George Tunis is the owner of Hardwire LLC, a composite ballistic armor manufacturer based in Pocomoke, Md. His first experience with composites was in the 8th grade making skate boards. Later, he built surfboards and worked with DuPont making boats, missiles and selling Kevlar. Hardwire LLC began primarily as a composite reinforcement for steel reinforced composites in 2000. After September 11, 2001, Tunis decided to shape Hardwire into an armor company, which has been involved in composite military solutions since. The company is currently working on a Humvee chimney structure to relieve the impact of underbelly attacks. Here, he discusses the need for composites in military applications.

Why is material selection important in military projects?

I learned not to fall in love with the technology because in the world of armor you figure out what works. Instead, fall in love with the customer.

What makes your company unique?

My team. The guys at Hardwire are a bunch of engineers ranging from chemical, mechanical, aerospace and airplane parts. We live in a great area on the Maryland Eastern Shore and we’re very active in sports; the whole team bow hunts or kite sails. Rock climbers use the sports technology we use to adapt to the military, that’s where we get our inspiration. Military is the ultimate sport because they’re all athletes. We’re trying to make them better equipment, vehicles or pieces inside the vehicle.

Scott Kendall, our lead engineer, came to the beach to kite sail and he knocked on my door. Another engineer Ben Craimer was straight out of Purdue at the time and we met through kite sailing, too. Once we got the network going we started to tap into ex-military folks, not that we’re all military folks, but those who are retired are ranked, well-trained and special people. Kendall, was an F-16 pilot for a number of years and our Chief Electrical Engineer Rob Cosgriff was a nuclear sub commander. These guys are trained to think and to think fast. The military would drop Rob and leave him for a few months on his own, so he can uniquely take very broad directions.

Why did you develop the Humvee Chimney?

I have both my arms and legs, other people in this effort don’t enjoy those luxuries. We’d like to keep everyone glued together. We wanted to make a competitive vehicle that could be lifted by a helicopter yet still be able to drive over a bomb and have people walk away. A lot of the industry just threw mass at the problem. Instead of going after mass, we went after force (force = mass x acceleration) by finding ways to mitigate or go around the force. We have brilliant mathematicians on staff and first thing we dug into was the physics. When we solve for mathematical equations, we first try to determine the largest number, which in some cases is the squared or cubed term. On this particular problem we went after the beast. You have to understand the beast and use it against itself, or throw a bunch of mass at it.