America’s Soldiers face—and will continue to face—complex, full-spectrum operating environments, requiring innovative survivability enhancements that adapt to a changing threat picture. Emerging threats and changes to vehicles over the past decade illustrated the difficulty in balancing payload, performance, and protection that often result in overweight, underpowered, or, unfortunately, vulnerable vehicles. Continuous science and technology research dedicated to improving Soldiers’ safety and capabilities is essential to informing future vehicle production programs.
In early 2010, the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) engaged TARDEC as the executive agent for the ULV effort.
OSD expressed interest in collaborating with nontraditional defense contractors to explore and integrate new, “out of the box” technologies onto a common platform and emphasizing four primary research objectives (Payload, Performance, Protection, and Price).
The effort sought to investigate, research, and develop lighter weight armor solutions, while integrating some commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies and leveraging DARPA-developed vehicular structural technologies. Additionally, the effort seeks to integrate other innovative, weight reducing technologies such as lightweight diesel engine, hybrid drive system, lightweight wheels and tires, and improved long-stroke suspension.
By integrating such a wide range of technologies and materials, the ULV’s approach aims to create synergistic survivability, such that when integrated the technologies generate a result that is greater than with any of the technologies independently. Limited performance and survivability testing, using three identical ULVs, will identify, mature, and rule-out various technologies, supplying data that will inform future modernization and development efforts.