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When Army Green means something else

Military hybrid vehicle designs do a lot more than just save fuel
Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 07:00
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The electric only drivetrain means better underbody protection for our soldiers from IEDs, and reduced risk by reducing the need for fuel supply convoys. Courtesy: TARDEC

Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Nearly two years ago, in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Army unveiled a fleet of 16 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that were tested in an effort to find ways to reduce the dependence on petroleum fuel sources. This past December, TARDEC hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off its newest hydrogen fuel cell testing program in partnership with General Motors at the U.S. Army Ground System Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL in military lingo). The event highlighted the already numerous Cooperative and Research Development Agreements (CRADAs) aimed at furthering the overall mission of improved fuel efficiency and reduced energy dependency. “Through CRADAs, such as the one with GM, the Army has the opportunity to leverage its research and development efforts with industry,” explained TARDEC director Dr. Paul Rogers in the press notice. “A goal of TARDEC is to demonstrate battlefield fuel reduction to reduce the logistical burden on our warfighters…and will assist in maturing and accelerating technologies critical to the Army’s future ground vehicle platforms.”

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Unmanned Vehicles
If you’ve been keeping up with our reports on autonomous driving, it should come as no surprise that the same concept is being applied to military applications. What better way to handle the most dangerous of logistical operations (keeping the troops supplied) than by removing the troops from the vehicles entirely?

That’s the thinking behind the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS). Developed jointly by TARDEC and Lockheed Martin, the concept of driverless convoys was demonstrated at Fort Hood, Texas earlier this year. The system is designed not only for long distance, open road missions but is also compatible with the challenges of an urban environment.

There are no drivers in any of these trucks…and that means no lives lost to enemy attacks or accidents. Courtesy: TARDEC

In testing, driverless vehicles were able to navigate a variety of hazards and obstacles including pedestrians, road intersections and traffic circles, oncoming traffic and passing vehicles. The vehicles themselves aren’t what are special. It’s what is added that makes the system work. Each vehicle is equipped with a high performance Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) sensor system and second Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. The system equipment, according to Lockheed Martin, could be used on virtually any military ground platform.

Initially awarded an $11 million contract in 2012, Lockheed Martin developed the multi-platform kit integrating low cost sensors with both Army and Marine tactical vehicles to enable autonomous operation in convoys. The result is not only improved safety for our military men and women; it also helps move the military toward an end goal of totally autonomous warfare.

Similar AMAS algorithms are also used in the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS), a distinctive six-wheeled platform that has been successfully used by troops in Afghanistan. Robotics, integrated and actual, are helping to relieve the burden of supervisory and mundane tasks from soldiers in the field under combat conditions, allowing them to focus on keeping themselves and their fellow soldiers safe.

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