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28 Feb 19. Allison Transmission to Build Advanced Vehicle Environmental Test Facility in Indianapolis. Allison Transmission, a global leader in medium- and heavy-duty fully automatic transmissions for commercial vehicles, is investing in a new vehicle testing facility that will facilitate further innovation in the industry.
“Industries around the globe depend on Allison Automatics to power highly specialized vehicles that must perform under all kinds of extreme conditions,” said David Graziosi, President and CEO of Allison Transmission. “The Vehicle Environmental Test facility will provide Allison engineers with enhanced capabilities to conduct testing replicating vehicle environments and duty cycles.”
This facility is to be located on the campus of Allison’s global headquarters on the westside of Indianapolis. It will include two environmental chambers capable of simulating temperature extremes, altitude, and on-road conditions that will allow testing for regulatory compliance, on-board diagnostic development, and performance improvements for vehicle functional optimization. The Vehicle Environmental Test facility will further support testing for a wide-range of propulsion systems, including conventional powertrains, alternative fuel, electric hybrid and fully-electric vehicles.
“In an increasingly competitive marketplace, Indiana stands out as a leader in advanced manufacturing thanks to companies like Allison Transmission that are continuing to push new innovations forward that will serve customers across the globe while supporting efforts to attract, develop and retain top talent here,” said Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. “With this significant investment and commitment to Indiana, Allison Transmission is demonstrating once again they are a key player in Indiana’s high-tech success.”
The facility will be one of a few in the United States, and the only one of its kind in the Midwest. Additionally, when the facility is not in use by Allison, third parties will be able to utilize the chamber for their own testing, adding another benefit. Project planning for the Vehicle Environmental Test facility has begun and is scheduled for completion in 2020.
“Allison Transmission has long been a significant asset to the city of Indianapolis,” said Joe Hogsett, Mayor of Indianapolis. “We are pleased to work with such a community-minded company as they grow within our city and look forward to the benefits this investment in innovation will bring to Indianapolis, the industry, and even the world.”
Allison Transmission is very proud of its heritage and being headquartered in Speedway for over 103 years. “Allison Transmission has been a strong partner to the Town of Speedway since our inception, and their history is woven throughout the fabric of our community,” said Town of Speedway Council President Eileen Fisher. “From day one, Allison has been on the cutting edge of innovation and we are so proud that they have chosen to expand the footprint of their international operations right here in Speedway.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
28 Feb 19. Lithuania submits request for 200 US joint light tactical vehicles. The JLTVs form a significant part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces mechanisation programme. Credit: MoD, US Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (MND) has revealed plans to procure 200 joint light tactical vehicles (JLTV) from the US. In line with the plans, the MND has also submitted procurement applications to the US Government for acquisition and maintenance of the armoured tactical vehicles for the Lithuanian Armed Forces. According to the MND, approximately €142m has been planned to be set aside in 2020-23 for the acquisition and maintenance of the JLTVs.
Lithuania National Defence vice-minister Giedrimas Jeglinskas said that the US Government is expected to finalise the terms and conditions of the JLTV procurement contract by 2020.
Jeglinskas said: “Lithuania cooperates with the US Government seeking to secure the most effective conditions of JLTV procurement and maintenance. The combat support vehicles will increase the mobility of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, protection of personnel, and combat power.”
The JLTVs form a significant part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces mechanisation programme and will fulfil the shortage of armoured all-terrain vehicles in the inventory.
The mechanisation programme also includes the purchase of the Vilkas / Boxer infantry fighting vehicles.
These vehicles are likely to be deployed to defend against potential threats, for national defence tasks and multinational operations.
The Lithuanian Armed Forces uses the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) and Toyota Land Cruiser 200 armoured all-terrain vehicles.
In addition to the JLTVs, Lithuania is acquiring a range of equipment from the US that includes anti-aircraft missiles, turrets for combat vehicles, and Javelin anti-tank systems. (Source: army-technology.com)
28 Feb 19. Rapidly deployable AGV developed through Plan Jericho. The Royal Australian Air Force has played a key role in supporting the development of the Kelpie multi-purpose autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) as part of the Plan Jericho transformation. Kelpie is a manifestation of this strategy, and is funded by Plan Jericho, the RAAF’s innovation organisation. Electrically with autonomous navigation capability, it operates off road, such as on military bases. It hosts the iSight intelligent intruder tracking system developed by Agent Oriented Software (AOS), which autonomously classifies and tracks to facilitate facial recognition. Kelpie is being developed by AOS in collaboration with Army’s Special Forces Training Facility and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, with funding from RAAF Plan Jericho.
