Smaller, smarter than tank: DARPA awards contracts to develop GXV-T ground battle vehicle

GXV-T Concept Image ©
Modern fighting vehicles are losing the battle against increasingly-effective armor-piercing weapons. DARPA engineers decided to break this trend with a high-speed hard target without excessive armor – a GXV-T buggy. Eight contracts have been awarded.

GXV-T stands for Ground X-Vehicle Technology. DARPA expects its progeny to be stripped of typical ‘problems’ of the existing fighting vehicles, which have been gaining in weight due to additional protecting armor and, because of that, losing mobility and speed. Overweight modern armored machines are also increasingly expensive to develop and their deployment costs have surged over the last decades.

GXV-T Concept Image ©

DARPA says it has an eye on something truly revolutionary: a fast and mobile ground platform that carries no steel plates yet provides effective protection to the personnel.

“We’re exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armor,” Major Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager, said in a press release Tuesday.

“DARPA’s performers for the GXV-T are helping defy the ‘more armor equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armored ground vehicle design for the past 100 years, and are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st century and beyond.”

The basic four principles behind the GXV-T are declared to be Enhanced Mobility, Survivability through Agility, Crew Augmentation and Signature Management.

To combine all this in one vehicle, DARPA intends to rethink most basic elements of a fighting vehicle. The GXV-T is going to get revolutionary wheel/track and suspension technology, autonomously detect incoming threats and deal them with “active repositioning armor” doing vertical and horizontal movement or avoid them through considerably augmented agility and off-road terrain capabilities.

“It's about breaking the 'more armor' paradigm and revolutionizing protection for all armored fighting vehicles,” DARPA program manager Kevin Massey said.

The personnel inside the GXV-T is promised to have improved situational awareness thanks to multiple onboard sensors, including 360-degree high-resolution visualization of data, so the vehicle is expected to effectively operate in “closed-cockpit” mode.

And of course, a strong point of the GXV-T is going to be its stealth capabilities. To avoid detection, the vehicle ought to have reduced basic signatures, such as decreased optical visibility to adversaries, minimal acoustic, infrared and electromagnetic detectability.

DARPA claims that both the US Army and Marine Corps have already expressed interest in the GXV-T’s promised capabilities.

To the moment eight companies, among them one British and seven American have joined the project, being awarded contracts to develop elements of the future GXV-T.

The research entities that are going to invent the vehicle are the US Carnegie Mellon University, Honeywell International Inc., Leidos, Pratt & Miller, Raytheon BBN, Southwest Research Institute and SRI International.

The only foreign contractor that would assist DARPA with the GXV-T is going to be Britain’s QinetiQ Inc.

First announced in August 2014, the GXV-T program’s schedule has not been publicly announced yet.