U.S. Army researchers have constructed a new concept vehicle that addresses some of the military's biggest challenges. The Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV) Research Prototype is designed to be fuel efficient, adaptable and survivable in almost any environment. The prototype -- which is built using commercial off-the-shelf technology -- recently entered the final testing phase at the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Michigan.
Funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the ULV project took 16 months to complete from design to prototype. TARDEC's Ground System Survivability (GSS) group partnered with non-traditional defense contractors to create three identical lightweight research prototype vehicles that were required to carry a payload of 4,500 pounds; have curb weight of maximum 14,000 pounds; offer protection from hazards in the field such as mines and explosive devices; and cost $250,000 each in a hypothetical 5,000-unit production run.
The team developed three vehicles. Two will be used for mobility, mine blast and ballistic survivability testing, according to the Army. The third vehicle will undergo mobility and fuel efficiency testing at TARDEC's Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory. Results from the tests are expected in early 2014.
"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," TARDEC GSS associate director Steve Knott said in a statement.
The Army's main project goal was to create a ULV that increases the occupants' chances of survival without affecting the vehicle's mobility. So the prototype was designed around its occupants, ensuring that there is ample room for soldiers and their gear. All of the ULV's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment was placed in the back, accessible to the occupants through a tablet device.
The focus of the ULV project was to design and build a midsize class vehicle that has the same survivability features of a much larger one such as a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which has an average weight of 40,000 pounds. The ULV is not intended to replace any other vehicle, and it will serve as a platform to test various new technologies, according to an Army spokesperson. Depending on the test results, the ULV concept could influence how military vehicles are designed in the future.
Continue clicking through InformationWeek Government's slideshow to learn more about the ULV Research Prototype's innovative design.