When you think of military vehicles, what comes to mind first? Traditionally, tanks and Humvees are always common but times have changed and will continue to do so. Advanced warfare and new technologies are major contributing factors influencing the types of military vehicles required in the future. Weight, speed, cost and armament all play pivotal roles.
Looking back at 2014, DARPA announced the launch of its Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program. In a nutshell, GXV-T aims at finding high-tech alternatives to normal armour plating. Success would result in tanks weighing much less, travel twice as fast while still protecting its occupants. The problem comes in with advancing technology as artillery designers keep making bigger anti-tank guns. This has generally been the case and in response, tank designers just add more armour.
One such example is America’s main battle tank, the M1A2 Abrams. It weighs an astonishing 72 tons and putting that into perspective is quite staggering. That is almost as heavy as two semi-trailer trucks loaded to the maximum legal capacity of 40 tons each. It’s no surprise then that the modern tank is a challenging project from building and maintenance to deployment and field-use.
More armour and heavier vehicles don’t really solve the issue but adding more features to lighter vehicles could be. So what’s next for defence contractors and governments alike? Continue reading and find out everything about the advanced technologies behind our military vehicles of tomorrow.
DARPA Displays Future Military Vehicles And Technologies
With ever-improving technology and military requirements, DARPA has been working on what comes next. It just makes sense that smaller, lighter, more agile military vehicles with more to offer than just thick armour are the future. DARPA demonstrated some really remarkable technologies they’ve been working on. While some are far from being battle-ready, there are some really good ideas.
Reconfigurable Wheel Tracks (RWT)
This takes off-road driving to whole different level. Good wheels let you go fast on road while tracks give you better traction in sand, mud or dirt. Imagine being able to switch between the two with a push of a button. The ‘shape-shifting’ wheel-track mechanism transitions in just two seconds. Even more impressive is that it can change from a round wheel to a triangular track and back again while in motion. This provides instant improvement to tactical mobility and maneuverability on all types of terrain.
Multi-Mode Extreme Travel Suspension (METS)
Safely traversing rough terrain at high speed is what it’s all about. Pratt & Miller’s METS system is astonishing to watch, like something from a Mad Max movie, only better. The wheels are standard 20-inch rims mounted on a dual suspension system. A short-travel suspension system provides six inches or 15 cm of regular off-road bump handling. When the road gets really rough is when the true value shows as an active high-travel suspension gives each wheel an incredible six feet (1.8 m) of travel. More specifically, 42 inches (107 cm) upward and 30 inches (76 cm) downward from the center point.
This means that the METS can go over extremely rough terrain while keeping the cabin in an upright position. It could be compared to the 2015 Swincar or “spider car” offering unmatched agility and maneuverability at speed.
Between RWT and METS, what more do you need? In the video you’ll notice how stable the vehicle is over rough terrain and, at the start, how fast the Humvee transitions between wheel and track. It’s something quite spectacular. A team from Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (CMU NREC) showed just how impressive this technology is.
Electric In-Hub Motor
A conventional wheel hub motor is also known as a wheel hub drive, hub motor or in-wheel motor. It’s an electric motor incorporated into the wheel hub wheel which it drives directly. In fact, several concept cars have been developed over the years using in-wheel motors. Among others, some examples include General Motor’s Sequel 2005, Mitsubishi’s MIEV concept model in 2005 and the Ford F-150 All-Electric Pickup Truck by Protean Electric using four in-wheel motors.
Now, QinetiQ has developed an electric hub motor for combat vehicles working around the standard military 20-inch rims. In addition to the acceleration, torque and traction benefits a regular electric motor can offer, the QinetiQ model provides three-stage gearing, internal thermal management and a liquid-cooled braking system.
360-Degree Virtual Windows For Military Vehicles
Besides wheels and tyres, what other area of any military vehicle is most vulnerable? If you said windows, you’d be absolutely correct! The best way to solve this problem is to eliminate the weak spot altogether. That’s exactly what Honeywell International did with their 360-degree virtual windows system.
The driver is safely in the cockpit while looking at the world outside through near-eye Virtual Reality (VR) goggles. These goggles effectively turn the cabin transparent for 360-degree vision and it appears to work quite well. Several tests have shown drivers completing a series of off-road courses in these window-less cabins with no significant penalty to their course times. This system is similar to the “transparent jet plane” concept in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
V-PANE or Virtual Perspectives Augmenting Natural Experience
Keeping with augmented vision, Raytheon BBN Technologies has developed an impressive vision system. It gives drivers the ability to see the world from different perspectives, each generated from a series of video cameras and LiDAR sensors. It could be compared to an advanced version of the top-down camera view currently available in some high-end cars used for parking. Of course autonomous cars have implemented LiDAR with some success regardless of the negative press the industry experienced.
The system first creates a real-time 3-dimensional model of the car’s surroundings. From there, it generates useful visual data from an out-of-the-cabin view, a high third-person view to other augmented views with a model of the vehicle to assist tight technical maneuvers. It’s only fair to assume that this 3D model would also assist with targeting systems should threats be present.
Although these technologies are still in the development phase, the GXV-T program looks really promising. First order of business is to identify which technologies can be pushed forward into production and subsequently obtain operational status.
What do you think of these impressive military vehicles? Do they match what you’ve seen out there and do you have any inspiring ideas? Please share your comments in the section below or find us on social media and use the hashtag, #techviewPRV.
PRV Engineering specialise in a number of industries including construction, automotive, aerospace, rail and steel fabrication. We’ve also been working within the defence industry for more than 6 years on armour plated products, ancillary systems and new developments. If you’d like to know more or need assistance, please get in touch.