/ / / GCT 2012 Volume: 3 Issue: 5 (September)

Department of Defense Hails Companies Supporting Guard, Reserve

The Department of Defense honored 15 companies and organizations for supporting National Guard and reserve employees.

The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Freedom Award ceremony in September highlighted private and public companies, large and small, which go above and beyond what the law requires to support their deployed Guard and reserve employees, said keynote speaker Erin C. Conaton, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Now in its 17th year, the ESGR Freedom Award is the top honor the federal government can present to employers in recognition of the extra steps taken to support their deployed employees and families.

“With approximately 50 percent of the nation's military strength residing in the Guard and [the] reserves, we know that we wouldn't be able to field the world's greatest military without the depth of reserve components,” she added.

These forces maintain their high quality and readiness directly with their dedication to service, strong family support and civilian employer backing, Conaton said.

Such employers seek to not only retain and support their employees who serve in the military, they also hire veterans, she said.

This year’s award recipients include Basin National Cooperative in North Dakota; Caterpillar Inc., Illinois; Citi, South Dakota and New York; Crystal Springs United Methodist Church, Mississippi; Delta Airlines, Georgia; Gary Jet Center, Indiana; iostudio, Tennessee; Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Michigan; L-3 Communications, Utah, New York; Nyemaster Goode, Iowa; Port of Seattle, Washington; Siemens Corp., Delaware, District of Columbia; Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee; Uniform Color Co., Michigan; and Verizon Wireless, New Jersey.

Winners are selected based on nominations from employees who are in the Guard or reserves. This year’s 15 winners bring to 160 the number of awards that have honored companies and organizations across the nation. This year's competition received 3,200 nominations, ESGR officials said. ♦

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Odierno Urges Vigilance Against Suicidal Tendencies, Sexual Assault

The first line of defense against suicides among military personnel may be military personnel themselves. Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond Odierno said a critical element in the profession of war fighting is trust, and building a solid relationship among combatants. His comments expressed concern for the welfare of those he leads.

For example, “We should … be … involved in suicide prevention,” he told troops at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. “We need to help each other and intervene. It’s about peer-to-peer intervention, because you know” the soldier who may be suffering suicidal tendencies.

Similarly, Odierno said, it is vital that sexual assault or harassment be eliminated from the armed services, so that everyone wearing the uniform can trust other warriors.

His comments add to those of other military leaders concerned about warfighters’ welfare, such as Admiral Bill H. McRaven, SOCOM commander, who has spoken of “fraying of the forces.” He is combatting that by moves aiding families, and by attempting to make combat duty rotations more predictable so that families can better plan for the absence of a military member. ♦

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Protection Advancements

Protection Advancements


While war is hell, it also is true that the conflict raging for the past decade has produced immense strides in the art of saving lives in theater. Progress in protecting warfighters has been attained in myriad areas, as the armed services have countered moves by a cunning and crafty enemy, and industry has stepped up to the plate and responded repeatedly.

Although the days of major combat in Iraq are over, and plans are set to draw down forces in Afghanistan, the advancements born of this decade-long struggle will become permanent gains benefiting American and allied combatants. Bottom line: Fewer U.S. personnel will die in future wars, thanks to the lessons learned and technology developments in this conflict.

Personal Gear

Body armor has become more effective against enemy threats, while at the same time becoming lighter and cooler to wear in hot climates, thanks to ceramic and other innovations. That includes armor for the first time being shaped to curb discomfort for female personnel.

And the gains in weight and comfort have also been accompanied by solutions to other problems, such as the need for warfighters to carry immense amounts of weighty batteries with them to power their increasingly ubiquitous electronic gear.

Shot detectors, land navigation screens, comms of multiple types, radios, and other electronic systems have been provided for troops at the edge—but all of that gear can weigh up to a total 70 to 120 pounds. So industry has found ways to lighten the load.

For example, BAE Systems provides a conformal battery that answers multiple combatant needs. It is shaped to the human form for comfort. It can take a hit from an enemy round while protecting the warfighter. And it can power multiple types of gear, such as radios, while cutting the total weight of items that a soldier must carry.

Based on lessons learned on the battlefield, body armor advancements have included guarding areas of the body that were exposed, such as the sides. Blast Boxers by BCB were devised to protect the groin area after IEDs began causing serious injuries.

