The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC, Warren, Mich., USA), reported on Sept. 9 that final testing is beginning on the Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV) platform to assess the vehicle’s efficiency, durability and communications effectiveness. The vehicle includes composites in blast-mitigating applications.
Funded by the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the ULV project was set up to design, develop and build three identical lightweight tactical research prototype vehicles emphasizing survivability for occupants and meeting four research objectives:
- Payload – 4,500 lb/2,045 kg
- Performance – at 14,000 lb/6,363 kg curb weight
- Protection – comparable to the currently fielded Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles
- Price – $250,000 each in a hypothetical 5,000-unit production run.
TARDEC’s Ground System Survivability group partnered with non-traditional defense contractors to bring the engineering expertise of both to the project. In only 16 months, the team moved from design to prototype.
“The Army’s approach was to create synergistic survivability,” explains TARDEC GSS associate director Steve Knott. “Soft deliverables — such as data and lessons learned — and hard deliverables — such as test assets and spare automotive components — will help shape, inform and support tactical vehicle programs, technology demonstrator efforts and/or TARDEC Innovation Projects to maximize the overall return on investment.”
The team produced three vehicles: two will be used for mobility, mine blast and ballistic survivability testing and the third is moving into TARDEC’s Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL) for mobility and fuel efficiency testing. Results are expected to be available in early 2014.
Survivability/Ballistic Protection: The hybrid design allows for a “clean underbody” through the elimination of various automotive components, potentially allowing for blast-mitigation technologies to perform uninhibited during a blast event. This design provides added opportunities to integrate various blast-mitigating kits under the hull for higher threat levels. Interior technologies include a crushable floating floor system that decouples the crew’s feet and legs from the steel hull and absorbs energy, adjustable stroking seats, five-point restraint systems, and spatial accommodations to mitigate head impacts and flail injuries. ULV also utilizes high-strength steels and advanced composite materials that offer lightweight ballistic protection from a number of threats to include a newly developed transparent ceramic armor system to keep the vehicle’s overall weight down.
Powertrain: With two electric motors (front and rear) the ULV’s hybrid powertrain improves both mobility and survivability. By eliminating the need for a driveshaft, the underbody can be designed to perform well in a blast event. And either of the electric motors can power the vehicle, providing redundancy. A lightweight diesel engine powers the electric motors and also enables: Immediate launch, stealth drive, silent watch, exportable power generation, high torque at low/near zero speeds, improved fuel economy.
Design: ULV’s final design was developed by lead contractor Hardwire LLC (Pokomoke City, Md., USA). The cab provides more interior space than similarly equipped tactical vehicles. Remote-mounted and remote-controlled vehicle electronics reduce HVAC loads and create space. “Clamshell” front and rear doors open away from the B-pillar creating a protected area for soldiers to exit. “The cab is designed to have seven egress points facilitated by quick-release and removable components, stowage space for personnel and mission-specific items and 360-degree situational awareness through front- and rear-mounted ultra wide-angle thermal imagers,” explained TARDEC engineer Vladimir Gendlin.
Communications: ULV features lower-weight command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) technologies focused on warfighter needs.