduced inventory requirements, saving both cost and manpower, as NAR general manager, Geoff Holmes explains:

“The defence sector quickly recognised the benefits of using high performance cooling systems with the ability to readily replace damaged items when necessary. St?ubli’s quick release connectors form an essential part of the system, eliminating the need to de-pressurise the systems and have performed faultlessly through all our testing and in operation in the field.”

Impressed with the results of NAR’s work on the Panther vehicle, IVECO has now specified a new cooling system with integrated Stäubli connectors for installation on its light military vehicle for the Norwegian Army.  NAR designed and manufactured the completed cooling group, including radiator, charge air cooler, oil cooler and condenser with integrated connectors for refrigerant and oil.

Again, the clean break connectors enable the complete cooling group to be removed without spillage, saving hours on maintenance and improving vehicle reliability. Thanks, in part, to these successes, the defence sector now represents a substantial and growing area of both St?ubli’s and NAR’s activities. So, what’s next for the NAR and Stäubli partnership?

The companies have now turned their attention to analysing the cooling requirements of the aerospace and electronics sectors. Modern data centres, containing high power servers and aircraft fitted with ‘state of the art’ on-board avionics systems, produce significant amounts of heat that must be dissipated.

The techniques developed by NAR, combined with the connector expertise of Stäubli, provide effective and easy-to-use liquid based cooling systems that can accommodate the higher temperatures created by these applications.

St?ubli’s connector range features flat-faced connector technology that guarantees no spillage and eliminates any risk of air or contaminants entering the circuit, thus removing the need for system purging.

Compact and lightweight, Stäubli connectors are able to withstand vibration and corrosion and will perform faultlessly for thousands of connection cycles; they offer robust bayonet, screw or ball locking systems to ensure that circuit integrity is maintained even in the harshest environments.

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