Kelpie incorporates a number of key features, including:
- Low cost, using standard structural, mechanical components and battery/electric drive;
- Collision detection and avoidance system using LiDAR, cameras and (optional) radar;
- Designed for 80km/h speeds;
- Payload of up to 100 kilograms;
- Onboard PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) video camera capable of streaming live video;
- Unique intelligent software agent technology, combined with machine learning and machine vision, underpins the autonomous capability;
- Teamed software agents allow multiple Kelpies to work as a team with humans; and
- Production release 2020.
The Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Turnbull, called for the widespread introduction and rollout of autonomous vehicles to support the Air Force’s ambitious transformation plan, saying, “We will seek to develop augmented intelligence that combines the strengths of humans and machines to create a human edge in the Information Age. Augmented intelligence is the Air Force’s way of leveraging our unique attributes as a small force equipped with sophisticated technology operated by high-quality people.”
AOS is an Australian AI company developing autonomous and intelligent systems, based on its own R&D program. It works closely with Defence and collaborates with a number of universities. It is currently developing robotic systems for agriculture, as spin-offs from its defence technology. AOS’s software products provide the decision-making capability that underlies autonomy, including teamed intelligent software agents that enable human/machine teaming. (Source: Defence Connect)
25 Feb 19. Pentagon Report Slams Military’s Humvee Replacement. A multitude of problems resulted in Joint Tactical Light Vehicle being declared “not operationally suitable”. According to the Pentagon’s in-house watchdog, the replacement for the U.S. military’s Humvee is in serious trouble. The new Joint Tactical Light Vehicle (JLTV) is “not operationally suitable” because of deficiencies in “reliability, maintainability, training, manuals, crew situational awareness, and safety,” a new report says. The vehicle is so bug-ridden that it requires contractors in the field to fix problems, and is so large and loud that it’s easily detectable on the battlefield.
Defects To Go Around
Back in the 1980s, the U.S. Army introduced the High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicle—the Humvee. Designed to replace Jeep-type vehicles from the WWII and Korea Era, the Humveehad a V8 diesel engine, an automatic transmission, and was considerably larger than the vehicles it replaced. Although the Humvee thrived during many years peacetime, it suffered mightily during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the hulking vehicle was on the receiving end of ambushes and improvised explosive device attacks. These attacks highlighted the vehicle’s lack of armor protection, particularly against buried explosives.
The Humvee’s replacement, JLTV, is a beefy ride that’s even larger than the Humvee. The JLTV is designed to keep crews safe against direct fire and IED attacks while providing power for onboard systems such as jammers and tracking systems. The JLTV comes in four versions, including unarmed General Purpose and Utility/Shelter Carrier vehicles, Heavy Guns Carrier vehicles armed with Mk.19 or .50 caliber machine guns, and a Close Combat Weapons Carrier equipped with TOW anti-tank missiles.
But all is not well in the vehicle’s development. In an annual report on major weapons systems, the Pentagon’s Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) office seriously criticizes the JLTV, which is currently undergoing evaluation with Army and Marine Corps units. First reported by Stars and Stripes, the OT&E report says all four versions of of the vehicle are not operationally suitable, with a combination of defects, design problems, and inadequate contractor training support.
Like any new product, the JLTV has its share of defects. All four vehicle types are encountering mechanical problems during field trials including, “engine wiring problems, flat and damaged tires, and break (sic) system faults.” A “health monitoring system” designed to bring problems to the attention of maintainers is not accurate and “reduces crew and maintainer confidence in the system.” One last mechanical problem: The doors on some vehicles didn’t work.
The list of design flaws goes on. The vehicles are faulted for having a “large visual and loud aural signature, increasing detectability.” The DOT&E also complains that troops riding inside have poor visibility and that the TOW anti-tank missile launcher, capable of destroying tanks to ranges of up to 2.48 miles, is slow and difficult to reload. Furthermore, the vehicles are so large fewer of them can fit on the military’s Maritime Prepositioned Force ships, cargo ships that carry floating arsenals of Army and Marine Corps equipment, ready to link up with ground troops and quickly enter battle.
Other problems including training programs for mechanics that were “not effective” and required additional training to get mechanics up to speed on the vehicle’s problems. Training manuals for maintainers were, “not detailed, incorrect, and lacked steps to troubleshoot problems.”
It’s Not As Bad As It Seems?
Despite that long list of woes, the report does conclude that the JLTVs are “operationally effective.” Which is to say, they can accomplish their missions as designed, when they work. So there’s that.
And most of the JLTV’s defects, such as the brake issue, don’t sound particularly difficult to fix. Although the need for contractors to fix vehicles in the field sounds ominous, it also sounds like once the vehicle’s issues are solved, contractors will no longer be needed. In some cases, sophisticated military equipment may need on-the-ground contractor support for the lifetime of the system.
