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The Military Transportation Technology

DARPA Open-Sources Military Vehicle Design 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the bigger-fins-and-a-hood-scoop dept.
Velcroman1 writes "The army's secretive technology division has been collecting dozens of ideas for the design of its in-the-works rescue vehicle via a social-media contest — relying solely on the power of the crowd to get the next big thing built. Local Motors of Chandler, Ariz., is running the competition, officially known as the Experimental Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V) Design Challenge, through March 10. It's not so different from when multiple users edit a page on Wikipedia, Local Motors CEO John Rogers said. 'Effectively, we want to co-create all aspects of a vehicle,' Rogers explained. 'The Wikipedia method of co-creation is really not far off from the way we talk about it.'"
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DARPA Open-Sources Military Vehicle Design

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  • MIC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:01PM (#35295394)
    And yet somehow it will still get built by the same contractors the military already uses, have huge cost overruns, weigh too much, and be unable to fully fulfill the mission for which it was originally designed. The problem with our military-industrial complex isn't in the design stage. Historically we've had brilliant designers. The issues arise in the politics involved with defense acquisitions. Our procurement and testing system is notoriously corrupt. Preference is always given to the same big companies. If a new design/weapon/technology threatens some general's(or congressman's) pet project, it is dropped. Start looking outside the usually suspects for stuff like this, not designing. Make defense contracts actually be real bid contracts, and keep them adhered to the contract.
    • by Knuckles (8964)

      We should crowd source corruption!

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      And yet somehow it will still get built by the same contractors the military already uses, have huge cost overruns, weigh too much, and be unable to fully fulfill the mission for which it was originally designed.

      If you're talking about a White House state dinner, you're probably right. If you're talking about the military, you have no idea what you're talking about, and you clearly haven't looked at the equipment which the US military currently owns.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Nidi62 (1525137)

        If you're talking about the military, you have no idea what you're talking about, and you clearly haven't looked at the equipment which the US military currently owns.

        Like standard issue M-4s using 5.56 ammunition, with an effective range of roughly 300 yards being used in Afghanistan, where average engagements take place at ranges of 400 yards and up(And the documented reluctance of DoD to go to much more capable calibers such as 6.5mm, and the massive amount iof time it took for SCARs and ACRs to even get into the hands of troops)? Or planning to use F-35s in close air support missions, when a small, inexpensive turboprop plane is both more efficient and much cheaper?

        • by H0D_G (894033)

          MRAPs will be useful for a long time- you think that this is the last time that IEDs will ever be used?!

        • Re:MIC (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:10PM (#35296182) Homepage

          If you're talking about the military, you have no idea what you're talking about, and you clearly haven't looked at the equipment which the US military currently owns.

          Like standard issue M-4s using 5.56 ammunition, with an effective range of roughly 300 yards being used in Afghanistan, where average engagements take place at ranges of 400 yards and up(And the documented reluctance of DoD to go to much more capable calibers such as 6.5mm, and the massive amount iof time it took for SCARs and ACRs to even get into the hands of troops)? Or planning to use F-35s in close air support missions, when a small, inexpensive turboprop plane is both more efficient and much cheaper? MRAPs for Iraq that have virtually no other use than in Iraq-style conflicts? The whole Littoral Combat Ship fiasco, with the munitions packages not even close to being workable? The KC-X mess? Do I have to go on?

          There are also successes, such as the M1 Abrams and the M25 rifle (just off the top of my head). It's disingenuous to claim that the military is unable to deliver any workable combat systems to the troops. It is accurate to say that they don't do so consistently.

          • by Xacid (560407)

            I'm not all too familiar with what you're referencing but I'm curious to read more about it. Can you point me to some links?

        • once again Nidi62 is correct. Seriously, don't try to tell ex-mil like us that the MIC works, when we worked within the system.

          I've had colleagues I worked with and soldiers I trained bite it in Afghanistan and my son's uncle is there right now.

          And it's clusterfvck city, if you know what I mean, only used to justify out of control weapons programs we can't afford and never could.

