Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Intelligent Energy Efficient Military Vehicles

In "The U.S. Combat and Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Fleet" the RAND think tank makes suggestions to the US Congress on how to buy better military equipment. The study looks at several recent US Defence procurement programs and discusses the difficulties of selecting equipment for future requirements.

The most troubled program RAND discusses is the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). This was intended to be amphibious, but was sunk (literally and figuratively) by a requirement from Congress it be armored to resist large Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The extra armor made the vehicle so heavy that it would no longer float. As RAND point out in their dry technical language, a decision needs to be made between competing requirements: mobility and protection. Curiously RAND seems to be reluctant to point out that the failure of this program lies with Congress and the obvious solution: the legislature should not be involved in the detail of military vehicle design.

More successful has been the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). As RAND points out, these are essentially militarized civilian trucks, reducing development cost and risk.

RAND discuss how increasing amounts of electrical power in military vehicles are needed for electronics, with computer displays and radios. However, their solution is larger generators, more batteries and auxiliary generators. An alternative approach would be to rationalize the electronics on the vehicle, to reduce the power requirements and at the same time reduce the cost and space required.

A civilian security example of rationalized electronics is the LAPD prototype squad car by National Safety Agency. This has a one large touch screen built into the vehicle centre console, to replace the assortment of radios, computers and other devices normally installed in a police car.

Military vehicles could take the same approach, as in military aircraft, where electronics are installed in an sealed bay, connected to a communications bus around the aircraft and operated by a screen in the cockpit. In the case of a vehicle, the wiring and location of the electronics bays and displays can be incorporated in the vehicle design, while the electronics itself will be upgraded over the life of the vehicle. Some of this approach is taken by Thales Australia with the Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicle.

In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Congress requested a study of the U.S. ground combat and tactical wheeled vehicle fleets. In the study, RAND researchers assess the U.S. military's requirements and capability needs, identify capability gaps based on recent conflicts and emerging threats, identify critical technology elements or integration risks associated with particular vehicles and missions, and make recommendations regarding the development and deployment of critical capabilities to address identified gaps. The study also examines risks in the technologies required to close the capability gaps, in the business processes used by the U.S. Department of Defense in managing the initiatives producing and modernizing these vehicles, and in the modeling and simulation process supporting the vehicles' research, development, and acquisition. The technical challenges that will continue to affect the ability to field cutting-edge vehicles that meet operational requirements include the need for improved protection, power generation, and fuel consumption and the increased complexity spurred by sensors and networking. It will also be necessary to address how cost estimation, testing, evaluation, and staffing are handled. Finally, an improved modeling and simulation process will be essential as Congress and the Department of Defense move forward in aligning funding decisions with current and future requirements.

From: "The U.S. Combat and Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Fleet", RAND, 2011

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