Here’s something else to consider: Many of these problems are really just design trade-offs, and the services will just have to learn to live with them. For example, the poor visibility issue and the increased “aural and visual detectability” is probably a result of adding extra armor to deal with a more lethal battlefield. A smaller, less armored vehicle could have better situational awareness and attract less attention in a war zone. It also wouldn’t be as good at protecting its crews.
The Pentagon expects to purchase at least 60,000 JLTVs of all flavors, including 49,099 JLTVs for the Army, 9,091 for the Marines, and up to 3,270 for the Air Force. The British Army is looking to buy 2,747 vehicles and there will almost certainly be additional foreign sales once the vehicle goes into full production.
The JLTV is a new vehicle and it will take time to get problems sorted. The vehicle it replaces, the Humvee, experienced its share of problems early on but evolved into a good tactical vehicle. The services can’t ignore any problems in what will be a ubiquitous vehicle–after all, generals ride in them too. (Source: glstrade.com/Popular Mechanics)
20 Feb 19. New Russian SPMs make international debut. Russia’s newest self-propelled mortars (SPMs), the Floks and Drok, made their international debut at the IDEX show being held in Abu Dhabi between 17-21 February, with models of both systems being displayed for the first time. A representative of the systems’ manufacturer, Rostec’s Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), told Jane’s that the Floks 120 mm SPM is designed to enhance the firepower of mechanised infantry. “The system is based on the chassis of a protected Ural-4320 family 6×6 truck that features all-round protection against small arms. The Floks carries a 120 mm rifled semi-automatic gun-mortar that fires both mortar and artillery shells. The system features a separate [gun] drive that substantially reduces circular error probable,” said the source.
The Floks is also fitted with a roof-mounted remotely controlled weapon station (RCWS) with a 7.62mm machine gun as well as a laser warning system and optical jammer, he added.
The Drok 82mm SPM based on the Taifun-VDV 4×4 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle is primarily intended for rapid deployment troops, the UVZ source said. The system is armed with a manual breech-loading mortar mounted in a turret. It fires both standard 82 mm mortar shells and new ammunition with increased range and lethality.
“The Drok can carry an additional 82mm 2B24 towed mortar and an RCWS,” added the source. The mortar [system] weighs 14 tonnes and carries four crew. “The system is fitted with an optical jammer and six smoke dischargers.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
25 Feb 19. DARPA wants robots that humans will trust. Human civilization is built on language, but at an even more basic level, it is built on trust. Knowing what others have promised to do, and then being able to rely on that promise, makes possible everything from raising a family to growing food to simply showing up at a job week after week. That trust is important all the time, and it is especially important in the high stakes of combat, where meaningful decisions happen in seconds and there might only be time for a quick sentence between needing to take action. With robots expected to be an increasingly common presence on the battlefield, DARPA launched an ambitious program: is it possible for robots to quickly earn the trust of humans?
Officially the “Competency-Aware Machine Learning,” DARPA’s stated aim is to “develop machine learning systems that continuously assess their own performance in time-critical, dynamic situations and communicate that information to human team-members in an easily understood format.”
Or, in plain language, DARPA wants a way for robots to figure out how they’re doing, quickly, and then let people know by talking to them. To get there requires a conflux of several technologies: sensors and status awareness, an ability to convert those readings into useful language, and a way to express that language.
Fortunately, humans are really good at understanding language, and treating machines as living beings capable of communicating emotion. Consider, for example, the curious case of the last message received from NASA’s Opportunity Rover. The message, sent on June 10, 2018, indicated that the robot was going to conserve battery power and try to ride out a sun-blocking dust storm. On February 13, 2019, NASA made a last attempt to contact the Opportunity Rover, to no avail. A journalist’s poetic interpretation of that last transmission as “My battery is low and it’s getting dark” swept across the internet as though they were the robots own original last words. They weren’t, but the spread of the poetic interpretation is just the latest case of people responding to robots as capable of language, and connecting with them on an emotional level.
“If the machine can say, ‘I do well in these conditions, but I don’t have a lot of experience in those conditions,’ that will allow a better human-machine teaming,” said Jiangying Zhou, a program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office in a release. “The partner then can make a more informed choice.”
Machine-to-human language will come at the later end of the program. Before that, DARPA wants the machine learning program to tackle object recognition, robotic navigation, action planning, and decision making. These skills will then be “tested using realistic test vignettes with actual applications,” to see if the learning is as adaptive as it needs to be. After passing those trials, the machine will be judged on how well it can communicate its status using “machine-derived, human-understandable, competency statements”
Curiously, the Competency-Aware Machine Learning program will evaluate the accuracy of the machine’s ability to communicate its own competency, rather than looking at how humans perceive the machine’s ability to communicate competency.
