Sunday, November 27, 2016
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Valanx is a Family of Vehicles (FoV) being developed by the BAE Systems-led team for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programme of the US Army, USSOCOM and Marine Corps. The JLTV programme will replace the ageing fleet of Humvees, with a family of new vehicles offering more survivability and high performance.
By Eric Beidel
Though it appeared doomed just months ago, the Army and Marine Corps’ plan to replace aging Humvees with a new off-road vehicle may have regained its footing at least for another year.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program office intends to award up to three engineering, manufacturing and development contracts in the spring. Officials recently put out a draft request for proposals and were still refining requirements as of early January.
It is a welcome sign to potential bidders, considering that lawmakers recently were poised to cut all or some of the program. They ultimately did cut some of it, but still left $154 million for this fiscal year.
The engineering, manufacturing and development contracts will come after a technology development phase that found both the military and its industry suppliers struggling to strike a balance between protection, weight and cost.
Teams led by Lockheed Martin Corp., BAE Systems and an AM General-General Dynamics Land Systems consortium called General Tactical Vehicles built prototypes for the technology development portion of the program. But Army officials said they were between a few hundred and 1,000 pounds too heavy.
Compounding the weight issue was the decision to require the JLTV to provide the same level of protection against improvised explosive devices as the all-terrain variant (M-ATV) of the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle (MRAP). Concerns were raised that contractors would have to resort to expensive, exotic materials to protect JLTV from roadside bombs, and that would make the cost of each vehicle skyrocket.
The Army and Marine Corps seemed headed in different directions after the technology development phase. The Army appeared more concerned with protection while the Marines worried that too much armor would prevent the vehicles from being carried by helicopter.
Marine Corps officials said that if a truck costs more than $300,000, they couldn’t afford it. And that if it weighed too much, they wouldn’t buy it.
Army and Marine Corps officials said earlier this year that while they had gathered a lot of relevant data from the three technology development contractors, there were still significant challenges in meeting performance and weight requirements. The overall cost of the program, too, had to be addressed.
But after lawmakers recommended cutting the program altogether, the Army and Marine Corps put their heads together in an effort to save JLTV.
“What has been most impressive about the last few months was that the Marine Corps and Army stood shoulder to shoulder in going forward to [the defense secretary] and Congress to outline and revise this new program,” said Glenn Lamartin, vice president of JLTV capture at BAE Systems. “They squared the box by defining very aggressive goals for average unit manufacturing costs.”
The goal now is to spend $230,000 on each vehicle, $270,000 at the most. That is down from an estimate earlier this year of about $320,000 and a sizeable reduction from the $418,000 predicted at the beginning of the technology development phase.
Officials also have decided to shorten the anticipated length of the next phase by a year to reduce program costs. They also took a hard look at requirements, relaxing some of them and allowing the vehicles to gain back some of their weight. This has helped companies focus their designs, executives said.
“What a difference a year makes,” Lamartin said.
That is especially the case for Oshkosh, which failed in its bid for a contract during the initial phase. The company is trying to position itself for the next opportunity and has built the Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV, in anticipation. This vehicle meets JLTV requirements and includes an independent suspension system that benefits off-road performance, company officials said.
The TAK-4i suspension provides 20 inches of independent wheel travel, adjustable ride height for transport and greater speeds over tough terrain, officials said.
“The technology is there right now to meet the government’s expectations,” said Ken Juergens, vice president of joint programs at Oshkosh.
The company has adapted its modular M-ATV armor design for the lighter vehicle. The scalable concept allows additional armor or other enhancements to be installed in theater as missions and threats change. If better materials come along, pieces and parts can be combined as opposed to “throwing out the whole vehicle,” said Rob Messina, vice president of engineering at Oshkosh.
“We have a lot of experience in this field,” Juergens said. “We have gone from different weight classes and this is just another weight class down. It’s easier to go from heavy to light . . . We’ve been very good at achieving weight targets.”
He noted the company’s recent success with the M-ATV. During that competition, contractors actually weighed their vehicles in like contenders before a prizefight.
A prototype of the L-ATV completed the Baja 1000, an off-road race in Mexico. Typically, only about half the participating vehicles finish the race, which winds through more 1,000 miles of rugged desert. Regardless of what happens with JLTV, Oshkosh will still offer the L-ATV to any interested customer, officials said.
