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The 2012 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition held in late October at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., provided industry representatives from around the world with an opportunity to highlight some of their latest technologies in support of land force operations.

Medium Assault Vehicle–Light

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While some manufacturers focused on enhanced levels of armor protection, others focused on new levels of vehicle mobility. Northrop Grumman formally unveiled the medium assault vehicle–light (MAV-L). Developed in conjunction with BAE Systems and Pratt & Miller Engineering, the MAV-L is the latest of six candidates acknowledged to be competing for the USSOCOM Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1 program. The vehicle is transportable inside an MH/CH-47 series helicopter and features 18 inches of wheel travel in front and 20 inches in the rear. Along with top speed capabilities over 80 miles per hour (mph) on paved roads and 60 mph cross-country, the MAV-L has multiple features designed to satisfy current special operations shortfalls in long-range surveillance and airfield seizure mission requirements.

Stryker + Tr Armored Vehicle

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One eye-catching exhibit was the initial-concept “Tracked Stryker” medium-weight armored vehicle. Developed by General Dynamics Land Systems and dubbed the “Stryker + Tr,” the new vehicle design uses a slightly modified version of the latest high-survivability Stryker Double-V Hull and replaces the traditional eight-wheel drive system with a new tracked propulsion design. Company representatives said that the concept vehicle was developed in a five-month period to demonstrate a medium-weight armored vehicle capable of meeting an anticipated tracked-platform requirement for the Army’s emerging armored multi-purpose vehicle (AMPV) effort, which will replace the Army’s aging fleet of M113 series vehicles.

Hybrid Ground Combat Vehicle

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BAE Systems spotlighted its ongoing efforts as one of two engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contractors for the next-gen ground combat vehicle (GCV). This is definitely not your grandmother’s Prius: The company’s hybrid electric design is a radically new approach to combat propulsion systems. Designers emphasized that the hybrid electric design is not just a propulsion system but actually represents “a system solution for a combat vehicle” offering flexibility in the placement of components and in the propulsion system’s design; electrical power generation; and storage to facilitate the integration of future and more advanced technologies.

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

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Three companies—Lockheed Martin Corporation, Oshkosh Defense and AM General—featured work underway to support their recent EMD contracts for the joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV), a highly survivable, highly mobile tactical vehicle intended to replace a key slice of Army and Marines HMMWV fleets. Each of the three companies is producing 22 vehicles under the current program phase and will deliver those platforms for government testing beginning in September 2013. Current program plans call for the selection of a single contractor with low-rate initial production beginning in 2015.

COMMANDO Vehicles

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Drawing from a legacy of combat vehicles that began with the Vietnam-era V-100 and included the V-150, V-300 and current M1117 armored security vehicle (ASV), Textron Marine and Land Systems displayed three new lines of its COMMANDO vehicle family at the AUSA event: the COMMANDO Advanced, the COMMANDO Select and the COMMANDO Elite. Derived from the combat-proven M1117 ASV, the COMMANDO Advanced line features a reinforced, V-shaped hull bottom and 360-degree protection from direct fire. The COMMANDO Select line is based on the mobile strike force vehicles now being fielded to the Afghanistan National Army and carries up to 10 occupants with an enhanced level of lethality, mobility and MRAP Level 1 crew protection. The COMMANDO Elite represents the most highly protected and capable line, with features like a digital backbone and MRAP Level 2 mine blast protection.

Special Operations Tactical Vehicle

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Navistar Defense presented its own GMV 1.1 candidate, the special operations tactical vehicle (SOTV), which is derived from the non-standard tactical truck (NSTT). Currently produced by Indigen Armor with support from Navistar, the NSTT features an armored compartment that is blanketed to achieve visual similarity with the ubiquitous Toyota Hi-Lux pickup. The new Navistar SOTV design, which features 60 percent commonality with the NSTT, is believed to be the only enclosed-cab vehicle design competing under GMV 1.1. The SOTV concept features three-, five- and seven-man configurations with the 6.0L V8 engine, providing a top speed of 85 mph governed with over 100-mph capability.