To support this program, DARPA held a proposers day webcast on February 20, 2019. Responses are open until April 22nd. The end result may never be anything as fanciful as a worn-down space robot signalling a poetic end to its long-running mission. But it might not be that far off. A damaged battlefield robot that can organically respond to a question from a human with “SNAFU” will have mastered at least one of the arts of war. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
26 Feb 19. BAE Systems has delivered the first four BvS10 all-terrain vehicles to the Austrian Armed Forces, providing the service with a superior vehicle for operations in challenging terrains like mountains and snow. BAE Systems is under contract, issued in 2016, to deliver 32 of the Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) variant of the BvS10 to the Austrian Armed Forces. Two handover ceremonies took place on February 21 and 22 in the Austrian province of Tyrol and city of Salzburg and were both attended by Austrian Defence Minister Mario Kunasek. Also attending were representatives of the Swedish government and BAE Systems Hägglunds, the Sweden-based manufacturer of the BvS10. The first set of vehicles will be fielded by the Austrian Armed Forces’ 24th Infantry Battalion, a battalion of the 6th Mountain Infantry Brigade, which plays a leading role in the European Union Mountain Training Warfare Initiative (EU MTI), and the 2nd Engineer Battalion, which can provide combat support in mountainous terrain.
“The handover of these highly-capable vehicles marks a significant milestone in the BvS10 contract for Austria. We are very pleased with progress to date and the very positive feedback from the Austrian military. We expect final deliveries to conclude later this year,” said Peter Nygren, vice president of business development at BAE Systems Hägglunds.
The Austrian APC variant of the BvS10 is fitted with a number of specific features including a 360 degree Observation Camera System with six Day/Infrared cameras and displays in the front and rear of the cabin for greater situational awareness. Also featured is the latest Remote Controlled Weapon Station, which can be operated by both the Gunner and the Commander, and is foldable to allow for swift transportation in the field.
“The ‘Hägglunds’ is the first combat vehicle for the mountain infantry, which makes possible the armoured transport of soldiers in Alpine operations and off-road,” said Minister of Defence Kunasek. “We thus put renewed focus on our core task of military defence.”
The BvS10 is a highly manoeuvrable armoured vehicle with superior performance for operating in challenging terrain to deliver personnel or cargo in combat and disaster relief scenarios. It’s designed with great flexibility to accommodate changing mission requirements and is prepared for advanced battle management and command and control solutions. The vehicle’s ability to operate in mountainous terrain is of particular importance to the Austrian Armed Forces and its central role in at enhancing military effectiveness in the EU MTI.
The BvS10 has been deployed on operations to Afghanistan, Central Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Austria becomes the fifth operator of the BvS10, joining France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There is significant interest from many countries in Europe and globally in acquiring this flexible and adaptable vehicle. The BvS10s are part of BAE Systems Hägglunds BV family of all-terrain vehicles, of which over 12,000 have been sold.
23 Feb 19. The newly fielded Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is ‘not operationally suitable.’ The military’s newest ground vehicle has problems with its maintenance, reliability and crew situational awareness and its most heavily armed version has been deemed “not operationally effective” in a Pentagon report. The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle has been touted as the rugged, protected and highly mobile vehicle to replace some of the more vulnerable Humvees on a contested battlefield. The vehicle has ballistic protection equal to the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, but is one-third lighter and 70 percent faster off road than the MRAP, officials said. The first JLTVs were fielded to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia in mid-January.
But a number of deficiencies were noted in a recent annual report published by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation for the Defense Department. It provides an overview of Army, Navy and Air Force programs. The Army section contains two dozen systems with reviews and recommendations.
The vehicle comes in two- and four-seat versions with four basic configurations — general purpose, utility vehicle, heavy guns carrier and close combat weapons carrier.
The program plans to procure approximately 49,099 vehicles for the Army, 9,091 vehicles for the Marines, and 80 vehicles for the Air Force. That fielding will happen over the course of the next two decades for the Army and the next decade for the Marines.
All variants were deemed “not operationally suitable because of deficiencies in reliability, maintainability, training, manuals, crew situational awareness, and safety,” according to the report.
And the close combat weapons carrier was further deemed “not operationally effective for use in combat and tactical missions.”
That was because the close combat version “provides less capability to engage threats with the (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) missiles” over the Humvee.
“The missile reload process is slow and difficult for crews,” according to the report and the close combat version has “less storage space than other JLTV variants and accessing mission-essential equipment from the cargo area is a challenge,” according to the report.
Also, the crew has “poor visibility due to blind spots around the vehicle.”
