For the past 100 years, efforts to provide better ballistic and explosive-device protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has focused on increased armor. The ability of weapons systems to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor’s ability to withstand assault. As a result, achieving even incremental improvements in crew survivability has required significant increases in both vehicle mass and cost.
Increasingly heavy, and therefore, less mobile, these more expensive armored vehicles unfortunately hinder efforts to rapidly deploy and then maneuver manned vehicles in what are often challenging environments. Moreover, larger vehicles are limited to established roadways and require more logistical support. They are also more expensive to design, develop, field and replace. The U.S. military is now seeking innovative and disruptive solutions to ensure the operational viability of the next generation of armored fighting vehicles. Toward that end, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, Arlington Va.) has created the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program to disrupt the current trends in mechanized warfare. GXV-T seeks to investigate revolutionary ground-vehicle technologies that would simultaneously improve vehicle mobility and survivability through new approaches, including detection avoidance and evasion of engagement and targeted hits.
GXV-T’s technical goals include the following improvements relative to today’s armored fighting vehicles, goals that certainly seem consistent with composite materials: reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent, reduce the size of the onboard crew needed to operate the vehicle by 50 percent, increase vehicle speed by 100 percent, gain off-road access to 95 percent of the terrain in deployment zones, and reduce signatures that enable adversaries to detect and engage the vehicles.
“GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle, it’s about breaking the ‘more armor’ paradigm and revolutionizing protection for all armored fighting vehicles,” says Kevin Massey, DARPA program manager. “Inspired by how X-plane programs have improved aircraft capabilities over the past 60 years, we plan to pursue groundbreaking fundamental research and development to help make future armored fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable.”
GXV-T development will run for 24 months after initial contract awards, which are expected on or before April 2015.