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Militaries exploring groundbreaking technologies for Future armored vehicles to enhance lethality, survivability, situation awareness, mobility and signature management

Modern main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles and their occupants are facing increasing threats from all sides: Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) that are thrown from short distances. Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) that use infrared or radar guidance to attack the tops or engine compartments of vehicles. Mines or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) designed to attack the weaker bottoms of vehicle.

The traditional protection technique depends on the amount of armor, has reached a practical limit for today’s threat environments, as main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles have reached weights approaching 70 tons. The trend of increasingly heavy less mobile and more expensive combat platforms has limited Soldiers’ ability to rapidly deploy and maneuver in theater and accomplish their missions in varied and evolving threat environments. Moreover, larger vehicles are limited to roads and bridges they are able to travel on, require more logistical support and are more expensive to design, develop, field and replace.

DARPA has launched Ground XVehicle Technology (GXV-T) program seeks to develop revolutionary technologies to enable a layered survivability approach, which is not entirely armor-based, against multiple classes of threats to armored vehicles. A layered approach should consist of technologies that: reduce vehicle detection, reduce the likelihood of a vehicle being engaged, reduce the chances of both guided and unguided rounds hitting the vehicle and reduce the effectiveness of modern threats to armored vehicles.

One of the technology being used to enhance the survivability is  Active Protection Systems, or APS, that uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Russian Armata T-14 will incorporate several active protection system called Afganit designed to kill incoming missiles before they even strike the tank.

Military  is  looking  to deploy railguns and laser weapons to enhance lethality. US General Mark Milley said he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution for the US Army’s next tank. He also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design.
* electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds
* lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light

Milley also wants a tank that could be driverless, allowing the remaining crew to concentrate on fighting the enemy, or even completely crewless. the real sort of holy grail of technologies is new material for armor itself. A lot lighter in weight but gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

 DARPA’s Ground XVehicle Technology (GXV-T) program

Since the creation of the main battle tank during World War I, there has been a constant arms race between the development of anti-armor weapons and vehicle protection systems, however “Weapons’ ability to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor’s ability to withstand penetration”.

“We’re exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armor,” said Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager. “DARPA’s performers for GXV-T are helping defy the ‘more armor equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armored ground vehicle design for the past 100 years, and are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st Century and beyond.”

DARPA’s technical goals for improvement over current vehicles are reducing vehicle size and weight by 50 percent to greatly enhance strategic mobility, reducing crewman needs by 50 percent, Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent, accesses 95 percent of terrain and reduce signatures areas including Visual, Thermal/Infrared, Acoustic, Electro-magnetic, Dust and Ground tracks/”footprints” that would be detectable by enemy.


GXV-T is pursuing research in the following four technical areas:

  • Radically Enhanced Mobility— Ability to traverse diverse off-road terrain, including slopes, various elevations, and a range of surfaces and gradients; advanced suspensions and redefined track or wheel configurations; extreme speed; rapid omnidirectional movement changes in three dimensions. Capabilities of interest include revolutionary wheel/track and suspension technologies that would enable greater terrain access and faster travel both on- and off-road compared to existing ground vehicles.
  • Survivability through Agility—Autonomously avoid incoming threats without harming occupants through technologies that enable, for example, agile motion and active repositioning of armor. Capabilities of interest include vertical and horizontal movement of armor to defeat incoming threats in real time.
  • Crew Augmentation—Improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers; semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits. Capabilities of interest include high-resolution, 360-degree visualization of data from multiple onboard sensors and technologies to support closed-cockpit vehicle operations.
  • Signature Management—Reduction of detectable signatures, including visible, infrared (IR), acoustic and electromagnetic (EM). Capabilities of interest include improved ways to avoid detection and engagement by adversaries.


DARPA has awarded contracts for GXV-T to the following organizations:

  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Honeywell International Inc. (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  • Leidos (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Pratt & Miller (New Hudson, Mich.)
  • QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ UK, Farnborough, United Kingdom)
  • Raytheon BBN (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Tex.)
  • SRI International (Menlo Park, Calif.)


 Enhanced Situational Awareness using wide angled cockpit with virtual reality

DARPA’s released a concept video that showed how the GXV could improve situational awareness. Armored vehicles have lower situational awareness than other types of vehicles, so the agency’s solution is to have wide-angle cockpits like a jet fighter. The concept would provide the driver with a closed cockpit that incorporates visualization technologies to provide wide-angle, high-definition visibility of the outside environment. The video showed the display as able to highlight optimal routes over difficult terrain, show both infrared and terrain classification views, and visually track allies and adversaries. It also includes autopilot abilities, allowing the driver to focus on strategic activities and decisions.