BAE’s demonstrators have been put through blast and off-road testing in Aberdeen, Md; Yuma, Ariz; and Australia. The trucks ran up the miles in strenuous conditions and on rocky trails like those found in Afghanistan, Lamartin said.
“People talk about miles, but not all miles are the same,” BAE’s Lamartin said. “We think we’ve had the benefit of that realistic test.”
BAE is partnering with Navistar for JLTV. The two companies have produced nine MRAP variants between them. Their offering for JLTV, called the Valanx, was first unveiled in 2008 and has been going through changes along with the program. Aside from being part of BAE’s team, Navistar Defense this past fall introduced a light truck called the International Saratoga that can be outfitted with metallic or composite add-on armor. The Saratoga is not intended for JLTV, Navistar officials have said. They have described it as a ready-to-go vehicle that could fill the gaps they see between that program and the effort to recapitalize existing Humvees.
The JLTV is being developed as a replacement for some of the 11 different types of Humvees. The military currently has 160,000 Humvees, some of which have been around since 1985. Given that there already is a program on the books to upgrade portions of the Humvee fleet and because the protection levels for JLTV mirror those of M-ATV, some insiders have warned about redundancies.
The Government Accountability Office noted that “the introduction of MRAP, M-ATV and JLTV programs creates a potential risk of unplanned overlap in capabilities; a risk that needs to be managed.” Experts have said that these programs share as many as 250 requirements. Pentagon officials, though, point out that there are hundreds of other requirements for the JLTV program that MRAP and M-ATV cannot meet.
Despite the program’s public struggles for survival, the technology development phase served its purpose, Army officials said.
“It gave the Army and [Marine Corps] exactly the kind of information we needed to make really well informed decisions about what JLTV can be and what it should cost,” said Army Col. David Bassett, project manager of tactical vehicles at Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support.
“Our aim is to give industry greater latitude to demonstrate what’s achievable on a light platform,” Bassett said. “Our competitive strategy is intended to deliver the best vehicle possible at the price that the program can afford.”
The Army has done enough modeling, simulation and testing to ensure that the beefed-up protection requirements are low-risk, he said.
“The idea is to get a vehicle that can be incrementally improved on over time,” Bassett said.
Lockheed, although not traditionally a tactical vehicle manufacturer, believes it has a strong chance.
“You really can’t make optimization decisions on specific components without looking at it from the perspective of not only cost but what the impact is to weight, manufacturability and your overall reliability,” said Kathryn Hasse, JLTV program director at Lockheed. “There has not been anything that has not been looked at. And the decisions that we have made were those that yielded the most benefit in terms of cost and weight without compromising our maturity, our reliability and our performance.”
Lockheed’s JLTV weighs about 40 percent less than other all-terrain models deployed in theater, company officials said. It recently successfully completed blast tests in which it defended against explosions commonly used in experiments against mine-resistant vehicles. The company credits its updated V-shaped hull design. Previous Army and Marine Corps tests showed that the JLTV could also be transported by CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters.
Weight and cost have been two of the biggest sticking points throughout the program. As the EMD phase nears, companies have been tweaking their designs, looking for ways to shave costs and keep weight down without resorting to the use of titanium and other advanced materials. They are costly and simply unaffordable for a fleet of 50,000 to 60,000 tactical vehicles, Lamartin said.
The program’s many twists and turns may continue. As it stands, the Army would like to buy 20,000 JLTVs and the Marine Corps 5,500.
A spokesperson with General Tactical Vehicles declined to comment for this story, citing the Army and Marine Corps’ continuing refinement of the program and a lack of a final budget plan. A recent Congressional Research Service report stated that even a less expensive $230,000 JLTV “might prove to be difficult to justify.”
Because the program has been so fluid, teams that went through the technology development phase believe they have an edge over companies such as Oshkosh that have been preparing their designs from the outside looking in.
“The schedule assumes that those who are in place in the EMD phase bring mature designs, designs ready to move quickly” from assembly to prototypes to testing, Lamartin said. “Those who come from the outside and don’t have the [technology development] experience will find it more difficult to bring forward a solution within that box.”
Because some of the details are classified, and also to avoid tipping off the competition, company representatives are being tightlipped about specifics of their designs and their approaches to the protection requirements.
“We are working very hard to achieve the government’s cost target,” Hasse said. “Beyond that, we all have to make sure we have a program that we can actually bid to.”
The technology is already out there, Messina said. There is no reason the program can’t go forward, he added.