Point Blank Body Armor and other providers have made signal advances in armor systems to improve combatants’ chances of survival, with better outer tactical vests, insert plates, helmets and more.

Another factor helping to reduce deaths in theater has been in the medical area, where medics have better gear in their kits to provide first aid to wounded troops on the battlefield. And soldiers and Marines hit by enemy fire also saw their survival chances increased thanks to faster evacuations from remote areas: The V-22 Osprey can land where any helicopter can, but once in the air, the Osprey flies twice as fast and six times farther than a typical helicopter. And for wounded personnel, the sooner they reach a hospital, the greater their chances of living to fight another day.

Other improvements for warfighters over the past decade have included night vision sights that can provide clear views in black and white, instead of the traditional green. Laser range finders, too, have been upgraded. With smart ammunition, no enemy can hide from U.S. forces by taking a position en defilade, because that ammo can be timed to explode over the heads of enemy forces.

Breaching gear has advanced, ranging from ladders on vehicles to shotgun shells designed to smash open windows or doors without endangering warfighters with ricochets. One example is the Remington TB12, which can blast open a door in a second, providing U.S. military personnel the element of surprise in confronting an enemy hiding in a room.

Improved sights and other rifle gear mean that personnel can take down an enemy at greater range, before the enemy is aware of their presence. In ammunition, ATK provides the 7.62 mm M80 ball ammo that can be used by snipers, striking with an average mean radius of just 7.5 inches at 600 yards.


The decade-long war saw a ruthlessly resourceful enemy building improvised explosive devices and then upgrading IEDs (shaped charges and more) almost as fast as U.S. vehicle makers added armor and other protections.

Because IEDs have been the leading cause of U.S. and allied casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps the foremost innovation for protecting combatants was the V-shaped vehicle hull, which deflects the blast outward, away from vehicle occupants. This is offered now by an array of military vehicle makers. In addition to the V-hull, AM General (maker of the HMMWV) and Hardwire devised the blast chimney, which allows the IED blast to shoot up the metal chimney and disperse above the vehicle.

Other innovations include a BAE Systems plan to rebuild the flat-bottomed, IED-vulnerable HMMWV, making it safer in several ways. The fuel tank and battery are moved away from the passenger compartment, so that the blast isn’t followed by a fire. BAE also made the vehicle self-sacrificing, so the front and rear thirds of the HMMWV will fly away, leaving the passenger compartment to survive an IED explosion.

Lights that automatically illuminate show vehicle occupants the way out after an IED detonation, and windows can become escape hatches if doors are jammed. After some warfighters suffered burns in fires ignited by IED explosions, in-vehicle fire extinguishing systems were devised that will douse fires not only in the passenger cabin, but also at fuel tanks, rubber tires and in engine compartments.

Lessons learned also showed the value of run-flat tires and metal tire shields, so that an enemy attack would not leave the vehicle with flat tires—a sitting duck for a continued enemy attack. Rather, with run flats and tire shields, the vehicle can continue rolling down the road, away from the enemy.

Fuel Convoys

Another arrival on the battlefield has been more widespread use of solar power to provide electricity for troops, covering a range of needs. For example, sheets of solar panels can be used to recharge personal electronic gear. Or solar panels can provide juice for tent lights, comms gear and more. A water purification unit by WorldWater & Solar Technologies is solar powered.

The key point here is that solar power requires no fuel—or fuel convoys, and those convoys are a frequent target for enemy forces. Solar power saves lives.

Unmanned Systems

One of the greatest advances in protection for personnel is the unmanned vehicle. Whether in the air, on the ground, or underwater, unmanned systems have come into their own during the past decade.

In the air, there are multiple systems of every size and purpose, from craft such as the Predator by General Atomics that can not only locate the enemy but take him out, to the tiny Skate UAS by Aurora Flight Sciences that can fly indoors, moving from room to room and up stairs to check for any threat.

Similarly, the Recon Scout throwbot by Recon Robotics can be tossed over a wall, through a window or onto a roof to check for threats.

In all these systems, the significant point is that remotely piloted vehicles may be exposed to enemy fire, but not the personnel guiding them. Unmanned systems have been estimated to have saved thousands of lives, especially in explosive ordnance disposal work in theater. If an IED detonates as an unmanned system performs EOD work, no one is injured.

