Battlespace Tech

Program for faster, lighter ground vehicles shifts into the next gear

Pentagon researchers are taking the next step in their quest to find a way to strengthen ground vehicles—and make them more agile—without adding armor, awarding contracts to eight organizations for work on the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program.

The program, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is looking to find the sweet spot between building better-fortified vehicles without sacrificing speed or mobility—in fact, while making them faster, lighter and more agile.

Despite improvements in vehicle construction, weapons have gotten better at piercing armor, DARPA points out in a notice. The simple response is to add armor, but that also adds weight, which can slow vehicles down and affect their maneuverability.

The GXV-T program, announced in August 2014, seeks to counter that paradigm with revolutionary technologies that would usher in the next generation of armored ground vehicles.

“We’re exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armor,” said Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager. “DARPA’s performers for GXV-T are helping defy the ‘more armor equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armored ground vehicle design for the past 100 years, and are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st Century and beyond.”

The eight organizations awarded contracts under the program are:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Honeywell International
  • Leidos
  • Pratt & Miller
  • QinetiQ
  • Raytheon BBN
  • Southwest Research Institute
  • SRI International

The program is focusing on four technical areas:

Radically enhanced mobility, including revolutionary wheel/track and suspension technologies that would give vehicles greater mobility and speed on road and off.

Survivability through agility, using technologies that enable agile motion, active repositioning of armor and other techniques that could allow vehicles to autonomously avoid incoming threats.

Crew augmentation, adding the type of assistive functions used in airplane cockpits to provide better situational awareness, semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.

Signature management, helping the vehicle avoid detection by reducing the detectable signatures, such as visible, infrared, acoustic and electromagnetic.

DARPA  has said it is looking to reduce vehicle size, weight and crew requirements by 50 percent while doubling speed and giving the vehicles the ability to traverse 95 percent of terrain.


Ultimately, the program is looking to leverage technologies developed in and beyond these areas to reduce vehicle weight and size by 50 percent, reduce crew sizes by 50 percent, increase vehicle speed by 100 percent, access 95 percent of terrain, and reduce signatures that can be used to detect the vehicle.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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