The term “operationally effective” is used by testers to determine if the system can accomplish the mission it is intended to in as realistic an environment that can be tested.
“Operationally suitable” means whether the system can be placed in field use and be reliable and sustained within the unit and support available.
Crews had problems getting out of the JLTV and saw “numerous reliability failures of doors not opening impeded the ability of the soldiers and marines to safely ingress and egress the JLTV.”
And maintaining the vehicle is proving to be a challenge early in the fielding. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times)
22 Feb 19. Autonomous Convoy Tech Moves Toward Official Program. After years of exploring the technology, the Army is gearing up to turn its autonomous truck convoy demonstrations into a formal program of record. The service has been pursuing the idea of having unmanned vehicles incorporated into its convoys for more than a decade, with the goal of reducing the number of casualties associated with ground resupply missions.
However, encouragement by Army leadership is accelerating the timeline for a leader-follower capability, Bernard Theisen, autonomous ground resupply program manager at the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, said in an interview.
Expedient leader-follower is a capability that allows for a convoy that contains one manned vehicle followed by unmanned vehicles. The initiative went to the Army Requirements Oversight Council, which decided to proceed with the capability in February 2018, he noted. After examining the technology at TARDEC, Army Secretary Mark Esper was so impressed that he asked to push the timeline forward, Theisen noted.
To kick off the initiative, the Army will issue optionally manned vehicles to two composite truck company units, he said. Thirty will go to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in September and 30 will go to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in January 2020. They will replace a platoon’s worth of trucks at each installation, or half of each company’s total number of platforms.
This will allow the Army to compare the platoon of optionally manned vehicles to the platoon of manned systems to see if the new capability improves the unit’s performance, he said. “How does it change their tactics, techniques and procedures? These are some of the things we’re going to be looking at.” Following a yearlong operational technology demonstration, the service hopes to move the effort straight to Milestone C, he noted.
Low-rate initial production is scheduled for fiscal year 2021. Full-rate production is slated for fiscal year 2023 and production is scheduled for completion by fiscal year 2027, according to a November 2018 Congressional Research Service report titled, “U.S. Ground Forces Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Considerations for Congress.”
The capability is currently about an 80 percent solution for the Army’s needs, Theisen said.
“We fully admitted it’s not the whole solution. I don’t think anybody has the whole solution … for autonomy,” he said. “That’s why the Waymos and the Teslas and the Toyotas and the Fords and everybody else has tons of engineers and, frankly, [is] outspending the Department of Defense to try and solve these autonomy issues.”
The optionally unmanned trucks are currently undergoing testing in different environments, Theisen said. At the end of 2018, the platforms were being put through deep snow in Michigan. TARDEC made adjustments to account for a higher amount of wheel slippage than what was predicted, he noted. This year the vehicles will be moved to Fort Bliss, Texas, to be tested in a desert environment, he said. TARDEC plans to finalize the configuration in April 2019.
The systems need a cyber certification as well to ensure they can withstand attacks from adversaries, he noted. TARDEC has an outside group that conducts cyber attacks on the trucks to find potential weaknesses to correct, he said.
In the Army’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, the service sought about $93m in research, development, test and evaluation funds for its robotics efforts, including leader-follower. The money for moving the initiative into a formal program of record is already built into the service’s program objective memorandum for future years, Theisen said.
Besides leader-follower, TARDEC’s autonomous truck work includes exploring operating modes such as driver warning, driver assist and teleoperation, he said.
One new capability TARDEC is exploring is “retro traverse,” which would allow the commander to back up the convoy if needed, he said. The trucks would automatically reverse by using the same path as before, which would reduce the chances of harm.
“Retro traverse would give the truck commander the capability to say ‘go back one kilometer’ or ‘go back 30 seconds’ so that you could hit that turn,” Theisen said. “It would automatically go back in the same tire tracks. That way, in case there was an [improvised explosive device] or a mine or anything like that, you wouldn’t have to worry about it because the vehicles already drove through.”
For expedient leader-follower, Oshkosh Defense received a $49m contract in June 2018 to integrate autonomy kits onto palletized load system vehicles — which are also produced by the company. The contract includes 70 autonomy kits for program development and operational technical demonstrations with an option to procure up to 150, the company’s announcement stated.
John Beck, senior chief engineer of unmanned systems at Oshkosh Corp., said the kits enable the trucks to be robotically controlled and provide driver assist features. Backup cameras and adaptive cruise control also provide drivers with additional safety, he said. Prior to the Army’s plan to deliver optionally manned vehicles to Fort Polk and Fort Sill, Oshkosh developed 10 prototypes for continued test and evaluation, he said.
These provide the soldier “a safer driving experience than the typical tactical wheeled vehicle and some of the safety features and convenience features that they have in their personal vehicles as well,” he noted.
