In the auto industry, lightweight vehicles are all the craze. Ford is building an aluminum F-150, carbon fiber is steadily becoming more common and lightweight, high-strength steel is incorporated in even the most affordable of vehicles. The military is not immune to this trend, according to a new report from Military.com, which claims the US Army is targeting a 40-percent weight reduction in its armored vehicles.
The benefits of a lower curb weight are numerous, whether we're talking road cars or tanks. For the military, it means among other things, an improved ability to deploy rapidly, which the head of the Science and Technology Division at the Army Capabilities Integration Center says is a must for America's future fighting force.
"The problem is the ability to deploy rapidly to turn the tide, to transition very quickly into offensive operations in a very austere environment," Col. Chris Cross said at the Combat Vehicle Lightweight S&T Campaign Workshop, a symposium of leaders from the military, industrial and academic fields. "In order to be more relevant to the nation, we have to be more rapidly deployable."
The problem with this movement is that armoring and reducing weight are diametrically opposed. Generally, improving one means sacrificing the other. That's going to require a major rethink of the way the Army builds its fighting vehicles, according to the director of the Army Research Lab's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, Dr. Patrick Baker.
"How can materials foster a significantly lighter class of combat platforms? We're going to have to do something different to get the advances that we need to make this happen," said Dr. Baker said. "We won't do this alone. We're going to have to engage and participate with the outside community."