And innumerable instances where American combatants would have walked into enemy ambushes have been averted because UAVs sent back full-color, full-motion video showing enemy locations and intentions. That includes some unmanned systems as small as a bird or insect: the minuscule Hummingbird UAV that flies by flapping its wings in a design by AeroVironment and DARPA, and the Ornithopter insect, also by DARPA.

These and many other innovations not only have provided a critical edge for American forces in the current conflict—they will continue to safeguard combatants in future fights, a permanent advancement in the art of war. ♦

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JLTV Contracts Awarded



You can have it all, at least in a military vehicle: The Army and Marine Corps are advancing plans to give warfighters a gamechanging vehicle that will offer protection from IEDs, vastly better off-road rides, stellar fuel economy, cost containment and more.

The joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) acquisition effort moved into the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase with contract awards August 24 to three competing firms, each of them a powerhouse in military vehicles production.

This is one of the few major new procurement programs in a time of defense austerity and program cancellations. The JLTV, after being canceled in Senate proceedings, rallied and survived even as other defense vehicle programs were cut or delayed. Some $487 billion of defense program cuts over 10 years already are being legislated, with the potential for another $500 billion over a decade beginning in January.

AM General of South Bend, Ind., Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., and Oshkosh Defense of Oshkosh, Wis., and Stafford, Va., now will vie in the JLTV EMD phase to win the ultimate prize, a multi-billion dollar program to produce 50,000 JLTVs for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. The JLTVs will provide a successor to the workhorse HMMWV and the iconic Jeep.

The three other competing companies that did not receive JLTV EMD contracts—BAE Systems, General Tactical Vehicles (General Dynamics and AM General) and Navistar—still may not be out of the running: The military stated that they may develop candidate JLTV vehicles at their own risk and expense, to compete for the initial production contract.

The JLTV program was halted momentarily when Navistar filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. “Following our debrief with the government, the company had concerns regarding the selection process and we had limited time to submit our filing,” said Elissa Koc, manager of external communications. However, Navistar subsequently decided to withdraw its protest.

For AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh Defense, the EMD phase offers a challenge. Since each firm must design a JLTV that meets stringently difficult minimum requirements set by the military, each company must provide some additional cutting-edge features on its proposed vehicle that will set it apart from the others. And each of the rival firms has done just that.

Here, the top leaders of the JLTV programs in each of the three companies lay out in detail just what that vehicle maker would provide in its JLTV.

AM General: The BRV-O

For AM General, a key selling point for why the company should produce the next generation JLTV is that this is the firm that produced 300,000 HMMWVs, according to Chris Vanslager, AM General vice president of program management and business development.

“We’re the highest volume manufacturer that the Department of Defense has,” having spent decades providing light tactical vehicles, Vanslager said.

Further, he noted, AM General has years of experience in studying how to build vehicles protecting warriors against IED and RPG blasts, along with a veteran workforce already skilled in building light tactical vehicles, a depth of experience that informs the design of the AM General JLTV candidate, the blast resistant vehicle–off-road (BRV-O).

For example, Vanslager continued, a strong hull on a vehicle is only part of the solution to the requirement for survivability. Protection “goes beyond just that armor or that hull. You have five-point restraint harnesses and you have shock absorbing seats. You have devices in there that mitigate any portion of the body that might come in contact with the hull when an event occurs.”

But even more, he said, the AM General strategy is to design the BRV-O so it can go off road, avoiding the enemy’s roadside mines.

“We bring an advanced suspension system, an advanced, high-powered fuel efficient power train-engine combination that, when you put this all together, will take the vehicle off the beaten path, take it away from those routes that are likely to be mined with IEDs,” he added.

That is an example of the benefit of years of building light tactical vehicles used in theater, according to Vanslager. “We’ve been doing light tactical vehicles for over 50 years,” he said. “And over the last 30 years, we’ve been delivering the HMMWV, which is in ways considered the Lamborghini of off-road vehicles. In the last 10 years, we’ve invested a substantial amount to improve the technologies in the vehicle, and that includes the survivability aspects.”

There is no doubt that AM General will meet its $63.9 million EMD contract deadlines to produce the BRV-O, because it already exists, Vanslager emphasized.

“By the time we submitted our proposal, our survivability system had already been tested at a government test site and evaluated by the Army Research Lab, a government agency,” he said. “So we’ve met all of the requirements that our customer wanted.”

