Military Turns to Blast-Mitigating Floor Mat

Military officials recently warned soldiers in Afghanistan that they were putting their lives at risk by removing floor mats added to the latest variant of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle.

Troops were removing the floor coverings to increase legroom and pack in more equipment, which caused the MRAP joint program office to issue a stern message: Leave the mats where they are.

They are less than 2 inches thick and consist of chemically bonded thermoplastic polyurethane. They are made by Denver-based Skydex Technologies, a company that got its start creating shock-absorbing inserts for Nike running shoes.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned the firm’s attention to the military, said CEO Mike Buchen, and Skydex began making protective products ranging from helmet pads to helicopter seating. Military officials say the Convoy Deck mat helps prevent lower-leg fractures for crews riding in the MRAP and its all-terrain variant, the M-ATV. It also is becoming standard equipment in new Stryker vehicles.

Roadside bomb blasts put vehicle crews through two shockwaves, one that propels the vehicle up into the air and another when it slams back on the ground. Attached to the floor with heavy-duty Velcro, the deck is able to regain its original shape and size within microseconds of the first impact to be ready for the second, Buchen said.

The mat absorbed 71 percent of the energy force that entered a soldier’s tibia during tests, he said, lessening the impact on the knee, pelvis and upper body.