The U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is currently testing its latest military concept tactical vehicle at the U.S. Army Garrison - Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan to ensure it is fit for the crucial job of protecting our troops while getting them in and out of the battlefield in any potential future conflicts.
Army researchers designed the Ultra-Light Vehicle (ULV) prototype to meet a variety of challenges by making it fuel efficient, versatile and survivable in nearly any environment since it needs to be able to go where our troops go while being able to handle all the stresses that come with the territory. Although this was no easy task, they were able to implement commercial technologies which enabled them to go from the design phase to the build phase in only 16 months.
The team produced three vehicles, two of which will be used for mobility, mine blast and ballistic survivability testing while the third is moving into TARDEC’s Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL) for mobility and fuel efficiency testing. Results are expected to be available in early 2014.
This ULV isn’t like the old High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) that lumbered around with the old Detroit Diesel 6.2-liter V8 or the modern 6.5-liter turbo-diesel engine, instead the ULV is powered by two electric drive motors that receive power from a smaller diesel generator that delivers 260 pound-feet of torque. With two electric motors, the ULV’s hybrid powertrain improves both mobility and survivability. By eliminating the need for a driveshaft, the underbody can be designed to perform well in a blast event.
This design allows either of the electric motors to power the vehicle, providing redundancy should one of them go down while in battle. The lightweight diesel engine powers the electric motors and also enables immediate launch, stealth drive, silent watch, exportable power generation, high torque at low or near zero speeds and improved fuel economy
Creature comforts include a crushable floating floor system that decouples the crew’s feet and legs from the steel hull and absorbs energy in the event of a blast. To keep all five troops safe in the ULV, adjustable stroking seats, five-point restraint systems as well as spatial accommodations to mitigate head impacts and flail injuries are employed. The ULV also utilizes high-strength steels and advanced composite materials including a newly developed transparent ceramic armor system that offers lightweight ballistic protection from a number of threats.
Incredibly, the ULV has a top speed of 74 mph and can get to 30 mph in 5.1 seconds. Getting up to 50 mph does take a little longer though but at 16.2 seconds, it’s not bad considering the ULV tips the scales with an 18,200 pound Gross Vehicle Weight rating. If you don’t think that’s fast, consider that this beast can also begin a 5-percent grade climb at 45 mph and maintain a speed of 38 mph continuously throughout the grade.
The ULV also has a range of 337 miles while doing 35 mph on flat ground despite its 13,916-pound curb weight. One of the coolest features of the ULV is the fact that it features 18-inches of suspension travel which allows it to blow through rough beat up terrain in a hurry without risking the lives of its occupants. A weight bias of 43-percent and 57-percent front to rear respectively allows the ULV to handle cornering duties with ease to the point that it can safely handle a NATO lane change at 45 mph. This is a very crucial element to the ULV since troops need to be able to take evasive measures in the blink of an eye on the battlefield.
“The Army’s approach was to create synergistic survivability,” explained TARDEC GSS Associate Director Steve Knott. “Soft deliverables — such as data and lessons learned — and hard deliverables — such as test assets and spare automotive components — will help shape, inform and support tactical vehicle programs, technology demonstrator efforts and/or TARDEC Innovation Projects to maximize the overall return on investment.”
The ULV’s final design was developed by lead contractor Hardwire LLC. The cab provides more interior space than similarly equipped tactical vehicles. Remote-mounted and remote-controlled vehicle electronics reduce HVAC loads while freeing up interior room within the ULV. Clamshell front and rear doors open away from the B-pillar which offers a significant level of protection for soldiers when exiting the vehicle in the battlefield. The ULV also features lower-weight Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) technologies focused on the troops’ needs.
Final testing is beginning on the ULV vehicle platform with technologies to equip Soldiers for missions across a full spectrum of mobility challenges while keeping occupants safe and using fuel efficiently. The ULV project was set up to design, develop and build three identical lightweight tactical research prototype vehicles emphasizing survivability for occupants and meeting four research objectives. They needed to have a Payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, deliver outstanding performance while keeping the curb weight under 14,000 pounds, offer tactical armor similar to the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) Vehicles and all while keeping costs within a $250,000 budget per vehicle in a hypothetical 5,000-unit production run.
The TARDEC ULV Project is being funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Check out the video of this 7-Ton beast mobbing around in the dirt over beat up rollers and high speed corners!