Not only has the BRV-O been run through Army tests, it has been tested where it counts: on the road and in the field. “With the BRVO, we’ve already got over 300,000 miles accumulated on the components, on the chassis, up through the whole vehicle,” Vanslager reported.

To further enhance survivability, the BRV-O meets requirements for both external fire suppression as well as internal fire suppression.

Shifting to another BRV-O strong point, Vanslager noted that it helps to contain costs in an era of defense austerity.

Because AM General is a high volume vehicle producer, it offers efficiencies of scale for savings, and the company also helps its suppliers reduce costs to realize further savings, he observed. And having a supplier base already established is yet another reason AM General can meet the aggressive military deadlines for getting the JLTV into production and onto the battlefield. “We’re ready now with our vehicle,” he noted, an asset that has “highly reliable, mature sub-systems components.”

For future savings, he explained that the engine has more than sufficient power for today’s demands, so that it can meet higher performance needs in coming years. And, key to saving the military money, the engine offers excellent fuel economy.

Another point: If the BRV-O is selected as the JLTV, the military doesn’t have to finance AM General setting up a global supply chain for the vehicle, because that supply chain already exists.

Lockheed Martin JLTV

The Lockheed Martin argument for its JLTV is that the vehicle is low risk, low cost, proven in tests and mature in design.

In capturing a $66.3 million contract for the EMD phase of the JLTV program, Lockheed Martin stressed that it had a head start on the competition: The company earlier participated in the technology development (TD) phase of the JLTV effort.

“After seeing what was possible in TD, this new design is about making it a reality for production and the warfighter,” said Scott Greene, Lockheed Martin vice president, ground vehicle programs. “Our design represents a low-risk solution. We have a proven design already tested by the customer that we’re going to serve in EMD.” That translates into a superior vehicle at a cut-rate sticker price, according to Greene.

For example, “We have significantly cost-reduced our TD design by eliminating exotic materials and optimizing the design itself for production,” said Kathryn Hasse, Lockheed Martin director–Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program. “So we really do have very great confidence in our ability to not only deliver very high quality, reliable vehicles on the accelerated schedule that the customer has requested, but we also know that we have great confidence that we can meet their aggressive average unit production cost, in production.”

A typical maximum price limit set by the military is around $260,000 for one variant of the JLTV. Greene observed that Lockheed Martin has eliminated potential harsh surprises in developing the JLTV by testing it exhaustively. “We’ve [designed] our vehicle using over 160,000 combined test miles [so as to] maximize the affordability and survivability for the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps,” he said.

And the vehicle has passed formal tests. “Testing has shown that JLTV meets protection standards for IED-protected vehicles, while weighing approximately 40 percent less than some all-terrain models deployed in theater today,” he said.

“Through government testing, we’ve already proven that our JLTV can meet the government’s performance [requirements], and that includes the enhanced blast performance,” Hasse emphasized. “And I might also mention that as a result of government testing, we know we enter EMD with a highly reliable vehicle.”

She turned to another major issue, the cost of buying and operating JLTVs in a highly constrained budgetary environment. “You know, cost has been a big discussion point over the last year or so,” she recalled. “We have spent a tremendous amount of time optimizing our JLTV design for EMD and for production."

To give just one example, she noted that “we had things like titanium lower control arms when we delivered our TD vehicles. I mean, that’s really been the beauty of our opportunities. We had a design that performed in TD and met all of the requirements. And then we’ve had a number of years since we’ve delivered those vehicles to continue to refine the design, to really take what we knew were high cost materials out of it.”

That helps on the purchase price that the military would pay for the Lockheed Martin JLTV. But what about the later costs of operating the vehicles?

“We’re affordable in terms of the overall life cycle sustainment costs, having demonstrated very high fuel efficiency and other aspects of reduced life cycle sustainment,” she said. “The fuel efficiency—we demonstrated in TD, on a vehicle that was substantially heavier than our EMD vehicle, that we could achieve well over 10 mpg. As you are probably aware, that is a very, very significant increase over” the fuel economy of typical military vehicles.

The firm fixed-price contract has a 27-month performance period with deliveries of 22 vehicles taking place within 12 to 14 months. Primary variants with companion trailers include the utility carrier and shelter, a two-seat prime mover with an open bed; and the general-purpose vehicle, which is a four-seater that will carry troops, ammunition and small supplies.