          • by Frangible (881728)
            Yes, I'm sure giving the soldiers less air support, armor, and indirect fire assets is exactly what they need. Combined arms, lolwut? If only our Army had less funding, poorer support, less equipment and more infantry zerg... oh wait, we already have that. It's called the Marine Corps. *rimshot*
        • by c6gunner (950153)

          No, you don't have to go on. You should have never started in the first place. If you think the M-4 is a problem, you don't understand infantry tactics. You suggest that a new single-role fleet should be stood up instead of using a multi-role aircraft, then bitch about a single-role vehicle being procured for a specific theater. And then you whine about a bidding-process whose major problem was that the government wasted money because they wanted to appear fair and impartial. You flail around at random

          • by Nidi62 (1525137)

            You suggest that a new single-role fleet should be stood up instead of using a multi-role aircraft, then bitch about a single-role vehicle being procured for a specific theater.

            The A-10 is one of the best aircraft ever made, and it was a single-purpose fleet. And small turboprop CAS vehicles can me used in any COIN operation. Many of these planes are even modular: they can carry weapons and they can carry observation and surveillance packages. And about a multi-role fleet: being able to do a lot of stuff ok means you can't do anything good.

            • by c6gunner (950153)

              The A-10 is one of the best aircraft ever made, and it was a single-purpose fleet

              The waffle iron is one of the best appliances ever made.

              See how silly that sounds?

              And small turboprop CAS vehicles can me used in any COIN operation

              And the MRAP can't? I guess it'll spontaneously-combust if it ever crosses a border.

              And about a multi-role fleet: being able to do a lot of stuff ok means you can't do anything good.

              Right. Which is why a rifleman should never carry grenades. And the guy running the fry-vat should stay the fuck away from the grille.

              Don't get me wrong - I like the 6.5mm cartridges (and waffle irons), I love the A-10, and I think UAV's will probably take over the CAS role in the long term. But none of the things you're listing support you

              • by Nidi62 (1525137)

                And the MRAP can't? I guess it'll spontaneously-combust if it ever crosses a border.

                Yes, because COIN will always take place in an urban environment. MRAPs are virtually useless in a mountainous or heavily forested/jungle environment.

              • by rts008 (812749)

                If the US were to switch from 5.56 to 6.5 tomorrow, you might be happy, but a thousand other guys just like you would be bitching that it's a huge waste of money

                .

                I was intending to stay out of this, but I take exception to this statement.(too broad of a brush stroke)
                As an experienced combat vet, I can assure you that the vast majority, if not all of the troops will vote for the most effective weapon/ammo that they can carry routinely.

                We don't care what the 'bean-counters', REMF's, 'arm chair general', etc. think....their asses aren't the ones being shot at.
                When you're on the 'pointy end of the stick', you develop very specific viewpoints and ways of thinking. like,

                • by c6gunner (950153)

                  As an experienced combat vet, I can assure you that the vast majority, if not all of the troops will vote for the most effective weapon/ammo that they can carry routinely.

                  You don't need to assure me of anything - I've been serving since the late 90's, and troops don't get to vote. Purchasing decisions are made based on all sorts of considerations, many of which the average soldier hasn't thought of or doesn't care about.

                  We don't care what the 'bean-counters', REMF's, 'arm chair general', etc. think

                  Right, and that's the problem. If it were up to the average grunt, the military would end up looking something like the Taliban - random bits of gear and clothing al thrown together and chosen by the owners preference. That model works ok for a guerrilla f

            • And about a multi-role fleet: being able to do a lot of stuff ok means you can't do anything good.

              Of course it doesn't. That's the brilliance of open-source. It's about creating standard interfaces and specializing beyond them. It's about re-using what works, and evolving a design that is both flexible and specialized.

              A tractor does a lot of stuff okay. It will drive you across town if necessary. But it does one thing very well: It drives in mud. And when you combine it with some other piece of equipment via a standard interface, it does several things very well, like plowing, or planting, or cut

              • by rtb61 (674572)

                Well they broke that principle right out of the gate by locking up the location of the engine, drive, passenger and nature of the vehicle frame. So closed design, with openness seemingly only allowed for pretty body panels and the location of the cup holders.

                Reality is for a flexible vehicle the driver and passengers should be as far forward as possible. The motor should be as low as possible, preferably horizontally opposed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_engine [wikipedia.org], under the driver and passengers butt.

                • And screw ground clearance in the process?

                  There are reasons why designs are the way they are. And why Monster Trucks look stupid driving down a highway, but awesome driving over a line of cars.

