The United States military is tired of heavy, expensive, and slow-moving methods of mobility. Instead, they want something that can scoot around all sorts of different environments, move autonomously, and avoid conflict whenever possible. Enter the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced research contracts today with eight organizations to make “nimbler, faster, smarter armored ground vehicles.” By smarter, DARPA means semi and full autonomy.
Modern warfare left behind organized lines of heavy equipment decades ago and transitioned to small teams and quick tactical strikes. DARPA’s new video shows how those small teams are going to get around without having to rely on layers and layers of armored vehicles.
“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,” Major Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager, says in a statement about the program. “[These organizations] are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st century and beyond.”
That’s right: DARPA is taking over Silicon Valley’s “disruptive” technology mantra.
The artist’s concept shows just how different the new vehicles will be compared to today’s standard military Humvee. It’s all just concept and speculation, but the video touts future mobility will be easily transportable, be able to make visual contact and then avoid engagement with opposing forces, and have the capability to handle 95 percent of terrain. The resulting concept art looks somewhat like a decked out dune buggy.
The eight United States- and UK-based organizations — Carnegie Mellon University and Honeywell International among them — have been tasked with improving four areas of military mobility. Two of the areas seem like standard military fare: better handling of difficult terrain and better stealth.
The other two areas, however, are something new. Organizations are tasked with finding a way for the vehicles to “autonomously avoid incoming threats.” Examples DARPA gives are autonomous evasion and autonomous repositioning of armor. DARPA also wants the contracted organizations to develop semi-autonomous driver assistance that is “similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits.”
If the actual vehicles made look anything like the concept art, military transportation will take a huge step away from trying to be bigger and badder in the future.