Ground X-Ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy aims to break the ‘more ar­mour’ par­a­digm for pro­tec­tion


For the past 100 years of mech­a­nised war­fare, pro­tec­tion for ground-based ar­moured fight­ing ve­hi­cles and their oc­cu­pants has boiled down almost ex­clu­sively to a sim­ple equa­tion: More ar­mour equals more pro­tec­tion. Weapons’ abil­ity to pen­e­trate ar­mour, how­ever, has ad­vanced faster than ar­mour’s abil­ity to with­stand pen­e­tra­tion. As a re­sult, achiev­ing even in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments in crew sur­viv­abil­ity has re­quired sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in ve­hi­cle mass and cost.

The trend of in­creas­ingly heavy, less mo­bile and more ex­pen­sive com­bat plat­forms has limited Sol­diers’ and Marines’ abil­ity to rapidly de­ploy and ma­noeu­vre in the­atre and ac­com­plish their mis­sions in var­ied and evolv­ing threat en­vi­ron­ments. More­over, larger ve­hi­cles are limited to roads, re­quire more lo­gis­ti­cal support and are more ex­pen­sive to de­sign, de­velop, field and re­place. The US mil­i­tary is now at a point where—con­sid­er­ing tac­ti­cal mo­bil­ity, strate­gic mo­bil­ity, sur­viv­abil­ity and cost—in­no­va­tive and dis­rup­tive so­lu­tions are nec­es­sary to en­sure the op­er­a­tional vi­a­bil­ity of the next-gen­er­a­tion of ar­moured fight­ing ve­hi­cles.

The De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA) has cre­ated the GXV-T pro­gramme to help over­come th­ese chal­lenges and dis­rupt the cur­rent trends in mech­a­nised war­fare. GXV-T seeks to in­ves­ti­gate rev­o­lu­tion­ary ground-ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies that would simultaneously im­prove the mo­bil­ity and sur­viv­abil­ity of ve­hi­cles through means other than adding more ar­mour, in­clud­ing avoid­ing de­tec­tion, en­gage­ment and hits by ad­ver­saries.

“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 Pro­gram Man­ager. “In­spired by how X-plane pro­grammes have im­proved air­craft ca­pa­bil­i­ties over the past 60 years, we plan to pur­sue ground­break­ing fun­da­men­tal re­search and de­vel­op­ment to help make fu­ture ar­moured fight­ing ve­hi­cles sig­nif­i­cantly more mo­bile, ef­fec­tive, safe and af­ford­able.”

GXV-T’s tech­ni­cal goals in­clude the fol­low­ing im­prove­ments rel­a­tive to to­day’s ar­moured fight­ing ve­hi­cles: Re­duce ve­hi­cle size and weight by 50 per cent, re­duce on­board crew needed to op­er­ate ve­hi­cle by 50 per cent, in­crease ve­hi­cle speed by 100 per cent; ac­cess 95 per cent of ter­rain and re­duce sig­na­tures that en­able ad­ver­saries to de­tect and en­gage ve­hi­cles.

DARPA aims to de­velop GXV-T tech­nolo­gies over 24 months after ini­tial con­tract awards, which are cur­rently planned on or be­fore April 2015.

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