                  Single purpose vehicles are better at one thing than multipurpose ones are at many things. Multipurpose vehicles are more complex, by design and necessity.

                  This is the problem in any engineered system. Feature Creep kills more good projects than makes good projects great.

                  • by yurtinus (1590157)

                    Feature Creep kills more good projects than makes good projects great.

                    There's the winner right there. Modularity in design is great and can help reduce costs, but ultimately you need to decide what requirements you need to meet. Start throwing in a bunch of contradictory requirements and you end up with tradeoffs in design which means the final product doesn't meet any of the requirements all that well.

                  • by rtb61 (674572)

                    You obviously are blind to how low a horizontally opposed engine can be. Nor optimal seating position, legs to butt. In open design there is no feature creep, there is no commitment, you can stop at any stage or explore alternates. Feature creep is post contract, where the big profit margins are, anything between 100% and 1000% and it doesn't happen by accident in military purchases it is largely corruption driven.

                    So smart design is to do exactly what the automotive manufacturers do, a modularise everyth

                • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                  Okay, so a horizontally-opposed engine mounted low down, easily demountable body, flat floor? Congratulations, you've just invented the Citroen 2CV van.

              • by Frangible (881728)
                And that might hold up for a hummer, but pretty soon you start running into things that seriously compromise the design for other purposes, like the F-35's VSTOL capabilities which require heavy tradeoffs even for the branches that don't plan on using that capability.

                And the "modular" design starts to fall apart for things like weapon systems designed to replace the M16, M4, and M249 all in one go... as it turns out, the heat characteristics and barrel swapping needs of a LMG result in the modular design
        • by Frangible (881728)
          Incorrect. Average combat distance since, and including, WWII has been 100m. The long-barreled hunting rifle high-caliber mentality has been proven wrong repeatedly, and it took us many years to realize designs such as the StG-44 were the future of firearms. The Germans, British, rest of NATO, and Eastern Bloc realized this all long before we did, but our stubborn insistence that infantry combat was *exactly* like big game hunting held back weapon design by decades. Further, 5.56mm has a further advant
        • by adamchou (993073)

          Like standard issue M-4s using 5.56 ammunition, with an effective range of roughly 300 yards being used in Afghanistan

          You clearly don't know what you're talking about. First off, the Army standard issue weapon is the M16A2. Some Army units and most marine units carry the M4. On top of that, none of the military rifles are ranged in yards. They're all ranged in meters. In fact, the Marines are required to qualify in their rifle at targets up to 500m away. And for the biggest mistake of them all:
          Describe the ranges for the M16/A2 Rifle.
          Maximum Range - 3,600 meters
          Max Effective Range for a Point Target - 550 meters
          Max E

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Like standard issue M-4s using 5.56 ammunition, with an effective range of roughly 300 yards being used in Afghanistan, where average engagements take place at ranges of 400 yards and up(And the documented reluctance of DoD to go to much more capable calibers such as 6.5mm, and the massive amount iof time it took for SCARs and ACRs to even get into the hands of troops)?

          1) Short of going to something like a .308/7.62 NATO rifle again, very little has an effective range of 300+ yards. The 300+ yard engagements are against fixed emplacements - RPKs and other LMGs which have little tenacity at such ranges, or 7.62x54R rifles of similar design. Not moving to a larger caliber in a theatre which is difficult to resupply to and where cover fire is important, it makes no sense to move to a cartridge that's heavier and therefore impossible to carry a lot of.
          2) Very few people are a

    • Nidi62 is correct. Just ask Canada how much it paid for Out Of The Box contracts for military helicopters that could work in snow - ended up costing ten times as much with all the mods they asked for, when most were practically useless from a Canadian military snow operation viewpoint.

      It's not the chassis that costs, it's the unneeded chrome, like why we're still stuck on stupid in Afghanistan and Iraq when al-Qaeda left half a decade ago, but we need an excuse to justify budgets we in the US can't afford a

      • by Frangible (881728)
        We're still in Afghanistan because the Taliban are still in Afghanistan. You know, those assholes from Pakistan? Regardless of what your opinion on the war is (hell, I think Iraq was a huge mistake) we still have an obligation to finish what we started. Not pull-out halfway through and create further instability and embolden more insurgency. (ie: Fallujah) Once you start a fight you have to commit to finishing it. If you want to just pull out, make the deaths of our soldiers meaningless, let our allie
        • by Gordonjcp (186804)

          We're still in Afghanistan because the Taliban are still in Afghanistan. You know, those assholes from Pakistan?