The BAE Systems RG33 is a family of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles features a monocoque V-shaped hull providing outstanding protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The RG 33 is heavily influenced by the experience gained during 20th and early 21st centuries asymmetrical conflicts confronting military forces with insurgents. The vehicle family can be airlifted suing C-130-sized aircraft. Its standard equipment includes hydraulic ramp, a gunner's protection kit, a robotic arm, on-board exportable power supply for C4I systems, survivability gear, mine protected seating, air conditioning, and dedicated space for equipment stowage. Besides, RG33s are remote weapon capable and network enabled. BAE Systems unveiled the first RG33, an RG33L, vehicle at AUSA 2006.
The RG-33 may be equipped with modular add on armor kits, TRAPP transparent armor that provides excellent visibility and situational awareness, and run-flat tires. The levels of protection of the RG33 vehicle depends on the armor package but the basic model offers small and medium caliber firearms and mine blast protection. BAE Systems has designed the RG33 platform to serve as Infantry Carrier, Ambulance, Command and Control, Convoy Escort, Explosive Ordnance Disposal vehicle, etc. To date, the RG-33 vehicle family includes the RG-33 6x6 or RG-33L, the RG-33 4x4, Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV) 6x6, and Mine Resistant Recovery and Maintenance Vehicle (MRRMV) 6x6 variants.
The RG-33L is a 6x6 utility MRAP Category II vehicle ordered by the US Army and the US Marine Corps (USMC) for its ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These vehicles are also deployed as Heavy Armored Ground Ambulance (HAGA) and as Special Operations Command (SOCOM) vehicles. As of December 2008, the US Armed Forces had ordered more than 1,700 RG-33Ls. Despite their outstanding protection demonstrated in Iraq, these vehicles result too heavy and lack off-road mobility to operate in harsh environments and rough terrains in Afghanistan.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
The heavy tactical vehicle program selected a C-kit underbody protection design for heavy expanded mobility tactical truck (HEMTT) A4 in March 2011 after completion of underbody testing of two C-Kit designs.
The HEMTT is a family of heavy tactical trucks that includes a load handling system, cargo, tanker, light equipment transporter, and wrecker vehicles.
The Army issues HEMTT to distribution companies and general supply sections of forward support companies of brigade support battalions. These companies deploy units to a new theater of operations, relocate units to new operating sites, establish unit areas of operations, provide supply and transport support, recover vehicles, and redeploy units to home station.
In November 2010, the Army initiated the HEMTT A4 Rapid Initiative program to develop an underbody kit called the C-Kit for improved crew protection for the wrecker and light equipment transporter (LET) variants. The heavy tactical vehicle program selected a C-Kit underbody protection design for HEMTT A4 in March 2011 after completion of under- body testing of two C-Kit designs at Aberdeen Test Center, Aberdeen, MD. One hundred and nine new production vehicles have the C-Kit installed and began arriving in theater in June 2011. The program will install the remainder of the 289 C-Kits on existing theater HEMTT A4 assets.
The HEMTT A4 C-Kit is designed to work with the previously installed cab armor package known as the B-kit. The B-kit provides protection to the sides and roof of the cab. The C-Kit adds additional underbody armor, blast attenuating seats and floor mat, and upgraded steering gear.
Based on LFT&E, the HEMTT A4 C-Kit decreases crew vulnerability to underbody threats. Testing indicates that protection levels up to some mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle levels may be attainable.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The Bushmaster, designed and produced by Thales Australia, here equipped with mine rollers, is a lifesaver in Afghanistan for Aussie soldiers.
As the Australian commitment to Afghanistan increased, the Bushmaster 4x4 Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) was deployed with the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) in 2005. The vehicle was soon co-opted by the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR, now 2 Commando) component of the re-titled Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), as it provides a greater level of safety against mines and IEDs due to its V-shaped hull. The Bushmaster mounts an MAG 58 GPMG on its turret ring and features mounts for up to two F89 machine-guns (an Australian variant of the Minimi/SAW) next to the rear roof-mounted troop hatches. A Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) is currently being deployed to replace the GPMG.
