In the trenchesBAE develops vehicles for ground war of the future

Published 17 December 2010

A range of technologies could improve the effectiveness and fuel efficiency of current military vehicles, while laying the groundwork for future fighting vehicles; BAE looked at 567 technologies and 244 vehicle concepts, which had to fit only two criteria — the vehicle could weigh no more than 30 tons, and had to carry an equivalent punch to a Challenger 2 tank; the company settled on seven future vehicles

A series of presentations from potential suppliers, academics, and even schools has helped BAE Systems to identify forty-seven technologies which could be applied to land-based military vehicles to improve their effectiveness and the safety of the troops they carry. Some of these technologies — whose origin includes systems used in aerospace — could increase fuel efficiency to 60 percent, the company claims.

The Engineer reports that the company set out to find new ideas for its Future Protected Vehicles (FPV) program by hosting Dragon’s Den-type panels which looked at 567 technologies and 244 vehicle concepts, which had to fit only two criteria — the vehicle could weigh no more than 30 tons, and had to carry an equivalent punch to a Challenger 2 tank, the army’s current Main Battle Tank.

The FPV team, headed by Hisham Awad, has incorporated the best of the ideas into seven concept vehicles to show how future technology might shape land systems. While some of the concepts are earmarked for far-future development, such as eCamouflage to project an image of what is behind the vehicle onto the front and rendering it far harder to detect, others are suitable for immediate deployment. “These technologies are ready for urgent operational requirement (UOR), and can be retrofitted into vehicles currently in the field,” Awad said.

Among these technologies is an oil filtration system derived from one used on the Typhoon fighter. “This removes water, particulates and other impurities from the lubricant oil, which extends the life of the engine and reduces the need for oil changes,” Awad said. Similarly, nano-additives to fuels and lubricants can enhance their efficiency which, Awad explained, is a serious issue for operations in Afghanistan, where fuel costs can be hundreds of times higher than pump prices, and where fuel convoys are major targets for hostile attacks; some 80 percent of attacks on U.S. personnel are aimed at fuel convoys.

Other deployable technologies include thermoelectric power generation, where the difference in temperature between the inside and the outside of the exhaust pipe is used to generate electricity. “The amounts are small, but if you have a lot of electrically-powered sensors distributed around the vehicle, it can make a real difference,” Awad said.

The presentations took Awad’s team around the country, talking to thirty-five organizations. “We brought in 17 outside organisations we haven’t worked with before, including universities, small companies and other engineering manufacturers,” he said. “That’s a big win for us.”

The seven vehicle concepts being developed by the FPV group are:

  • Pointer: an agile remote-controlled armed robot which can take on dull, dirty or dangerous jobs such as forward observation;
  • Bearer: a modular platform which can carry a range of mission payloads;
  • Wraith: an unmanned, highly stealthy scout vehicle;
  • Safeguard: a large infantry carrier or command/control vehicle, which can also carry other vehicles;
  • Charger: a heavily-armed attack vehicle, designed for high lethality and armed with a reconfigurable missile system;
  • Raider: a small, highly agile autonomous reconnaisance and attack vehicle which can carry a variety of payloads;
  • Atlas: a retrofittable convoy system with automated systems for following the vehicle in front, to remove drivers from harm’s way.