          You mean the brave freedom fighters who chased the eeeeevil Russkies out of Afghanistan in the early 90s?

          • We're still in Afghanistan because the Taliban are still in Afghanistan. You know, those assholes from Pakistan?

            You mean the brave freedom fighters who chased the eeeeevil Russkies out of Afghanistan in the early 90s?

            wrong decade - you meant the 80s

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      A classic example of this is the M16 rifle. It's the very definition of 'design and deploy by committee'. There is ample information out there about it: it "shits where it eats" (gas ejection port feeds into the chamber - a design feature to reduce recoil which is also a flaw with inferior ammo and infrequent cleaning), has an undersized cartridge (the 'original' was the AR10, a .308), has weak magazine design, too tight of tolerances to accomodate excessive dirt, the buffer tube and buttstock are not stron

  • by Bookwyrm (3535) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:05PM (#35295422)

    I looked at the contest, and thought that the design constraints they are putting on the entries are pretty tight. If I recall/interpret things correctly, the vehicle must be designed to use the given frame, the given engine/drive system, and also, the driver position cannot be changed.

    That puts a kind of serious limitation on just how creative you can get. If you could at least move the driver around, you could try for some interesting arrangements or variations, but if the driver has to be in the one standard spot, and the wheel position is already determined, and the frame... they are going to get an awful lot of designs which are just variations on a theme, I suspect.

    • Obviously. Similar to corporate America. We place a million constraints on the goal for success to give ourselves a million reasons to say "You're wrong." Then, after collecting a million ideas which were refused with "You're wrong", we mine the submissions to keep the credit for our pre-selected golden boy favorite winner.

      Office politics as usual.

    • It's probably because there are some important factors which many would-be designers are never going to think of, unless they have some military experience. For example, not many people would consider putting a V hull on a vehicle, but do a little research on the effects of IED's on different vehicles and you'll see this is a critical requirement for current theaters.
    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:32PM (#35295608)

      There are plenty of reasons to dictate certain thing, wheels location for stability and transportability (bridge widths, RORO lash points) and be recoverable [wikipedia.org] with current equipment., frames for strength, and driver position for consistency in convoys if nothing else. Engines as well, because somebody has to have training and spare parts and interchangeability is a good thing.

      Right now is a pretty good time to be designing this sort of thing because we have a lot of guys with in-theater experience, and we JUST finished making what was a Jeep replacement into an armored vehicle at great expense in terms of money and lives. We've got guys in combat zones with widely differing terrain.

      If we can guard against making the perfect vehicle for desert environments, (and thereby building an army perfectly suited to fighting the LAST war) we should be ok.

      • You can have the best vehicle in the world, but if it doesn't do certain things (ie work with existing vehicles) the design has to be thrown out anyway. This just lets designers know about this ahead of time.

        Personally, I would let the medics design the thing. They know what works and what doesn't by now.
      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        I'm not sure that this vehicle would be intended for in-theatre utility. Some of the design criteria seem to conflict with the rigidity and design of the frame - conflicts which would greatly limit the vehicle's capabilities:

        * solid rear axle
        * rear-wheel drive
        * able to get itself un-stuck
        * gas engine

        Honestly, without looking at the frame design, it looks like what they want is (basically) an upgraded version of the Chevy Blazer/M1008 and similar variants made for the military (on account of there being no c

    • In every RFP that you see these days for vehicles it is stipulated that the vehicle must conform to federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) which places a massive constraint around the design in one line item. I find it hard to disagree because all of these vehicles do have to drive on regular roads and highways next to civilians without endangering them because it doesn't have marker/stop/turn lights configured properly or the driver is in some prone driving position which limits his peripheral vie
    • It seems more like a contest for the design school crowd, not hardcore engineers. I find the Google moon rover contest [slashdot.org] far more interesting from an engineering perspective.
  • Is that a beer keg strapped to the front bumper?

  • Open Source != Crowd Source

  • I would have a million designs. Anyone else who used to draw cars with guns on them as a kid?
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      I usually just grew guns and battle scenes. Yeah, a couple of my teachers were worried about me.
  • Nice to see the soldiers will look awesome driving around in some of these amazing designs. At least, until they are killed because the vehicle is totally impractical.
  • Here you go [sarna.net]. What do I win?

