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06 Oct 03. On the first day of the AUSA show, United Defense Industries, Inc. (NYSE:UDI – News) unveiled Thunderbolt, an advanced armored gun system demonstrator with a 120mm main armament on a light chassis featuring a rugged hybrid electric drive package, an enhanced band track system, and a lightweight ballistic composite armor package at the Association of the U. S. Army’s annual meeting.

The Thunderbolt demonstrator illustrates the ability to deliver devastating firepower in a light package, and features transformational technologies that can be quickly integrated into current platforms to enhance soldier capabilities.

“United Defense designed, integrated and built Thunderbolt in 7 months by applying unmatched capabilities in the rapid design and prototyping of new platforms and technologies,” said Elmer Doty, vice president and general
manager. “Thunderbolt demonstrates that we can deliver significantly enhanced capabilities to soldiers quickly through the modernization of existing platforms.”

The company, which is currently developing manned ground vehicles for the Army’s Future Combat Systems, emphasized that Thunderbolt demonstrates near-term transformational technologies complementary to the current force.

“Thunderbolt combines United Defense’s unsurpassed expertise and focus on transformational technology development to increase the mobility, lethality and survivability of our forces,” Doty said. “It’s an exciting package that showcases our strengths and exemplifies our desire to support the Army’s mission, now and in the future.”

Prior to AUSA, United Defense fired Thunderbolt repeatedly from stationary and on-the-move positions, the first time a 120mm main armament has been successfully fired off a 20-ton weight-class chassis. Thunderbolt’s XM291 main gun is backed by an autoloader that handles both HEAT and SABOT rounds. The autoloader handles 120mm rounds with combustible casings and rounds of varying weight distributions, and it can eject stubcases. Thunderbolt delivers firepower that can defeat heavy enemy armor and destroy enemy targets such as bunkers and buildings.

“We believe that a 120mm gun integrated on a light chassis would provide unprecedented firepower, able to effectively defeat heavy enemy armor,” Doty said.

Thunderbolt Features Transformational Technology Thunderbolt integrates a durable hybrid electric propulsion system that provides improved performance and fuel economy, enhanced reliability and reduced emissions. The propulsion system utilizes generator, inverter and traction motor components that have performed well in testing on the United Defense Transformation Technology Demonstrator. Thunderbolt’s drive power is transferred through an advanced band track system developed for 20-ton weight class vehicles. The advantages of band track include improved ride quality, longer life, and reduced noise and thermal signatures.

The mobility package integrated on Thunderbolt delivers a range of 600 miles on gravel roads, with four miles of silent mobility capability. Conversion of a standard chassis to hybrid electric drive generates significant additional interior space that can seat additional soldiers, increase the quantity of stowed ammunition, or be applied to other mission requirements.

Thunderbolt is the latest United Defense platform to feature hybrid-electric propulsion, following the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon platform, the Transformation Technology Demonstrator and two demonstrators that were unveiled at AUSA last year: the Future Combat Systems-Tracked and Future Combat Systems-Wheeled platforms. Thunderbolt’s advanced ballistic composite armor design offers enhanced survivability while reducing overall vehicle weight. The composite turret armor package is designed to provide 14.5mm protection all around, with 30mm frontal arc protection.

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