News 1998 Army Science and Technology Master Plan

18. Ground Vehicles

Ground vehicle technologies support the basic Army and Marine Corps land combat functions: shoot, move, communicate, survive, and sustain. This technology area is comprised of the following subareas: systems integration, vehicle chassis and turret, integrated survivability, mobility, and intravehicular electronics suite. Rapid deployment, manageable logistics, and compatibility with third–world infrastructures are current topics of major interest. Specific objectives include advances in diesel and gas turbine propulsion, better track and suspension to increase cross–country mobility, and improvements in survivability through improved ballistic protection and reduced observables (including use of active armor). Table E–21 and the following paragraphs summarize capabilities and opportunities in each technology subarea.

a. Systems Integration

Each ground vehicle consists of several subsystems (e.g., power and drive train, electronics, weapons, sensors), which must be integrated into a full–up, system–level technology demonstration. The primary process to evolve future vehicles is virtual prototyping. M&S will develop preliminary concepts, optimize design, reduce cost, and schedule maximize force effectiveness for ground vehicles. The goal is to develop lighter, more lethal, and survivable ground vehicles. Virtual concepts can be readily evaluated for mobility, agility, survivability, lethality and transportability, forming the basis for validation, verification, and accreditation. The major technical challenge is to provide the user with systems that can attain an effective balance between increased fighting capability, enhanced survivability, and improved deployability while meeting cost, manufacturing, and reliability/maintainability goals. Specific challenges relate to developing verifiable models in a usable time frame.

Table E–21.  International Research Capabilities—Ground Vehicles


United Kingdom




Asia/Pacific Rim


Other Countries

Systems Integration 2s.gif (968 bytes) EC nations have capabilities in various areas 1s.gif (931 bytes) EC nations have capabilities in various areas 5s.gif (958 bytes)   2s.gif (968 bytes) Israel

1s.gif (931 bytes) RPVs; teleoperation


2s.gif (968 bytes) Armored vehicles

Vehicle Chassis & Turret 2s.gif (968 bytes) 2s.gif (968 bytes) 1s.gif (931 bytes) Structure & design 5s.gif (958 bytes) China, ROK

5s.gif (958 bytes)

2s.gif (968 bytes) Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy

2s.gif (968 bytes)

Integrated Survivability 5s.gif (958 bytes) 5s.gif (958 bytes) Modular armor 1s.gif (931 bytes) Vehicle survivability     Russia

5s.gif (958 bytes) Bulk ceramics; active protection

Israel, Sweden, South Africa

5s.gif (958 bytes)

Mobility 1s.gif (931 bytes) Gas turbine 1s.gif (931 bytes) Secondary batteries 1s.gif (931 bytes) Autonomous control; diesel engines electric drive 1s.gif (931 bytes) Ceramic engine; electric drive   Russia

2s.gif (968 bytes) Electric drive components; batteries; switches


2s.gif (968 bytes) Diesel engines

Intravehicular Electronics Suite 2s.gif (968 bytes) 2s.gif (968 bytes) Multisensor integration 1s.gif (931 bytes) Integrated electronics & optronics        
Note: See Annex E, Section A.6 for explanation of key numerals.

The major players in ground vehicle systems integration and design are the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, Japan, and Russia, all of whom have a long history of developing and manufacturing military armored systems including main battle tanks. Switzerland also has a capability in armored vehicles that may be of interest and Israel has unique experience in the use of RPVs and UAVs that may contribute to advances in teleoperation of ground vehicles.

b. Vehicle Chassis and Turret

The use of composite and titanium–based materials will make future combat vehicles lighter, more easily deployed, versatile, and survivable. These technologies are key to optimizing and exploiting structural integrity, durability, ballistic protection, repairability, and signature reduction. Future vehicle chassis and turrets will be fabricated to integrate advanced designs using a combination of lightweight structures and modular armor packages.

Using composite materials or titanium as the primary structure in a combat vehicle is new and there are significant technical challenges. Issues related to composite materials include durability, producibility, and repairability. The primary issue for titanium is its high cost, which has so far kept it from being used on any U.S. combat vehicles.

