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Nimbler, faster, smarter armoured ground vehicles

26 April 2016

Eight organisations develop potentially groundbreaking technologies that would make future fighting vehicles more mobile, effective, safe and affordable.

Image courtesy of DARPA

Today’s ground-based armoured fighting vehicles are better protected than ever, but face a constantly evolving threat: weapons increasingly effective at piercing armour. While adding more armour has provided incremental increases in protection, it has also hobbled vehicle speed and mobility and ballooned development and deployment costs. To help reverse this trend, DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program recently awarded contracts to eight organisations.

“We’re exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armour,” said Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager. “DARPA’s performers for GXV-T are helping defy the ‘more armour equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armoured ground vehicle design for the past 100 years, and are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st Century and beyond.”

DARPA has awarded contracts for GXV-T to the following organisations:

• Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

• Honeywell International Inc. (Phoenix, Ariz.)

• Leidos (San Diego, Calif.)

• Pratt & Miller (New Hudson, Mich.)

• QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ UK, Farnborough, United Kingdom)

• Raytheon BBN (Cambridge, Mass.)

• Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Tex.)

• SRI International (Menlo Park, Calif.)

GXV-T is pursuing research in the following four technical areas:

• Radically enhanced mobility - Ability to traverse diverse off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations. Capabilities of interest include revolutionary wheel/track and suspension technologies that would enable greater terrain access and faster travel both on- and off-road compared to existing ground vehicles.

• Survivability through agility - Autonomously avoid incoming threats without harming occupants through technologies that enable, for example, agile motion and active repositioning of armour. Capabilities of interest include vertical and horizontal movement of armour to defeat incoming threats in real time.

• Crew augmentation - Improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers; semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits. Capabilities of interest include high-resolution, 360° visualisation of data from multiple on-board sensors and technologies to support closed-cockpit vehicle operations.

• Signature management - Reduction of detectable signatures, including visible, infrared (IR), acoustic and electromagnetic (EM). Capabilities of interest include improved ways to avoid detection and engagement by adversaries.

The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps have expressed interest in future GXV-T capabilities.

Video courtesy of DARPA.

Click here to read DPA's previous coverage of the Ground-X vehicle. 

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