Additionally, Greene noted, when it comes to creating the JLTV, the Lockheed Martin team has long since been assembled, including BAE Systems in Sealy, Texas, Allison Transmission, Cummins Engine, L-3 Combat Propulsion Systems, Meritor Defense, Robert Bosch LLC and Vehma International of America. And Lockheed Martin itself has ample experience in vehicle programs, Hasse noted, such as participating in the ground combat vehicle program, several wheeled vehicle programs and the Marine personnel carrier.

The JLTV entrant to the contest must weigh 14,000 pounds or less to achieve transportability standards, yet it also must be able to achieve levels of MRAP blast protection, “which we’ve already proven in tests,” she continued.

“We have to achieve a very significantly reduced price point, particularly as it compares to MRAP vehicles of all forms and flavors,” she said. “And we’ve demonstrated to the government’s satisfaction that we can achieve that as well. So from a Lockheed Martin perspective, we are very confident, in conjunction with our world class teammates such as BAE Sealy, who has produced tens of thousands of military vehicles out of their facility in Sealy, and other key suppliers such as Meritor Defense, and Vehma and Bosch and L-3.”

Lockheed Martin—the largest defense contractor—also has a vaunted reputation as a systems integrator, Greene noted. Greene said having Lockheed Martin lead the team provides a critical plus for the company’s JLTV program. “One of the benefits you get with Lockheed Martin is the whole systems thinking approach, from an engineering perspective,” he added.

That becomes crucial when the military demands a vehicle that can do it all, rather than being just a one-trick pony. “There are purpose-built vehicles out there in the inventory that are good for protection,” he observed. “And there are purpose-built vehicles out there today that are good for mobility. And there are purpose-built vehicles out there today that are affordable.

“What Lockheed Martin has done is, we’ve taken those requirements that at some time appear orthogonal to most people, and we’ve been able to combine those into one vehicle that is affordable, that is mobile, and that gives the survivability and protection that the warfighter needs. That’s the difference” that a systems integrator can bring to the table.

Not only must each contractor design a vehicle with many simultaneous virtues, each firm must integrate government furnished equipment such as comms systems into the vehicles, Greene explained.

A key point in the success of the Lockheed Martin JLTV is that the company didn’t attempt to take a heavy vehicle and rework it to make a light tactical asset. Rather, Lockheed Martin began with a blank sheet to design a vehicle precisely meeting requirements, he said, and then proved it with 160,000 miles of testing. That makes the Lockheed JLTV “very low risk,” he said.

Each contract calls for the contractor to deliver 20 vehicles 12 months from receipt of contract, then the 21st vehicle in 13 months and the 22nd vehicle in 14 months.

After each of the contractors delivers its vehicles, the military will run them through robust testing programs. That’s in addition to shakedown tests that contractors will put on the vehicles during the EMD phase.

Oshkosh Defense L-ATV

With Oshkosh Defense, one key means of setting the company apart from the competition lies in a simple statement of facts: The leading killer of U.S. warfighters in theater is the IED, and the best protection against those roadside mines is to avoid coming anywhere near them in the first place. To that end, give a vehicle a nextgeneration suspension system, so it can go off road with ease.

That was a message that was advanced repeatedly by John Bryant, Oshkosh vice president for joint and Marine Corps programs, Dave Diersen, director of defense programs, and Rob Messina, vice president for engineering.

The three Oshkosh officials offered details of the Oshkosh light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle (L-ATV) that the company is proposing for the JLTV solution. Then they adjourned from their offices in Stafford, Va., to the Stafford Airport, a civil aviation facility beside I-95, to offer rides on a rough off-road course in a vehicle with an older style suspension, and then in the L-ATV equipped with the advanced TAK-4i independent suspension.

For this writer, the difference was remarkable. On the rough off-road test course, the older truck provided a pounding ride, and even on a straightaway strained to reach 15 to 17 mph. On the same stretch, the L-ATV was moving at 30 mph, with a far smoother ride, whether one was seated in a back seat or the passenger seat. That was roughly twice the speed.

“Our JLTV offering, the L-ATV, allows offroad speeds significantly faster” than a 70 percent advance from a non-TAK-4i suspension. Bryant stated. “It is truly a leap ahead.”

But the L-ATV is more than just a new-tech suspension system, offering as well improved fuel economy, blast protection, cost containment and more, according to the officials. And paramount for the JLTV program, they stressed the vast experience that Oshkosh commands in providing the military with vehicles.

