A range of military battlefield vehicles are undergoing testing for their suitability for hybrid propulsion.
The UTAC road vehicle testing centre and proving ground at Millbrook has expanded its influence in the military industry by supporting the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the organisation’s new “Technology Demonstrator 6” (TD6) programme. Using UTAC’s proving ground facilities in Bedfordshire, the programme aims to determine the benefits that hybrid vehicles may bring to today’s battlefield missions.
Having been in place already since the start of 2020, TD6 is continuing to be managed by UTAC on behalf of the MoD, with support from Jacobs, MAGTEC, RBSL on behalf of RMMV with MAGTEC, Supacat and General Dynamics UK (GDUK) on behalf of NP Aerospace. All electrification was undertaken by MAGTEC.
The programme entails two main strands of work. The first is to gather data on hybrid technologies from across the UK industry. This includes investigating development paths for hybrid and electric vehicle technologies to inform future vehicle development by the MoD. For this, Jacobs is developing a database of existing UK manufacturing capabilities and capacities, through the collection of knowledge and expertise. This has so far involved engagement with the UK industry through questionnaires, interviews and visits.
According to Felix Montague, the TD6 Technical Manager for Jacobs UK, a very positive response has so far been received from UK Industry, with direct engagement from around 50 companies ranging from defence suppliers to the motorsport sector.
“Our focus is on what is actually available within the UK so that we can provide the MOD with a database of hybridisation capacity and capability both now and potentially in the future,” says Montague.
The second strand of work is focused on demonstrating potential benefits and drawbacks of vehicle hybridisation in a military context. The core element of this is a series of tests, conducted at UTAC’s proving ground, to benchmark a sample of hybridised military vehicles against their existing capabilities. The sample represents a cross section of military vehicle applications and configurations for hybrid drivelines.
According to Julian Bryan, Head of Military Test & Development – UTAC , the organisation is seeing more and more hybrid and electric vehicles being tested and so is keen to exploit these commercial technologies for use in a military context.
There have been many written defence studies in this area but physical demonstrations have been limited. Through testing a cross section of hybrid military vehicles, TD6 aims to provide evidence to support previous studies but also to address user perceptions, both positive and negative.
“Our test programme is centred on those perceived benefits and disadvantages and will also benchmark how easy it may be to apply existing, available commercial technologies to the military environment,” says Bryan.
The electrification of the sample vehicles that are being used in the trials was designed and integrated by MAGTEC, a company which has previously provided technical expertise for military experimentation with electric drivelines. For TD6, MAGTEC designed and built systems for products as diverse as the Man HX60 support vehicle, the Jackal combat reconnaissance vehicle and the Foxhound patrol vehicle.
In each case, work was conducted alongside the vehicle design authorities: RBSL on behalf of RMMV, GDUK on behalf of NP Aerospace and Supacat. The vehicle builds used existing MAGTEC technologies to explore various configurations.
Marcus Jenkins, Technical Director of MAGTEC as a large manufacture of drive systems for commercial vehicles, it was a perfect opportunity to apply the company’s design and manufacturing expertise to these military vehicles.
“This is not the first time we have designed and installed our systems on military vehicles and we are keen to demonstrate that existing technology, widely applied across our commercial customers, can easily be adapted for military use with low risk,” he says.
The vehicles have all now been built and are undergoing testing to identify the effects of hybridisation on fuel economy, emissions, mobility and driveability, as well as factors such as noise, electromagnetic compliance and infrared signatures. Through the different vehicle configurations, this work will investigate the potential for wider adaptation. The team is comparing the more conventional drivetrain layout used in the Man SV with the Foxhound and Jackal vehicles, which have more complex individual hub drives and outboard and inboard configurations respectively.
There will also be some analysis made of other aspects such as microgeneration. For example, the Man SV vehicle has potential to be used as a power source for a field hospital or headquarters. Robustness testing will demonstrate the suitability of existing commercial systems in military conditions.
UTAC’s proving ground in the UK is the home of the battlefield mission. Its test tracks are utilised for testing the MoD’s wheeled vehicles. Previously developed battlefield missions will be used to benchmark test vehicles against their existing, in service versions. UTAC has also been conducting emissions, power and fuel consumption tests within its new Variable Temperature Emissions Chamber – VTEC 2.
“Our new VTEC facility can test the performance of vehicles with a wheelbase of up to 8 metres, up to 20 tonnes axle weight and a simulated loading of up to 60 tonnes. It enables military vehicle manufacturers to simulate long periods of operation for various mission types,” says John Proctor, Technical and Special Projects Director of UTAC
The programme is scheduled to produce a final report this autumn, which will provide much sought after evidence on the benefits and constraints of hybridisation within a military environment.
In addition to potentially enhancing stealth movement, on-board systems charging and emissions, it has already been recognised that capabilities such as off-board power have wider reach than just the vehicle environment.
“TD6 is a key part of the Army’s plan for electrification on the battlefield, which seeks to gain operational advantage through using novel systems for power, performance and support while also reducing carbon emissions. The programme will provide evidence to support the benefits, both direct and indirect, that hybridisation of some or all of our vehicle fleet may bring to influence our roadmap towards a more capable and sustainable future,” concludes Colonel Simon Ridgeway OBE, Assistant Head of Plans and Ground Manoeuvres, Army HQ.