03/06/2000 – Army Explores Commercial Technologies For New, Maximum-Performance Pickup Trucks

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Source: Ford Motor Company

Army Explores Commercial Technologies For New, Maximum-Performance Pickup Trucks

NAC – Hal Almand, 810-574-8903
Veridian ERIM-Int’l – Richard Knox, 734-994-1200, ext. 2670
Madison Communications – Neil Jackson, 734-426-2130

Detroit, Mich., Mar. 6, 2000 – – The U.S. Army is exploring some unusual concepts in truck design, acquisition and logistics, and is doing so in cooperation with major U.S. vehicle manufacturers. Objectives include safer, better-performing military trucks, fast adaptation of civilian production to wartime needs, and simplified support – – in short, an improved response to America’s defense requirements, all at lower cost to taxpayers.

This development program is called COMBATT, for COMmercially BAsed Tactical Truck. It is sponsored by the Army’s National Automotive Center (NAC) and managed by Veridian-ERIM International (Ann Arbor, Mich.). Participating manufacturers are DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., and AM General.

The first COMBATT demonstration vehicles – – two maximum-performance, off-road pickup trucks and an advanced systems HMMWV – – were unveiled by the NAC today at the opening of the SAE 2000 World Congress in Detroit’s Cobo Center.

The problem and the targeted solution.
The Army’s million-vehicle fleet is aging. Many trucks are older than their drivers! Beefing up commercial pickup trucks for general cargo and troop carrier use would free more HMMWVs for front-line assignments. By leveraging commercial vehicle technology, the Army aims to maintain a consistently modern, mission-ready vehicle fleet while reducing the costs of development, production and spare parts. The Army is even looking at fleet leasing and contracted logistical support.

Successful field tests. Structurally modified and equipped with advanced drivetrain, suspension, electrical and electronic components, the demonstration COMBATT vehicles recently underwent exhaustive desert field trials. They were tested for payload, on-road and off-road control, braking, ride, cooling, slam-bang resiliency, even for operation on 60 percent grades and 40 percent side slopes. The COMBATT program calls for vehicles to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and EPA emission standards. Further tests and evaluations are scheduled.

"We are initiating some exciting challenges to traditional Army practices, with potential spillover to the civilian marketplace," says NAC director Dennis Wend. "Imagine the Army leasing vehicles instead of buying them. After three or four years, we’d turn them in on new and improved models. Off-lease vehicles could be ideal for loggers, mining companies, surveyors, rural fire fighters, and for use in countries that don’t have well-developed highway systems.

"In peacetime, contractor logistical support – – a form of outsourcing – – could mean we wouldn’t need to stock spare parts, purchase as much diagnostic and repair equipment, and only make repairs in the course of training mechanics. Savings in manpower, tools and facilities could be substantial," Wend says.

In the SAE’s Safety Pavilion, the NAC displayed a COMBATT program HMMWV equipped with performance and safety systems including, among others, collision warning, night vision, inflatable torso restraints, "flat run" tires, flat panel instrument displays and thermal imaging.

"It’s not your father’s HMMWV," Mr. Wend says.

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