“We have been serving the military for more than 90 years,” Bryant said. “We’ve actually sold over 100,000 tactical wheeled vehicles and trailers to our military customers.”

The company has supplied heavy and medium vehicles for both the Army and Marine Corps, providing 8,700 of the MRAP all terrain vehicles, or M-ATVs. “And now, with the JLTV program, with the SOCOM ground mobility vehicle program, and with a number of HMMWV modernization options, Oshkosh is solidly in the light tactical vehicle market.”

In moving to design a JLTV, Bryant stated, “The threat from IEDs renders every mission dangerous, and kind of removes the front line.”

Oshkosh has experience in dealing with that danger, he added. “MRAPs were designed for those evolving threats in theater, and they do provide tremendous protection. Our M-ATV combined tremendous off-road capability with that protection.”

What is new is that the Oshkosh L-ATV has provided a way to combine advanced protection with “the lightweight transportable package needed, so they can get the vehicle to the fight,” he noted.

Even though the Oshkosh M-ATV is the lightest MRAP in theater currently, and the Oshkosh L-ATV is about half the weight of that MRAP, the vehicles both have about the same levels of protection, he stated.

Depending on which protection packages are mounted on the M-ATV and the L-ATV, they overlap in survivability, he said.

Focusing on the TAK-4i suspension system, that smoother ride can be more than an impression. It can be quantified, he continued. “What we measure is, we try to keep the forces felt by the driver within a certain level. So the Army will describe certain courses with certain sizes of bumps. And then you have to be able to go over those bumps while keeping the forces on the driver below a certain level. And then they measure how fast you can go when you do that.”

Messina reported that “an M-ATV on a given course can go around 20 miles an hour. The JLTV can go more than 30 miles an hour.” Put another way, an M-ATV can outpace a HMMWV in open terrain, and an L-ATV “is 70 percent better than the M-ATV,” Messina disclosed.

The lighter L-ATV weight means it can more easily get to the fight in the first place. “At about half the weight of an M-ATV, L-ATV offers much greater transportability,” he observed. “In theater, the MRAP requirements were not really built around transportability, were not really built around getting to the fight from the continental United States.”

A light vehicle weight not only means it is more easily transported, the vehicle also offers better fuel economy. And the less fuel vehicles use, the fewer fuel convoys must move through theater—a critical point, considering that fuel convoys are a favorite target of the enemy.

“The L-ATV offers a tremendous increase in fuel economy,” Bryant stated. “A vehicle that’s half the weight is going to be much more fuel efficient. But our L-ATV also has a power train built around the Duramax 6.6 liter engine. And that’s a highly efficient power plant. So by combining the light weight protection of the L-ATV with a highly efficient power train, you get a significant leap ahead in fuel economy. We designed this vehicle for fuel efficiency.”

The engine alone provides the L-ATV with 30 percent greater fuel efficiency, Messina estimated. Other factors such as lighter vehicle weight, drive line efficiencies, aerodynamics and more provide even better savings at the pump. But no solid number on total fuel savings can be provided, because of differences in vehicle drivers, payload and other variables.

Suffice it to say, Bryant and Diersen related, that the L-ATV yields far greater fuel consumption efficiency compared to an up-armored HMMWV.

Oshkosh received a $56.4 million JLTV EMD contract.

The Lockheed Martin JLTV Suspension Story

A key system for any vehicle that must travel off-road is the suspension, and Meritor promises to provide the Lockheed Martin JLTV with a first-rank ride. Meritor will supply its ProTec high mobility independent suspension (HMIS) for the JLTV.

Meritor Defense has developed more than 20 variants of the ProTec HMIS system over the past seven to eight years, according to Dave Damian, director, sales and business development.

“Over this time, we have also developed a vehicle dynamics team that delivers capabilities including full vehicle chassis system setup,” he noted. “By use of Meritor’s vehicle dynamics mobile laboratory trailer, we can provide real time data acquisition, precision spring and shock tuning, and optimization of ride and handling characteristics so the ProTec system can provide the vehicle the best capability to fit real-world mission environments.”

Combining this tuning process with high wheel travel (up to 20 inches), large impacts in full suspension jounce and rebound are minimized, reducing the impact loading, or the pounding and punishment, to the vehicle chassis, he added.