Honeywell  has Developed Virtual Reality Vehicle Windshield for DARPA

Honeywell engineers completed research and testing of a virtual window technology as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Ground X-Vehicle Technologies ( GXV-T) program. During testing, an augmented and virtual reality headset along with a wraparound display enabled operators of a windowless vehicle to effectively see what was around them. This is the first case where a natural viewing experience has been achieved in an indirect, windowless driving system, officials say.

The company has designed a wide-angle, high definition view of the outside, “potentially allowing the operator to track optimal routes over difficult terrain, review infrared and terrain classification views, and see allies and adversaries,” according to a company statement. This shall provide improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers, one of the goals of DARPA.

Engineers leveraged the company’s “high-speed graphics processing, human factors design and display systems to create a virtual landscape that enables driving a windowless vehicle over actual terrain at operationally realistic speeds,” says Brian Aleksa, senior technical manager, Research & Development, Honeywell Aerospace. “After bringing a smart design to life with real-world testing, we’ve developed a windowless display that overcomes traditional challenges associated with motion sickness and eye strain. Our solution proves that a safer closed-cockpit experience is possible. There is plenty of future growth and potential application for this technology in both military and commercial markets.”

Earlier the Honeywell  had successfully tested virtual window systems by driving a fully enclosed vehicle on a rugged, off-road desert course. As part of the test, professional drivers maneuvered through the track at speeds of more than 35 miles per hour. They drove the windowless vehicle using 160-degree “battlefield” views through the virtual window display.

Earlier, Doug Harris, Honeywell’s advanced technology manager in crew interface systems, enumerated many challenges to be overcome: “The ability to put very high resolution images up on a big wrap-around window and then be able to process all that data,” Harris said, “that is a big computational problem, and when you talk about computation that adds up to power, which means a heavier vehicle,” said Focusing on human factors is also important, Harris said. “That was one of the things we thought was really strong about our proposal to DARPA was the human factors content that we have in our program.”

Enhanced Situational Awareness through Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) integration on a combat turret

CMI Defence is introducing at Eurosatory 2016 a new feature that extends the situational awareness and enhances the indirect firing capabilities of its turrets: the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) integration on a combat turret. This newly developed ability to communicate and interact with a dedicated mission-capable UAV is a world première. CMI Defence has integrated the control of a mini-drone to a weapon system, allowing the direct use of the data coming from its optical payload by the turret crew.

These new features improve the survivability of light armored vehicles and their weapon systems, improve the crew safety (e.g. in urban areas) and reduce collateral damage by a better assessment of the immediate tactical situation. It is a commander’s “direct-in-hand” capability, which complements the traditional Close Air Support and Artillery Support when both are not available.


The new feature allows:

  • Better accuracy in indirect firing via the Forward Observer capability of the drone: target localization and designation, first firing assessment and corrective indication in artillery mode, as well as battle damage assessment.
  • Reconnaissance and situation awareness at extended distance, complementing the existing capability of the sighting systems of the turrets.

This  demonstration integerated Spy’Ranger drone from Thales and their console Spy’C with its Cockerill® 3105HP turret equipped with the advanced 105mm gun . The control software was run in the Turret Network Controller and the Ballistic Computer of the Cockerill® 3105HP turret. The HMI has been adapted to the existing displays used by the crew to facilitate the control of the drone (position, evolution in the theater of operation) and the use of the data coming from the optical gimbal (display of the aerial view).

Leidos eyes technologies for stealthy vetronics able to hide combat vehicles from sensors

Leidos experts will try to find ways for vehicles to hide from infrared and visible-light sensors, radar, and microphones. Leidos also will try to find ways of reducing or hiding dust clouds that moving armored vehicles generate, as well as hiding a vehicle’s tracks on the ground. Reducing the signature of ground vehicles could result in lower probabilities detection and attack, DARPA officials say. In a combat situation, vehicles with lower signatures also might develop a tactical advantage through a longer effective standoff range.

Survivability through movement of armor

One of the ways DARPA plans to achieve a lighter but more survivable tank is through “active repositioning of armor,” that is vertical and horizontal movement of armor to defeat incoming threats in real time. This results in enhancing the armor effectiveness by increasing the thickness of the armor at the place where missile is expected to hit without incurring the weight and size penalty of  increasing the thickness of  full armor. Increased threat defeat using conventional armor is prohibitive due to the significant weight burdens associated with increased protection. Any increase in weight has secondary effects such as limited off-road mobility and increased logistics burden.

