Quest is on for lighter, smarter and tougher military vehicles

Oct. 25, 2010 at 3:51 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- The quest is on for a lighter, smarter and tougher military vehicle as defense and security industry manufacturers vie for contracts with the U.S. Army and eventually with procurement agencies abroad.

The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq raised new urgent priorities for allied forces to be battle-ready aboard vehicles that would withstand unconventional assaults from improvised explosive devices and other weapons deployed by guerrilla and militant groups.

Several companies displayed new military vehicles at the Association of the U.S Army's 2010 Annual Meeting in Washington.

BAE Systems, the global defense and aerospace giant, unveiled a lightweight monocoque -- single shell -- military vehicle at the conference and exposition. The company called the Integrated Smart V "a highly survivable, high-mobility multipurpose vehicle at a low-cost" for the Army.

The vehicle uses a layered hull with a V-shaped underbody that "totally encapsulates the crew, providing protection from all sides through an integrated hull that significantly boosts underbody blast protection," BAE Systems said.

BAE Systems says its design is based on "fielded, battle proven" solutions derived from previous mine-resistant vehicles it built and sold on the international market.

ISV reuses a large percentage of existing High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle components, including the power train and wheel assemblies, thereby saving on production and training costs. Sustainment savings come through ISV modularity, allowing battle damaged vehicles to be repaired in the field and enabling future upgrades.

ISV was one of several new military vehicles the company showed at the event. Sentinel, also exhibited at the show, is designed to bridge the gap between heavy-duty commercial vehicles and military patrol vehicles.

Chris Chambers, line lead for the manufacturer, said Sentinel can be armored to provide varying levels of mission-specific protection to its occupants.

"With Sentinel, we've created an on- and off-road vehicle that delivers the mobility, durability and solid performance, in an armor-ready, mission-ready design that today's defense and security forces require," said Chambers.

The recently introduced Caiman Multi-Terrain Vehicle configured as an ambulance was also on show. The vehicle provides an effective combination of interior capacity, tactical mobility, operator comfort and survivability by utilizing its large interior volume to accommodate up to four litters or six upright patients.

Alcoa Defense, part of the world's leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina, had on show its lightweight vehicle for the Army, using technology it developed for high-performance cars and the aerospace market.

Alcoa was showcasing the ability of aluminum to make the next generation of military vehicle lighter, faster, stronger and more fuel efficient.

Alcoa's aluminum structure for the Army's Fuel-Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator will make the vehicle up to 10 percent lighter than a comparably sized steel vehicle and reduce fuel consumption by 6-7 percent because the lighter vehicle frame enables a lighter engine, driveline and chassis.

Alcoa supplied the FED's aluminum chassis and cab structure with integral underbody armor protection to Ricardo Inc., the project's lead engineering contractor. During the initial stages of design, Alcoa collaborated with Ricardo to determine which Alcoa solutions could best help achieve FED's goals.

The FED project was launched by the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in 2008 to develop a prototype vehicle that would showcase fuel efficient technologies, while maintaining the vehicle's performance, payload capacity and protection of soldiers.

"If the Army, which operates the world's largest fleet of ground vehicles, can improve fuel efficiency by just 1 percent, it will result in 6,000 fewer soldiers being put at risk by driving highly targeted fuel convoys in combat locations," Alcoa said.

Lighter aluminum vehicles can accelerate and brake faster than their heavier, steel-intensive counterparts. Aluminum is up to 50 percent lighter, yet provides more structural stiffness than steel, said the company.

Alcoa Defense President Dave Dobson said the company's participation in FED was the first time it could integrate a comprehensive suite of lightweighting technologies into one vehicle.

The Army has been looking into ways of reducing fuel consumption on the battlefield and its dependence on oil.

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