Meritor Defense also offers options that included semi-active damping, further enhancing the ride and performance characteristics of the vehicle. Depending on the application, the ProTec HMIS can provide anywhere from 50 to 100 percent faster speeds over specified terrain, many times at an increased payload, Damian observed.

“I wouldn’t say we have any unusual technologies in the ProTec HMIS, but over the years of development, we have established an expertise at combining low cost, lightweight materials with automotive style architectures in order to deliver to our customers the lightest weight product that delivers improved durability and reliability, while increasing vehicle payload and performance at the same time.”

In addition to the suspension itself, Meritor also offers a full suite of electronic systems to enhance the ProTec HMIS performance, including air suspension height control, semi-active damping, central tire inflation systems, and electronic drivetrain controls for shifting and traction control management. ♦

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Hybrid Vehicle Systems

Hybrid Vehicles


Will hybrid drive vehicles provide an electrifying advance in military hardware? While they may someday make an appearance on the battlefield, hybrids thus far haven’t sparked enough interest to launch a major current procurement program for vehicles that run at least in part on electricity.

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) at this point has no programs of record for hybrids, noted Dean McGrew, acting team leader for advanced propulsion.

“We have been working on this for a long time, 20 years, and once had an all-electric tank,” McGrew said. “Recently we did demonstrations with hybrids to see how they did on performance and fuel economy.” Two years ago, TARDEC took hybrids to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and matched them against conventional vehicles in all kinds of driving conditions. The results showed hybrids save fuel some of the time, not all of the time. “It depends on road and driving conditions,” McGrew said.

So TARDEC is currently working on integrating higher-power generators between engines and transmissions of vehicles to generate more power for soldiers. “We need more power, and we are running out of ability to generate it,” McGrew emphasized. “We max out at 15 kilowatts of power and we want to increase that to 120 or 160 kW, so they can operate weapons, defensive systems and radios.”

More power from vehicles could also help generate power for forward operating bases (FOBs), micro-grids and improvised camps. “Then finally, after we have done that, maybe we will have hybrids for vehicle propulsion,” McGrew predicted. “It will be an evolution.”

Evolution is advisable because it is relatively easy to add more power generation between engine and transmission, as this change adds little volume and no or minimal weight. The TARDEC package would fit Strykers, the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and a number of MRAPs. “If we can get a good system we can apply it broadly.” McGrew said. On the other hand, adding high-voltage energy storage for hybrid propulsion is a much bigger challenge, because this storage must withstand very high temperatures, fit in tight spaces and handle rugged environments.

One of the current concerns is how reliable hybrids are, so TARDEC will take a tactical vehicle to Aberdeen to put 20,000 durability miles on it. “We can see what we can do to make it more robust, so that when we do have a hybrid system we will know how to write specs for it,” McGrew explained.

TARDEC will keep monitoring the “good, the bad and the ugly” of hybrid-electric vehicles, McGrew said. The good is having more power on vehicles for accessories and export, saving fuel in many driving cycles at first and saving even more fuel in the future as hybrid systems are optimized. The bad is that hybrids can take up room and be hard to fit into vehicles. The ugly is getting hybrids to operate in high temperatures. “They are okay in North America, but the desert is a lot tougher,” McGrew said.

Others are more optimistic. BAE Systems, which has been working on military hybrids since the 1970s, is offering a hybrid-electric ground combat vehicle (GCV) to replace the Bradley and is looking at hybrid solutions for other military vehicles, explained Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of the ground combat vehicle program.

Signorelli said a hybrid can satisfy GCV requirements for reliability, maintenance, weight and fuel efficiency. “When GCV requirements came out, we looked at serial turbine and other options for power and it became clear that hybrid-electric was the way to go.”

He said hybrid satisfies GCV performance needs, especially mobility, acceleration and maneuverability. On weight, BAE’s hybrid is four tons lighter than conventional GCVs, chiefly because the propulsion system has smaller volume, which allows for less armor. “The electric drive is lighter, even with a battery,” Signorelli said. One reason: Conventional propulsion must size engines for peak needs, while hybrid can surge on battery power.

Further, hybrid transmission has 50 percent fewer parts than conventional drives, and electric motors are highly reliable. And hybrid can integrate better with future technologies that need more power for communications and other uses. Lastly, hybrid is 10 to 20 percent more fuel efficient. “We did not design it for fuel efficiency— we designed it for requirements, and the side effect is fuel economy,” Signorelli said.