Beck said the expedient leader-follower technology is identical to that of the autonomous ground resupply effort, which is the technology that enabled leader-follower.
A large-scale experiment for autonomous ground resupply is scheduled to be held in Michigan in September 2019, Theisen said. The initiative is a six-year effort with three two-year increments. The first was completed in 2017, the second is scheduled to wrap up in 2019 and the third is slated for completion in 2021.
One of the capabilities TARDEC is exploring for both autonomous ground resupply and expedient leader-follower includes waypoint navigation, Theisen said. That feature would allow a soldier to drive out to an area and have an autonomous vehicle run the same route. Alternatively, the soldier could plot the route for the vehicle on a map.
“You could have a vehicle with nobody in the front driving in waypoint mode, and then in the next three vehicles you could have soldiers maybe resting or rehearsing a mission” while riding in autonomous trucks, he added.
There are six prototype vehicles for the autonomous ground resupply effort as well, Beck said. For future increments, Oshkosh plans to work on additional features that will allow the trucks to be “fail operational,” he said.
“If there is some sort of a failure, if the vehicle is not dead in the water, it’s able to recover from that failure or deal with that failure in … a fashion that doesn’t prevent the vehicle from continuing its mission,” he noted.
Theisen said the technology will also assist in the Army’s next-generation combat vehicle initiative. NGCV is the service’s effort to develop a new set of combat vehicles that will replace the service’s current fleet. As part of the Army’s plan to modernize the force, a cross-functional team was set up to pursue this technology. The service plans to have an initial set of six experimental prototypes, which include two manned next-generation combat vehicles and four robotic combat vehicles, ready for delivery at the end of fiscal year 2019, the CRS report said. Hands-on soldier tests are scheduled for fiscal year 2020, and testing with a company-sized element is slated to run from fiscal years 2023 to 2024, the report said.
TARDEC is participating in the next-generation combat vehicle effort by building technology and writing software, Theisen noted. TARDEC initially began exploring the possibility of having one unmanned Humvee with a robotic weapon station paired with a manned Humvee, which would act as the controller. Since then, they have also begun using M113 armored personnel carriers, he said.
“The control Humvee would laser designate a target, just like in a normal operation, but instead of a manned gun team taking the target out, the robotic Humvee would,” he said.
The Army is also continuing its autonomous convoy work with the U.K. Ministry of Defence, he said. The coalition assured autonomous resupply, or CAAR project, is an initiative between TARDEC, the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, and the United Kingdom to demonstrate and test multiple emerging autonomous technologies for resupply missions.
As part of this effort, TARDEC and the U.K. are developing a “last mile” resupply capability, Theisen said. It is intended to provide the military with a smaller, more agile system that can complete the resupply mission if larger vehicles cannot traverse the terrain. This would require a vehicle that is similar to a golf cart, dune buggy or old school Jeep Wrangler-sized system that could be used in more austere training, he said. ARDEC is working on the concept using a smaller-sized unmanned aerial vehicle as well, he noted. Theisen said the U.K. Defence Ministry has downselected to a handful of teams to perform autonomous last-mile air and ground missions.
An operational demonstration for the coalition assured resupply project is scheduled for August at Camp Grayling, Michigan, he noted. It will be held in conjunction with the annual Northern Strike exercise, a live-fire event meant to foster collaboration between the United States and partner nations. (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
21 Feb 19. US Army Driving Forward with Electric Vehicle Plans. While government and industry have long been experimenting with electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, JP-8 conventional fuel — with its long logistical tail — is still king on the battlefield. But technological advancements in batteries and alternative fuels could shake up the status quo. Proponents of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for the military say the technology can offer lower-cost power sources, greater performance and quieter, stealthier operations.
The Army — which has led the vast majority of the Defense Department’s work in electric vehicles — recently hosted an electrification forum that drew engineers, project managers, academia and industry together to discuss electric vehicles. The forum — which took place in Troy, Michigan, in November — was the second such event in 2018, said Dean Zeal McGrew, leader of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s powertrain electrification team.
It held detailed discussions about current developments TARDEC has made to date and how those fit into an overall electrical architecture, he said in an interview.
“We covered electrical inverters, DC-to-DC converters, power distribution, both high voltage and low voltage [and] low-voltage energy storage,” he said.
Cybersecurity was another area of interest, he added.
“That’s something that’s just not going to go away,” he said. “We know that [for] everything that we’re doing going forward, cyber has to be a thoughtful element to make sure that we’re not providing access into our systems.”
The event was the second in a series that will continue through summer 2019 and culminate in a new development strategy, McGrew noted. TARDEC intends to probe industry about a variety of topics that include power generation and high-voltage storage.
