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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

21 Jun 05. General Dynamics showed off its 8×8 Hybrid Drive AHED vehicle to the Press at a demonstration at Bovingdon on Monday.

Funded by an $8m grant form the National Automotive Centre, AHED is a technology demonstrator submitted by GD for the US FCS and the UK’s FRES requirement. GD says that it is concentrating on the wheeled option to FRES leaving the tracked option to BAE.

Looking like a futuristic ‘batmobile’, AHED glided effortlessly over the rough terrain showing off its low silhouette and agility, as good as a tank on ceratin surfaces. The vehicle has a system that allows the driver to drive with windows tnat can be replaced by periscopes using hydraulic systems.

The AHED is already at a high readiness level with over 4000km of development testing completed and thus represents a viable point of departure from which to support the FRES concepts for an IoC in the early part of the next decade. The AHED, if chosen, would allow the UK MoD to replace its current vehicle fleet with a compliant, affordable, sustainable, and transformational hybrid electric drive platform. Design Authority for the platform will reside in the UK and GDUK will be exploring how best this can facilitated over the intervening months before Main Gate decision.

The AHED 8x8vehicle integrates the key enabling technologies that will form the basis of future vehicle design. The application of in-hub electric drive and hybrid power enable a new level of design flexibility and provide the warfighter with:
• Significantly increased internal volume.
• Improved crew accessibility via low load deck and large rear door.
• Low vehicle profile w/adjustable height controls.
• Superior ground clearance
• Modular common components

The AHED 8×8’s mobile power capability allows for smooth mission module integration and is a key enabler for growth. Its high level of maturity and a track record of reliability mean that the AHED 8×8 is ready for development. General Dynamics leveraged the AHED’s open architecture and mobile power capability to develop the force integration Test-Bed. FITB was designed to explore the challenges of on-the-move C2 and establish the right systems-based solution for the future warfighter.

Although the demonstration showed the agility of the vehicle, the technology involved, a magnetic drive motor on each hub would appear to demonstrate huge logistic problem to engineers in the field if the vehicle is hit or breaks down. GD said that the vehicle can drive off using less than the required motors in either electric or motor mode using the MTU engine, the reality is that such complex systems require a good deal of testing before being 100% reliable, which given the timescale and the budget may not put it in the frame for FRES in the short-term.

Quite clearly, the loss of AlvisVickers to BAE has blown a hole in GD’s UK FRES strategy as it has deprived them of a UK base. But news that Trevor Harrison has moved to Business Development Director at the Newcastle plant may indicate that all is not well with the projections made by the company at the time for such expected contracts as Kuwait Piranha, Brunei CVR(T) upgrade and a police customer. In addition, BAE is reported to have objected to the 430 upgrade going to ABRO and has put its won bid in albeit at a reported higher price than ABRO of some £20k per vehicle.

ABRO is well placed to provide the type of services required by GD and in addition having used this expertise to develop a vehicle system with GD would then be in a strong position to support and maintain the vehicle at its various UK plants. A tie up with ABRO would be a politically astute move by GD given the MoD’s wish to break it loose eventually to a buyer of the like of Serco with a strong order book. The loss of the SV contract with Oshkosh caused the loss of 150 ABRO jobs, any increase in a deal with GD would be welcome ne

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