Warfare is changing, and governments are being forced to adapt their military vehicle fleets to keep up. The next five years will see the rapid adoption and adaptation of intelligent technology to disruptive military applications.
Rise of the ultra-light military vehicle
Some military vehicle manufacturers are receiving orders worth more than $195 million from the US Army. Take the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program as an example. These vehicles will displace one-third of the Marine Corps high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) by 2019.
The impressive payload, range and speed of light military vehicles explains why they’re generating so much interest. Some of these large vehicle orders are set to have planned operating capability by the end of 2020.
So how is this all possible? Well, engineers are accounting for every milligram of weight during the design and development process — without compromising on performance and survivability. This weight consideration includes the vehicle's steering system, many of which have been crucially made up of light weight and durable parts to ensure the success of the overall design.
Another benefit of some of these light weight military vehicles is adjustable height. Compared with the vehicle's operational height, the fording height can be up to 60 inches higher, making them exceptionally amphibious and able to clear water obstacles. The steering system further complements these efforts, with parts designed for deep water wading and preventing water ingress.
Autonomous supply convoys
According to figures released from the Pentagon, in just 12 months, 60 per cent of US combat causalities were related to convoy resupply. Military leaders have now pledged to make vehicle autonomy a top modernisation priority in a bid to address this issue.
The US Army has recently awarded a $49.7 million contract to Robotic Research LLC. The investment will fund autonomous kit testing on large supply vehicles, with the objective of safely sending unmanned resupply convoys into warzones. The US Army aims to have its first Robotic Combat Vehicles(RCV) technology demonstrator ready by 2021, but how will it meet this deadline?
According to a release from Robotic Research, the three-year contract is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program.
The Next Generation Combat Vehicle program will be designed to train soldiers to manage both manned and unmanned combat vehicles, giving commanders the option to send robotic vehicles against the enemy before committing manned combat forces.
If all goes to plan, the early RCVs will help program officials develop future designs of autonomous combat vehicles. This will prove revolutionary and demonstrate the potential of taking humans out of the equation in supply delivery. Will the US Army meet its 2021 goals? Watch this space.
Steering capabilities that change the game
The modernisation of military fleets is crucial, but even the most high-tech vehicles must be designed to withstand the tough terrains of military service — including the steering system.
Unlike off-the-shelf products, vehicle manufacturers are opting for bespoke steering systems, where parts are tested against dynamic loads and extreme environmental fluctuation. This means adverse weather conditions, such as sandstorms, black ice and dust, which challenges even the best military vehicles in the industry, are accounted for in the design process.
Steering components for military vehicles must be designed to take on extreme debris, moisture and temperature variation, without resulting in water ingress or high torque steering. These challenges can wreak havoc on steering systems that are not designed for the correct application.
As governments in the US, UK, and Australia make important decisions to leverage technology for military vehicles, what will always remain at the forefront of this process is designing for survivability.
New technology could improve the survival rates of personnel — whether it is a result of increased agility, autonomous resupply or high-performance steering, and it's this notion that makes the implementation of such technology incredibly important.
Note: Nick Jordan is technical engineering manager at military steering system supplier Pailton Engineering.