It will be a “living, breathing document that’s going to evolve over time, but we’ll at least have one that we’re ready to execute on and start a development process,” he said.
TARDEC has been working to overcome hurdles related to electric and hybrid-electric vehicle technology for 25 years, he noted.
“We’re coming out of the other side [on] … closing some of these gaps,” he said. Key ones that have been evident for some time are size and thermal limits associated with the power electronics required for mobility.
However, silicon carbide — a wide-bandgap switch that can be used in high-temperature applications — has enabled the organization to make systems smaller and withstand excess heat, he noted.
“We now have devices in hand that are working and [we] are confident that we’re going to be able to produce those units to provide the kind of power densities that we need to be able to package inside of a combat vehicle,” McGrew said.
Once TARDEC releases the strategy it plans to use other transaction authority agreements to get after new technology, he added. OTAs are intended to help cut through some of the bureaucratic red tape that often plagues the Pentagon acquisition system.
“That’s probably going to be the mechanism of choice,” he said. McGrew’s team currently uses OTAs with three different consortiums, he noted. “They’re all built for different uses and … we’re trying to exercise them. They’re a good tool.”
Andrew Holland, chief operating officer and director of programs at the American Security Project, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said advancements in battery technology will help make electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for the military a reality sooner than later.
“Even two years ago, I would’ve said, ‘Oh, electric vehicles are really for non-tactical applications. … The batteries are really too heavy, and I don’t think it will be in sort of combat tactical use for many, many years,’” he said.
But the landscape has changed since then, he noted.
“Batteries are getting better and cheaper, faster than people expected,” he said. New chemistries mean they will be much more energy dense and easier to charge, he added.
“That kind of takes away the issue with … the tactical problem,” he said.
Electric motors offer the military a number of advantages, including the ability to forgo a centralized engine, he said. Instead, the Army could have numerous engines, including one for each wheel.
“That allows you to spread the weight better and it allows you to be more resilient,” he said. “If you lose one engine, it’s not going to cause the whole thing to go down.”
Additionally, electric engines can provide a large amount of torque at rapid speeds.
“The ability of an electric engine to provide … on-demand torque immediately is substantially better than you can get in a diesel or gasoline engine,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be sitting in there and just press the gas and it goes. … That’s a real tactical advantage.”
Jim Hasik, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Center for Government Contracting, noted that electric and hybrid-electric vehicles are quieter than conventionally fueled vehicles which is a huge advantage when it comes to stealth.
“If people were rolling up in Bradleys … you knew it well in advance,” he said. However, if the military can get its electric combat vehicles to sound like “an overgrown Prius … rolling across the battlefield, at least for short distances, you hugely suppress your audible signature.”
Another benefit is onboard power, he said.
“You can operate power intensive sensors without actually having to light off a diesel engine,” he said. “You can sit quietly without emitting a great deal of heat that an infrared weapon can hone in on.”
Industry is thinking about new ways to power vehicles, including GM Defense, said David Albritton, the company’s president.
GM Defense recently unveiled a concept for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle based on the company’s commercial Silverado vehicle known as the Silverado ZH2. The system, which is still being built, will have a range of 400 miles. The move follows previous work GM did with its Colorado platform in conjunction with the Army.
“You have larger payloads, larger capability and you’re able to do different things with that platform than you could with a mid-size truck that we based the Colorado ZH2 on,” he said. “We’re migrating down that path to create a vehicle that we will be able to test and think about different usages of the platform.”
The Silverado ZH2 is still a conceptual vehicle. Albritton declined to comment on a timeline for the completion of the platform but said the company was working alongside the Army.
One of the benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell is its exportable power, he noted. The Silverado ZH2 will give users the ability to take advantage of up to 100 kilowatts of exportable power to juice up other equipment.
“If you think about operators at the pointy end of the spear, … their power source today is mostly dragging along heavy diesel engines,” Albritton said. “They have an odor.
They’re loud. It’s a very inefficient way to create power. … With our product not only can you take the vehicle and power the vehicle from point A to B, you can then export that power for a wide variety of usages.”
That could include active protection systems or directed energy weapons, he said. “You can imagine all kinds of things that require a significant amount of power on a platform to execute that mission,” he said. “You can do that without having any extraneous power sources coming into the theater.”
Additionally, for every hour of operation of a hydrogen fuel cell, two gallons of water are created, he said. With a chemical treatment, that water could be made potable.
Despite these benefits, the Army is unlikely to start pulling diesel engines out of M1 Abrams tanks, Holland said. However, future heavy vehicles in the service’s inventory will likely be substantially different and at least partially electric powered. That technology could start to be fielded in a decade.