The Bushmaster can also carry nine fully equipped soldiers (increased to ten in later versions) or several litters for casualty evacuation, allowing greater flexibility than the SRVs that 4 RAR were generally operating in. As the Commando element of the SOTG became more focused on DA raids, whilst the SASR returned to conducting mostly SR tasks, the vehicle also better matched operational requirements by being able to move Commandos quickly and relatively stealthily up to target locations, whilst offering a counter to any IEDs encountered en route. The Bushmaster PMV became one of the first of the so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to be deployed to Afghanistan and to be employed by SOF. The Bushmaster is considered a Class 1 MRAP under the US designation system, based on vehicle weight, size, and envisioned role.
The role of the Bushmaster is to provide protected mobility transport (or protected troop lift capability), with infantry dismounting from the vehicle before going into action. As the Bushmaster is only lightly armoured, the term Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) was initially adopted to distinguish it from a heavier wheeled or tracked armoured personnel carrier, such as the ASLAV and M113 also in Australian service. The Bushmaster replaced a stop-gap unarmoured 6x6 vehicle of the Land Rover Perentie family called the Infantry Improvised Mobility Vehicle (IIMV). Later the Bushmaster's designation was changed to Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV).
The Bushmaster is optimised for operations in northern Australia, and is capable of carrying up to 9 soldiers and their equipment, fuel and supplies for 3 days, depending on the type of variant. The vehicle is fitted with air conditioning and was once planned to have a cool water drinking system, but was omitted upon production due to cost constraints. After operational complaints the drinking water cooling system is being reconsidered for installation. It has a road cruise speed of 100 km/h and an operational range of 800 km.
The Bushmaster is a mine protected vehicle and provides a high degree of protection against land mines, using its v-hull monocoque to deflect the blast away from the vehicle and its occupants. The vehicle's armour provides protection against small arms of up to 7.62 mm calibre. The fuel and hydraulic tanks of the vehicle are located outside the crew compartment, while it also has an automatic fire suppression system. The troop carrier variant of the Bushmaster is fitted with one-gun ring. The forward gun ring can be fitted with a 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun. The two rear hatches each have a mounting boss to allow the attachment of a swing mount capable of holding a 5.56 mm machine gun (such as the F89 Minimi).
The Bushmaster is air transportable by C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and Mil Mi-26 aircraft. It is the first armoured vehicle to be designed and completely manufactured in Australia since the Sentinel tank during the Second World War.
A close-up view on the all-so-important roof mounted sensors of the Terramax to provide the system with a clear view of what is lying ahead of "him", but which makes one wonder why the windscreen needs to be kept so clean!
Driving development on UGVs at the beginning of the century have been the small mine clearance or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) UGVs and those used to scout hostile buildings during the Afghanistan campaign. Removing - or at least thoroughly assessing - the danger of a situation before sending a human into the area has since proved something of a strategic preference in military planning across all domains as we move forward.
If an American manufacturer of large vehicles were to be tagged as one of the leaders in the field of heavy robotised vehicles that would definitely be Oshkosh Defense. It started developing the TerraMax robotic technology in the early 2000 under a Darpa solicitation. Following years of development and refining, in August 2012 the US Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and Oshkosh Defense applied the TerraMax technology to test a convoy that included five normal and two uninhabited vehicles. The latter travelled in full autonomous mode albeit under the monitoring of an operator equipped with a remote-control unit. While the company remains committed to the US Office of Naval Research Cargo UGV project, which seeks to bring robotic capabilities to logistics convoy missions to help reduce troops' exposure to threats, Oshkosh is also looking at other applications for its TerraMax, which is constantly being upgraded.
At AUVSI 2014 and Eurosatory 2014 Oshkosh exhibited a company M-ATV equipped with a Humanistic Robotics route clearance roller capable to work in full autonomy. Vehicle dynamics were adapted to the roller, and Oshkosh will carry on experimentations for the next couple of years on route clearance operations. The demonstrator shown in Paris was equipped with a roof-mounted lidar. This is regarded as a prime sensor and is particularly efficient in dust conditions, assisting the radars installed at each corner of the vehicle, while electro-optic sensors are used to allow the operator to have a clear view of the situation. The upgrades consisted mostly in the adoption of a new and faster computer able to cope with a higher sensor resolutions required for increased perception of the vehicle's surroundings, which includes detecting obstacles in dust or vegetation and in turn allow the vehicle to move faster (exactly like a motorist is able to drive faster at night if given more powerful headlights). The new kit features an open architecture, improving the TerraMax's ability to accept new types of sensors.
Of note in the EOD space have been the TerraMax 6x6 autonomous vehicle from Oshkosh - which provides route clearance, aside to a number of other functions, and has been procured by the US and British militaries.