  • What about a design in which you don't send the combatants in the field in the first place?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      What about a design in which you don't send the combatants in the field in the first place?

      That would be like /. without the comments. Boring, a waste of money and space, and even more pointless than usual.

    • Drone army vehicles, it could work. At least until a cyberwar hands control of your battlebots to the enemy, or jamming brings down your comms.
  • Put lowjack on the thing and set it to disable the vehicle if it's outside US sovereign soil. This feature alone could saves tens of thousands of lives and soldiers riding the vehicle would probably be the safest troops on the planet.
  • I am surprised that no one else has posted one of the oldest truisms in history:

    A camel is a horse designed by committee.

  • It's very tempting to add features to a vehicle until your basic 1/2 ton jeep turns into a 5 ton apc. as the space shuttle has shown the jack of all trades vehicle design doesn't work very well. Just design it for a job, and have lots more trucks/cars/jeeps/aps's for the other jobs. Having a garage filled with army trucks might sound wrong but it's the cheapest and best way to maximize your effectiveness.
    • Specialization is the dumbest possible idea. This is an ambulance. Best case, you need none. Worst case, you need one for every soldier. How many redundant, specialized vehicles do you want to take with you half way around the world?

    • What is this vehicle supposed to do?

      If it is for the Afghan war, then the US is using the wrong tactics. America keeps thinking in bases and convoys between them. They conquer a bit of ground, build some good will, then retreat to their bases, give the enemy time to do his work, then do it all over again.

      The war needs feet on the ground, soldiers out in the field, every village a few soldiers so the enemy has now where to move to. That is risky for the individual soldier because he doesn't have a full base

      • by Caraig (186934) *

        Interesting observatons. They tie into the concept of fifth-generation warfare rather well, actually. Thanks for sharing them; I'll look for Restrepo!

      • by sincewhen (640526)

        I agree with the other child post, you make some interesting observations.
        But do you think the US is capable of using such tactics, or are they so infatuated with their technological superiority that they just can't seem to take a risk?

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        even riskier for the good will because there is NOTHING like meeting an American to get a deep seated hatred for them

        This is why the Black Watch have done so well in Afghanistan. Everyone loves Scottish people, we just naturally get on well with folk. As one of the guys in Helmand put it in an interview on the BBC "We can play football in the streets with your kids, or we can really spoil your day. The choice is yours."

        • even riskier for the good will because there is NOTHING like meeting an American to get a deep seated hatred for them

          This is why the Black Watch have done so well in Afghanistan. Everyone loves Scottish people, we just naturally get on well with folk. As one of the guys in Helmand put it in an interview on the BBC "We can play football in the streets with your kids, or we can really spoil your day. The choice is yours."

          Plus, the Scots have the ultimate weapon: they have bagpipes.

        • by T.E.D. (34228)
          The problem with this logic is that the balance of the non-minority population of the US military is of Scots-Irish extraction.
          • by Gordonjcp (186804)

            That's not Scottish, though. That's American.

            You're not actually Scottish just because your great-grandfather got papped out of his home in the Clearances. I've never understood why Americans weren't proud to be American, but always hark back to the origins of their multi-great-grandparents...

      • by T.E.D. (34228)

        there is NOTHING like meeting an American to get a deep seated hatred for them

        WTH did this come from? I'm an American, so I suppose I can't speak with authority on the subject. However, if its true, it is the opposite of what I've observed happen with Americans meeting other nationalities. Are we Americans somehow special that we can accept other folks when we get to know them, while other nationalities cannot?

        I pretty much have to call BS on this. One of the nice things about being an American, and Engineer, and a Soccer player, is that I've gotten a chance to get to know people f

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Jeeps are completely obsolete because they are tiny. APCs of about ten tons work very well, but we don't build modern ones.

  • "complex, cyber-electro-mechanical military system" in the article, i nearly choked on my coffee laughing.

    fact of the matter is, most nerds dont really care for your "wars." alot of us will just take this design, turn it into a hybrid biodeisel low-rider and add 802.11n, a keurig coffee machine, and a sweet sound system. of course the entire thing will probably end up running BSD or Linux, but since its open source then its your pick.

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