And while progress is being made in battery technology it is unlikely that advancements will grow exponentially in a short amount of time like computing power as predicted by Moore’s Law, he said.
“So long as we’re on lithium-ion batteries, I think it will be … just general linear changes,” he said. “The nature of chemistry and energy density … prevents it from going too, too far” quickly.
While work is being done to develop electric vehicles for the military, they are generally not headline grabbing projects, he noted.
“This is a longer-term thing and the people who know about it and are working on it are excited about it, but I don’t see this being something that’s really high profile yet,” he said. Additionally, alternative energy efforts do not fit into the broader Trump administration’s narrative about energy, so White House officials are not out there touting it, he said.
Part of the challenge has to do with low oil prices, which has created less demand for electric vehicles, Holland added.
“For the military, the rational reasons to increase energy efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel used are not actually about price, they’re about tactical benefits and efficiency,” he noted. “But for policymakers, certainly it’s something they think about.” (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
22 Feb 19. Wahash breaks cover. The new Wahash (Wild Falcon) 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle from Emirati firm Calidus was launched at the IDEX 2019 exhibition in Abu Dhabi, highlighting a number of international sub-systems and components on the platform.
Able to carry eight dismounts, a driver, commander, and gunner, the vehicle features a monocoque steel hull that allows for increased speed in production and negates the need for an internal subframe.
The vehicle’s protection has been certified to STANAG 4569 Level 4, including Level 4a and 4b land mine protection. Protection from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) includes a 50 kg TNT charge and 155 mm artillery shell fragmentation charge. Additional external passive armour packages can be added to the vehicle as required to increase protection.
Combat weight – carrying a full crew, BMP-3 turret, and amphibious kit with STANAG 4569 Level 4 protection – is 32.1 tonnes, with a further payload of 7.5 tonnes available. Up to two vehicles can be carried inside a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft.
The Wahash can climb a 70° gradient and drive on a 40° side slope, climb a 0.8 m step, and cross a 2 m-wide trench. Additionally, it can ford a watercourse of up to 2 m in depth. The vehicle is also able to operate in temperatures ranging from -30°C to +55°C, with an Ametek air-conditioning system providing climate control to the cabin.
The vehicle displayed at the show was equipped with a BM-3M Shturm remote-controlled turret developed by the Kyiv Armoured Plant, fitted with a 30 mm cannon, machine gun, automatic grenade launcher, six smoke grenade launchers, and two Bar’er anti-tank guided missile launchers. During the show, Ukraine’s UkrSpecExport and Calidus signed a Memorandum of Co-operation covering the potential joint production of the Wahash with the BM-3M Shturm, and promotion of the system to the United Arab Emirates and beyond. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
22 Feb 19. New Didgori models break cover. Georgia’s Delta State Military Scientific-Technical Centre has expanded its family of Didgori vehicles, launching the 4×4 tactical patrol variant Didgori Meomari Tactical Armoured Modular Vehicle and exhibiting a mortar carrier variant of the vehicle at IDEX 2019. The mortar carrier version displayed at IDEX 2019 was fitted with a 120mm mortar and is in line for a “significant” contract with the Georgian military, Jane’s was told. That particular system will feature a Soviet-era 120mm system, in line with the country’s current stock of heavy mortars, and will not feature an on-board fire-control system (FCS). However, an onboard FCS can be fitted to meet customer requirements.
Mounted on a hydraulically operated trolley that folds onto the vehicle’s rear tray for transport, the mortar system can be detached from the trolley in about 20 seconds if the crew needs to re-site the system or replace the tube. The mortar’s supporting bipod is mounted off the trolley, with the base of the trolley providing the necessary support for the mortar as a baseplate and removing the need for any further off-platform supports.
According to the company, the system can achieve a rate of fire of 15 rounds per minute, at ranges of 480–7,100m. The vehicle can carry 24–48 rounds of ammunition, depending on loadout, and can also be equipped with a remote weapons station (RWS) for crew protection if required. Alternative calibres, primarily 105mm and 81mm, can be accommodated on the trolley. Compared with the baseline model of the Didgori Meomari, the mortar carrier’s rear leaf suspension spring is replaced with an air-suspension system. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
Millbrook, based in Bedfordshire, UK, makes a significant contribution to the quality and performance of military vehicles worldwide. Its specialist expertise is focussed in two distinct areas: test programmes to help armed services and their suppliers ensure that their vehicles and systems work as the specification requires; and design and build work to upgrade new or existing vehicles, evaluate vehicle capability and investigate in-service failures. Complementing these is driver and service training and a hospitality business that allows customers to use selected areas of Millbrook’s remarkable facilities for demonstrations and exhibitions.