AH-6 And Block II Kiowa Warrior Helicopters

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon/Released

America’s land forces are also supported by a powerful fleet of rotary wing utility, cargo, attack and reconnaissance helicopter platforms. Current Army helicopter activities include a sequential voluntary flight demonstration (VFD) program, under which companies have been demonstrating capabilities of current non-developmental platforms that might be applied toward a future replacement for the aging workhorse OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet. Boeing, for example, praised the performance of its own AH-6 in the VFD just a week prior to the AUSA event. The current AH-6 design is the latest member of a helicopter family that includes the “Street Fighter” mission enhanced little bird (MELB) flown by elements of USSOCOM. Bell Helicopter featured its own VFD participation that same week, with its Block II Kiowa Warrior. The block upgrade combines a new, more powerful engine with an enhanced tail rotor, a nose-mounted sensor and other advancements. Industry representatives expressed the hope that data derived from the VFD will lead to a competitive program acquisition for a future U.S. Army armed aerial scout.

Boeing AH-64D and AH-64E Aircraft

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U.S. Army photo by Sofia Bledsoe/Released

A significant aviation milestone at the AUSA gathering was the formal U.S. Army announcement that the latest model Boeing AH-64D Apache “Block III” aircraft, now being fielded to the first receiving unit at Ft. Riley, Kansas, has officially been re-designated as the “AH-64E”. The designation follows the formal retirement of the last U.S. Army AH-64A model aircraft in July 2012 and leaves the U.S. with a mixed fleet of “Delta” and “Echo” models. Boeing has delivered 24 AH-64E aircraft to the U.S. Army to date, with additional helicopters delivered to an unidentified international customer.

Containerized Weapon Station

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Kongsberg Protech Systems and HDT Global showcased their new containerized weapon station (CWS). Mounted in a Tricon shipping container, the CWS integrates the Kongsberg “Protector” common remotely operated weapon station (CROWS) on top of an electro-mechanical, rigid-chain lift built specifically to support employment of remote weapon stations from elevated positions. The lift elevates the weapon station to a “position of dominance” of approximately 15 feet from the bottom of the container and allows the CWS to provide organic direct firepower to support combat outposts, forward operating bases and even shipboard defense.

VelociRaptor Weapon Station

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Firepower dominance also seemed to be the theme of The Will-Burt Company’s “VelociRaptor,” which features an elevating mast mounted on the rear of a HMMWV or other vehicle that can raise a remote weapon station to a fully extended height of approximately 20 feet. Featuring a unique combination of strength, stiffness and extension/retraction speed (less than 15 seconds), the design allows travel on the move at speeds up to 55 mph on improved roads and 35 mph on unimproved roads, with the mast and weapon station fully elevated. Although the current concept design has been demonstrated with the TRAP 360 remote weapon station from Precision Remotes LLC, program representatives noted that other weapon stations could also be applied.

Batlskin Head Protection And PYRAD Retardant Fabric

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Revision Military spotlighted its new ballistic helmet business. In addition to aramid helmets and lightweight polyethylene composite helmets, the company featured advanced head and facial protection designs incorporated in the company’s Batlskin head protection system, which combines a new ballistic helmet shell, trauma liner, front mount, retention system, mandible guard and visor. Company representatives pointed to the system as providing a single, fully integrated system that provides excellent protection from blunt force, blast and ballistic threats, with a lightweight wearability.

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W. L. Gore showcased its PYRAD flame-retardant/self-extinguishing fabric technology in combination with other non-flame retardant textiles to provide an optimum combination of thermal protection, environmental protection and comfort. In addition to applications in military outerwear and flame-resistant work wear, the new technology is already being applied to the latest generation of individual tents purchased by the Marines.

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