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Wanted: Next-Gen Armored Vehicles With Less Armor

by Bryant Jordan on August 24, 2014

MRAPThe Pentagon wants next-generation armored vehicles that are more mobile, maneuverable and survivable, but without more armor.

In September, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will host a proposer’s day to give potential contractors a more clear idea of what the Defense Department wants in its Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program.

“GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle— it’s about breaking the ‘more armor’ paradigm and revolutionizing protection for all armored fighting vehicles,” Kevin Massey, DARPA program manager, said in an Aug. 18 press release.

Historically, militaries and industry have responded to improved or more lethal attacks on its armored vehicles by adding more armor. But armor piercing weapons technology has pretty much taken the day in that competition, advancing faster than industry’s ability to come up with armor to withstand penetration, Massey said.

The more heavily armored vehicles do increase the chances of crew survivability. The Congressional Research Service, citing DoD figures in 2009, said the casualty rate for troops in an MRAP is 6 percent. For the M-1 Abrams, it’s about 15 percent and for the up-armored HMMWV – the Humvee – it’s 22 percent.

But the additional armor and weight – some MRAPs will weigh up to 24 tons – has meant significant increases in vehicle mass and cost. And that increased mass has meant sacrificing maneuverability on the battlefield, where threat environments change. Larger vehicles are limited to roads, demand more logistical support and are more expensive to design, develop, field and replace, the DARPA release said.

As a result, the U.S. military is looking for so-called “disruptive” innovations – technologies that change everything – to ensure survivability of crew and vehicle in the next generation of armored fighting vehicles, DARPA says.

The agency is looking for technologies that could be developed in 24 months and incorporated into a broad range of ground, tactical and support vehicles following the successful completion of the program.

Massey said the GXV-T program was inspired by X-plane programs that have been instrumental in improving aircraft capabilities over the past six decades.

“We plan to pursue groundbreaking fundamental research and development to help make future armored fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable,” Massey said.

The proposer’s day, which is being held in advance of the official call for project proposals, will be at the DARPA Conference Center in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 5, from 9 am to 3 pm. More information is available here.

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