The same countries mentioned under systems integration also have strong capabilities in vehicle chassis and turret technologies. Of these, Germany continues to be one of the few world leaders in combat vehicle R&D in all weight classes. They develop and field wheeled combat vehicles that meet or exceed tracked vehicle capabilities. Mercedes design and prototyping has provided the basis for a German–French cooperative effort in medium–weight armored vehicles GTK), and their main battle tank development and prototyping continues beyond Leopard 2 block improvements. In addition, the EGS heavy combat vehicle technology demonstrator, developed by Krauss Maffei with firms such as Pietsch, Diehl, MTU, and a host of others incorporates state–of–the–art construction and materials fabrication technology with a focus on signature management.

c. Integrated Survivability

The goal of integrated survivability is to protect ground vehicles from a proliferation of advanced threats. Hit avoidance, detection avoidance, penetration avoidance, and damage reduction technologies are critical to achieving overall vehicle survivability. Hit avoidance technologies confuse or physically affect incoming threats. ECM and improved sensors are the key elements. Detection avoidance revolves around management of visual, thermal, radar, acoustic, seismic, and dust signatures. Armor is the major element in penetration avoidance, and damage reduction deals with firefighting agents and compartmentalization of ammunition and fuel. Advances in penetration avoidance center on producing efficient armors with reduced weight, space, and cost. The U.S. is currently the world leader, but other nations are improving rapidly. TTCP nations have strong armor programs. Sweden has a vigorous program following unusual research not found in NATO countries. Israel has strong capabilities, as evidenced by a indigenous development in the Merkava aimed at survivability. South Africa’s Rooicat wheeled armored fighting vehicle incorporates a number of indigenously developed and integrated survivability features, including ballistic protection, obscurants, and collective CB protection.

The major technical challenge relates to the cost of the technologies required for survivability. In addition, many of the technologies have significant weight, volume, electrical power, and thermal loading requirements that make their insertion into fielded systems both costly and time consuming.

The U.S. is the world leader in most aspects of integrated survivability, but niche capabilities may be found in countries that develop and manufacture armored systems. Several German capabilities deserve special mention. These include strong capabilities in integrated CBD, and in the areas of indirect protection (detection and hit avoidance). The firm of Buck has conducted extensive research in multispectral obscurants. In direct protection, the German firm of Deisenroth continues to be a leader in composite armor for light, medium, and heavy vehicles, both as integrated and modular add–on packages. The German firm of Condat specializes in analytic and predictive modeling for armored systems vulnerability assessments. The FSU has been a world leader in active protection for the past 20 years. Finally, Russian developments in bulk ceramics have potential for ballistic protection.

d. Mobility

Mobility focuses on the "move" function of tracked and wheeled land combat vehicles. Mobility components include suspension, tracks, wheels, engine, transmission, and fuels and lubricants. Technologies of interest include active noise and vibration control to increase cross–country performance; quiet, lightweight band track; and advanced high–output diesel, turbine engines, and electric drives. Another major area of interest is providing increased electrical power in smaller, lighter packages. Electrical power is shared among propulsion, survivability, lethality, and auxiliary systems. Energy management is an important factor. Electric and hybrid drive systems are also being developed. Finally, to reduce operation and support costs, the number and types of fuels and lubricants must be reduced.

Technical challenges for electric drive include power, reducing cooling system size, and total volume. For advanced track systems, the major challenge is to extend the lightweight conventional track durability while reducing operational and support costs. For fuels and lubricants, the challenge is to define performance tradeoffs for a single engine/powertrain lubricant.

In addition to the U.S., Japan and Germany are the world leaders in automotive propulsion, both having significant capabilities in functionally gradient coatings, monolithic ceramics, and in engines and high–power sensor diesel engines. Germany is a world leader in air–cooled diesel engines. Much of this expertise is applicable to military vehicles.