The US Army has also called for  specifications call for a mechanism that can move an armor panel, at least 1-foot-square in size, to a distance of 10 inches horizontally in less than five seconds. The armored panel would be an extra layer of protection attached to the outside of the vehicle, and remotely controlled by the crew.

The army also wants to avoid active protection systems like Israel’s Trophy system that  automatically predicts the threat object trajectory and then instantly aims a launcher that fires a canister of ball bearings at high speed directly at the object. This however enhances  the risk of injuring nearby infantry that are supposed to be protecting the tank.

Here is the main portion of the Army’s moveable armor proposal:

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a model for a mechanism capable of moving an armor panel of at least 1 square foot with an areal density of 100 pounds per square foot (PSF) 10” horizontally in less than 5 seconds. The movement is intended to be repeatable and controlled from the interior of the vehicle and shall not pose harm to dismounted personnel.

DESCRIPTION: Conventional armor solutions currently being integrated are “not adaptable” in providing increased threat capability and protection from a greatly expanded set of threats. A solution is needed for threats that are not feasibly addressed with conventional armor systems. Conventional armor systems are essentially static and unable to respond to unanticipated changes in threats deployed against the system; essentially the army has limited potential to increase the capabilities of current static armor recipes in order to balance size, weight, and performance requirements.

This SBIR topic solicits new, innovative approaches to incorporate mechanisms into an armor system to provide protection against increased threats. For the purpose of this effort the system shall be designed to interface with a 1” plate of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) Plate that represents a surrogate vehicle structure. The mechanism needs to be capable of moving a 100 PSF armor panel 10 inches horizontally in less 5 seconds. The mechanism needs to be able to withstand automotive loading as well as environmental conditions typical of a combat vehicle. The proposal should discuss in detail how the system could be incorporated onto a vehicle platform and what the projected Space, Weight, Power, and cooling (SWAP-C) at the vehicle level.

The proposal shall not include a system that could be describe as an Active Protection System (APS). A system is considered an APS system if any of the two statements apply: 1. A light-weight hit avoidance vehicle defense system which, when integrated on a ground combat vehicle, can detect, track; and then interdict by diversion, disruption, neutralization, or destruction of incoming line-of-sight threat munitions. 2. A system that deploys a counter-measure that does not providing any inherent protection to the vehicle system when the counter-measure does not perform as designed.

QinetiQ wins DARPA electric hub-drive design and development contract

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced a $2.7m investment in QinetiQ’s electric hubdrive technology, bringing a new era of vehicle design a step closer. QinetiQ is to develop an electric hub-drive to improve survivability and mobility of future military ground vehicles for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

QinetiQ’s hub-drive seeks to improve mobility through enhanced power, torque, integral braking and high efficiency, in a unit that can be contained within a 20″ wheel rim. It aims to increase survivability by removing drive shafts and gearboxes, which can become lethal to occupants in the event of an IED detonation beneath the vehicle. The absence of these components could also reduce weight and open up future design possibilities, such as fully independent suspension with significantly increased travel.

QinetiQ overcoming these obstacles by integration of a small, powerdense permanent magnet motor with a three-speed planetary reduction gearbox and liquid-cooled friction disk brake, packaged within the space-claim of the standard 20” wheel rim. The motor design has demonstrated capability to deliver power to exceed the power-to-weight ratio of present-day military platforms.

Incorporation of a multi-ratio integrated gearbox allows the hub performance envelope to extend to both high-tractive torque at low speed for obstacle crossing/gradability, and to high vehicle speeds for on-road use. Using a cooled integrated friction brake allows for dissipation of braking energy far in excess of the rated power of the traction motor to ensure full braking capability. This system has been successfully demonstrated to TRL-5 within the space claim of a standard 20” military wheel rim. This effort takes the state of the art a significant step closer toward wide adoption of hub drives as a critical building block in the HED vehicle architecture.

Dr David Moore, Director of Research Services at QinetiQ, said: “Like cavalry horses throughout history, vehicles risk becoming less mobile as they are loaded with more armour and weaponry to meet the evolving demands of warfare. Our hub-drive tackles that threat by combining optimum performance with a significant weight saving, which is critical for mobility. It also introduces a far greater degree of architectural flexibility, enabling vehicles to be configured in ways which offer greater protection to their occupants.

“GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle it’s about breaking the ‘more armour’ paradigm and revolutionising protection for all armoured fighting vehicles,” said Kevin Massey, Darpa programme manager.”



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