BAE believes maintenance costs will be less, partly because drive-train units can be removed separately, rather than all together. Upfront costs should be only 5 to 10 percent higher than conventional propulsion. This is because even conventional propulsion on military vehicles must be a very high-performance system.

BAE will have its complete hybrid system on a test stand in early fall for 2,000 miles of operation under stress. The company expects to deliver three prototypes for competition against a non-hybrid GCV in January 2015, with a production decision in 2017. “We are excited,” Signorelli said. “There has been skepticism, but others do not know how robust this is, how mature it is and what we can do.”

QinetiQ has been at the forefront of development of hybrid and electric drive for military vehicles for over a decade, said David Crane, program director power management. It is currently partnering with BAE Systems to develop the E-X-Drive transmission for the GCV. “E-X-Drive was successfully demonstrated as part of the now-terminated Future Combat Systems Manned Ground Vehicle program, where several running prototypes were built,” Crane noted. For GCV, QinetiQ built several prototype transmissions now under test in the U.S and U.K. under a GCV technology demonstration phase contract.

Crane said military land vehicles are the last major class of surface vehicles that have not adopted electric drive. “The basic architecture of military land vehicles has remained unchanged for 50 years.” Until the mid-1990s, hybrid technology may have been inadequate, “but great strides have been made since.”

Crane said the U.S. Future Combat Systems Manned Ground Vehicle proved the feasibility of electric drive for tracked vehicles using QinetiQ’s E-X-Drive transmission, and this knowledge has been exploited in BAE Systems’ GCV program.

Fuel savings depend on duty cycles. “However, we are confident that fuel savings in the range of 10 to 20 percent are achievable, compared with mechanical propulsion systems, across the range of military duty cycles,” Crane said. Separating the power pack from the transmission allows diesel engines generating electrical power to run at optimum efficiency most of the time. E-X-Drive transmission also avoids slipping clutches or large high-pressure hydraulic pumps.

Benefits of electric drive also include design flexibility, reliability, maintainability, electrical power capacity and some performance characteristics, according to Crane. And hybrid electric provides rapid propulsion responses to crew demand, which is important for survivability. Electric drive has simpler mechanical design with fewer wearing items and no high-pressure hydraulics, improving reliability. Series hybrid-electric designs are lighter and allow distributed propulsion, so vehicles can carry more equipment or protective armor. And electric propulsion can export power, reducing the need for towed generators.

General Dynamics Land Systems has been working with hybrid-electric drive propulsion systems for 15 years, explained Michael Peck, director of business development for ground combat systems. “We went a different route than traditional hybrids; we went with in-hub motors that can do different things than a traditional hybrid.”

Traditional hybrids use conventional drive lines with axles and transmissions. “What we did to improve mobility, flexibility and free up interior space was to develop motors in the wheel hubs,” Peck said. “So if it has eight wheels, it has eight motors, for much better off-road mobility, each one operating independently. It does not have a drive shaft and axles. The motor generates electricity and wires carry the electricity to each wheel.”

Peck said this enables GDLS to design the vehicle for better survivability, because there is none of the extra equipment in the undercarriage area. Absence of axles improves off-road mobility, and the ability for silent operation can help in special operations missions. Additionally, there is substantial exportable electric power.

“It does not save that much fuel in ordinary road driving, but in combat, where you are often idling, that is where it saves,” Peck said. “And it is in combat, where you have limited access to fuel, that significant fuel saving counts.”

GDLS currently has four prototype vehicles, and one is now being tested by TARDEC for reliability. “When you look at conventional systems, reliability issues are in drive trains due to off-road effects on brakes, axles and transmissions. We don’t have that problem.” GDLS also has an 8x8 vehicle similar to the Stryker and a 4x4 prototype. However, the GCV is a 60-ton vehicle and Peck is not sure his in-hub motor technology would be well suited for that weight.

Peck said some earlier concerns with the GDLS approach arose from water and debris penetration of seals in very aggressive combat driving, but the company has refined the technology considerably since then. He urged military procurement officials to consider new propulsion systems holistically. “Look at how it affects the whole formation, performance, people and expenses. The fuel saving alone may not pay for the initial investment, but the cumulative impact of modern technologies on lifecycle costs, sustainment and operation is where the real cost advantages are seen.” ♦

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