Primary interest in electric drive is found in the major automobile producing and exporting countries (the U.S., Japan, and Germany) driven primarily by growing restrictions on exhaust emissions. Japan is the world leader in some aspects of electric drive technology. France has special capabilities in secondary batteries, such as lithium polymer, which are of great interest for military applications, due to their high energy and power density, long life cycle, and rapid charge/discharge abilities. They also are lightweight, compact, vibration resistant, and have no EM signature. Military applications include electric vehicle propulsion (15 kilowatt or more of power) and silent watch. The U.K., Japan, and Russia also have strong capabilities in lithium battery technology. Another foreign capability of great interest is Germany’s experience in hybrid electric vehicles. The German firm of Magnet Motors has been working in this area for over 10 years and has attained the state of the art in multiple electric permanent magnet (MED) motors and generators, as well as magnet dynamic storage (MDS). Other German firms—Siemens, ABB, AEG, and Max Planck—are world leaders in microsystem technology as characterized by a combination of power semiconductors, which will make electric drives smaller, more robust, and more responsive. These technologies could play an important role in Tank–Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center’s tank mobility technology. Also related to electric drive, Russia has special expertise in certain types of very high energy batteries and some silicon carbide switching devices.

Another technology area of interest for mobility in that of autonomous navigation and control of vehicles. Germany and the U.S. have a collaborative program entitled Next–Generation Autonomous Navigation System (AUTOVON). Participating research laboratories and their technological contributions to the project are as follows:

Universitat der Bundeswehr Munchen (UBM), Germany—UBM will produce an advanced autonomous road navigation system with cost–effective collision avoidance technology. For a number of years, UBM has been a leader in the European Prometheus program oriented towards the development of commercial highway automation. As part of the Prometheus program, UBM has been developing a sophisticated highway lane following system using only normal video for sensor input.

Dornier GmbH, Germany—Dornier will provide advanced off–road obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities using laser radar technology.

David Sarnoff Research Center (DSRC), Princeton, New Jersey—DSRC will perform as technical lead in obstacle detection and recognition. DSRC’s obstacle detection approach is entered on high definition, area–based recognition technology, which, together with UBM’s research orientation on feature–based recognition, shows promise of complementary research products that, when combined, will offer significant obstacle detection potential. DSRC contributions will include a faster, low–cost, processing capability allowing faster autonomous speeds of operation.

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland—This institute will develop a common computer architecture base. The common computer architecture thrust could lead to a standard vehicle controller system supporting technology transfers in a wide range of future developments. ARL will support the institute with a sensor platform stabilization system and global positioning system (GPS)/inertial navigation system integration to enhance navigation system sensor performance.

The AUTOVON effort will accelerate progress in existing Army/DoD unmanned ground vehicle programs since German researchers hold the lead in the development and implementation of some of the key technologies.

e. Intravehicular Electronics Suite

The goal of this subarea is to develop a standardized framework within which to integrate digital technologies for embedded vehicular weapons systems. This is important for enabling current and future ground vehicles to maintain superior combat effectiveness in the digital battlefield. There are two aspects to this area: integration of the electronics into the vehicle, and natural and seamless interconnection of the crew with the electronics.

Technical challenges in intravehicular electronics suites include:

Electronic integration techniques that are scalable to many platforms
Advanced crew station design
Real–time distribution of battlefield information within a vehicle
Reduction of system development time and cost
Reduction of system integration time and cost.

The only foreign work of note in this area is that done by the German firm Pietsch, which has conducted extensive future crew compartment studies, focusing on crew size reduction, human factors such as man–machine interface, endurance, and multiple taskings. Integration of technologies such as sensor suites, optronics, and robotics have been demonstrated and continue to be pursued. Existing U.S.–German agreements are ongoing in support of efforts in this area. Future studies are being planned/discussed on the following topics:

Day and night observation equipment
Sighting and fire control, including stabilized gun control systems
Data processing equipment, sensors, and modes logic
Radio and navigation equipment
Test, display, and operating equipment
Laser applications for battle tank fire control
Laser application for artillery fire control.

AMC POC: Dr. Rodney Smith
Army Materiel Command
5001 Eisenhower Blvd.
Alexandria, VA 22333–0001
e–mail: [email protected]

For mobility:

IPOC: Mr. Stephen Cohn
Army Research Laboratory
2800 Powder Mill Road
Adelphi, MD 20783–1197
e–mail: [email protected]

For intravehicular electronics suite, mobility, integrated survivability, and vehicle chassis and turret:

MSC IPOC: Mr. William Lowe
U.S. Army Tank–Automotive and Armaments Command
Warren, MI 48397–5000
e–mail: [email protected]

IPOC: Bob Both
Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703
e–mail: [email protected]

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