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US ARMY develops SMARTRUCK III

US ARMY develops SMARTRUCK III

US ARMY develops SMARTRUCK III

Gizmo covered the original Smartruck two years ago and it became one of our most popular stories in 2002 - but the new version is several levels of magnitude above the original model in capabilities.Built in partnership with International Truck and Engine Corporation, the machine showcases the latest in armour protection, highly-advanced communications and detection and deterrent capabilities, making the SMARTRUCK III a true mobile command-and-control center.

'It's the right truck for right now,' Dennis J. Wend, Director of the National Automotive Center told editors at the Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) 2004 World Congress. 'Our first focus is to bring forward this mobile unit for our soldiers here and abroad, but at the same time we've designed a number of commercial versions which can be easily modified to address homeland security or other priorities.' Specifically, Wend said some of the multiple applications would include:'For the Air Force, it can be a command-and-control center designed to monitor airfields and their vast surrounding areas.'For the Border Patrol and U.S. Marshals, SMARTRUCK III will detect the movement of personnel or vehicles in remote areas.'For Homeland Security, it is configured to monitor both bio threats and personnel movements.

'For a war zone, it brings state-of-the-art communications and detection systems while offering up-armored protection to withstand terrorist and insurgent roadside attacks.'And there are unlimited applications for commercial uses working with our International Truck and Engine partners for business and industry. This platform does it all!' The SmarTruck III was built for the NAC, the Army's official link to developing collaborative technologies with commercial and academic partners, by Integrated Concepts & Research Corporation (ICRC) of Madison Heights, MI, and Heart International of Grand Blanc, MI. The SMARTRUCK III owes its wide-appeal to its adaptable modular design and innovations in defence and occupant protection, field intelligence, communications and vehicle performance.

Defense and Occupant Protection

In military operations, SMARTRUCK III's vehicle systems are capable of detecting and responding to personnel movement, a bio-threat in the air or an incoming missile.

The vehicle armor, four-point safety belts, run flat tires and fire suppression systems enhance crew protection. SMARTRUCK III is equipped with a weapons station module featuring a remote controlled .50-caliber machine gun that rises from the back of the vehicle and has sniper-detection directional sound capabilities.

SMARTRUCK III's advanced perimeter defence capabilities are based on the military's F-CLAS system, named one of the Army Material Command's Top 10 Greatest Innovations of 2002. The system supports vehicle survivability from close-in threats like rocket-propelled grenades and antitank-guided missiles with anti-missile missiles deployed from behind SMARTRUCK III's side flares.

Also housed behind the side flares are smoke and tear gas canister launchers. SMARTRUCK III is outfitted with Level III ballistic protection (to withstand 7.62 x 51mm rounds) and can include armor flooring designed to dissipate the energy from a ground explosion away from the vehicle. An Automatic Fire Suppression System (AFSS) can sense an explosion or fire in the crew compartment and suppress it within milliseconds, thereby preventing harm to the occupants and reducing fire damage to the equipment. The vehicle diagnostics system will aid the crew in tracking vehicle health and/or identifying and resolving maintenance issues.Field IntelligenceThe highly-sophisticated Surveillance Module houses two primary camera systems: the periscope camera and the telemmersion system.

The periscope camera includes a night vision camera, visible light camera and laser range finder in a self-contained pan-and-tilt.

For high-resolution situation awareness, the telemmersion system can raise eight feet above the truck for capturing the 360-degree full-motion spherical scene at 100 million pixels per second. This compact system includes directional sound monitoring and contains a base unit which can hold up to four hours of recording.

The intelligence equipment includes a Bio-agent Acquisition System which can acquire particulate samples from intake air, distinguish bio-aerosols from dust and other non-biological material and capture samples for analysis. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) can be controlled from the SMARTRUCK III's electronic interfaces. For example, ducted fan UAV, capable of vertical takeoff and landing and high speed horizontal flight, could offer a low-cost surveillance option. Depending on the mission requirements, UAV's can carry a variety of payloads including cameras or Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) sensors for air quality sampling. CommunicationsSMARTRUCK III's communication technologies create an integrated, stand-alone Command-and-Control Center.

Each of the rear seat passengers will operate a 20' touch screen (with a storable keyboard and mouse) to monitor the numerous SMARTRUCK III technologies. They also each have two 7' LCD screens to view their selected camera feeds. SMARTRUCK III incorporates high-speed satellite internet access and satellite TV. The front and rear seat passengers will have removable wireless tablet PCs which allow users to monitor vehicle operations and control some of the peripheral devices from outside the vehicle.

Riding in captain's chairs the SMARTRUCK III's four person crew operates an array of ultra-high tech equipment: The Driver is responsible for piloting the vehicle. From a pop-up LCD display, the driver can view the forward-looking night vision camera which extends the driver's visible range. An inverted LCD mirror allows the driver to monitor the rearward action.

The Gunner operates the weapon station control unit, including all weapon system camera feeds, weapon deployment, target acquisition and firing.

The Surveillance Operator and the Communications Operator, through their numerous electronic interfaces, will monitor UHF, VHF, military and/or police band radio traffic, track the highly-detailed GPS navigation software, monitor the real-time vehicle diagnostics, control a UAV device and payload, control and view the camera feeds, analyze NBC detection data and engage the electric-shock door handles and other countermeasure controls. Overall crew comfort is a high priority with the SMARTRUCK III. The on-board systems have been organized for efficiency and stowed to maximize crew space.

The cabin is air conditioned and includes a center-cab full-reclining sleeper seat.TelematicsUsing the latest telematics systems, the SMARTRUCK III and its commercial variations can be designed to maximize uptime for the vehicle, increase fleet productivity and reduce operating cost in several key areas. These include: systems management using GPS for location monitoring; situational updates for tracking supplies; logistics control; full-time vehicle diagnostics; prognostics of predictive failures; embedded training for operators; and systems management for recording vehicle performance.

Vehicle Performance

The base vehicle for SMARTRUCK III is an International V-6 powered Crew Cab, 4200 series medium-duty platform. Its exterior reflects design elements of a military HMMWV and can accommodate existing shelter modules. Fitted with an air suspension that allows adjustable ride height, reduces storage space needed during air transportation and improves off-road performance.

By recovering a portion of the energy normally wasted as heat by the vehicle brakes, the SMARTRUCK III also boasts a hydraulic launch assist (HLA) that can provide a 25 - 35 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, a 30 percent reduction in emissions while also providing high torque very quickly, even at low speeds. The massive 37/12.50R20 Michelin XZL tires further SMARTRUCK III's performance capabilities, offering exceptional traction and handling on varied terrains including snow, sand, mud and highway.

Providing 8.5 kW of continuous power as needed, the Aura Systems' AuraGen G8500X underhood generator system serves as the primary power source for all add-on vehicle technologies, providing high quality AC/DC/Engine-off Silent Watch power as required, whether the vehicle is mobile or parked.'We're living in a new world,' said Wend, 'facing new kinds of threats to soldiers and civilians alike.

The SMARTRUCK III is designed to take on that environment and win.'The National Automotive Center is the Army's official link to working with commercial and academic partners to create vehicles that will give the Army the mobility, survivability and agility it needs to operate efficiently and effectively in today's new threat environment. For the military, the NAC's partnership approach makes it possible to improve vehicle performance, safety and endurance while also reducing design, manufacturing, operations and maintenance costs. For commercial partners, the application of jointly developed technologies has similar impacts - safer cars and trucks, more advanced technology available to the consumer and lower cost because of the broader market base.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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