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9/13/2013
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Elena Malykhina
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Army Ultra Light Vehicle Prototype: Visual Tour

Designed to test fuel efficiency, adaptability and survivability in almost any environment, this concept vehicle includes plenty of high-tech enhancements.




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.


The ULV prototype has a hybrid powertrain with two electric motors in the front and rear, which improves performance in case of a blast. Its design also allows the installation of additional blast-mitigating kits under the hull for higher threat areas. The vehicle was built using high-strength steels and advanced composite materials, providing lightweight ballistic protection from various dangers. Additionally, it features a newly developed transparent ceramic armor system that keeps the overall weight down.

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The ULV's interior technologies include a crushable floating floor that absorbs energy, adjustable stroking seats, five-point restraint systems and spatial accommodations that lessen head impacts. "The cab is designed to have seven egress points facilitated by quick-release and removable components, stowage space for personnel and mission-specific items, and 360-degree situational awareness through front- and rear-mounted ultra-wide-angle thermal imagers," TARDEC engineer Vladimir Gendlin said in a statement.

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The concept vehicle has integrated remote-mounted and remote-controlled electronics with full Internet Protocol control options. The ULV uses a "common integrated user interface" for radio, shot detection, video and GPS positioning, saving space and weight, according to the description on the Army's website. It has a full electronic suite capability that exists in comparable tactical vehicles.

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The prototype has a lightweight diesel engine that powers its two electric motors, allowing the vehicle to use less fuel. Both motors -- one located in the back and one in the front -- can power the vehicle. The diesel engine also enables immediate launch, stealth drive, silent watch, exportable power generation and high torque at low or near zero speeds.

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Command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment was placed in the rear of the vehicle to create room in the cab for the occupants. The equipment -- which focuses specifically on soldiers' needs -- can be accessed by the crew through a tablet device. The colocation of the C4ISR components reduces internal temperatures as well.

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DARPA Robot Challenge: Disaster Recovery

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