The Army is testing an all-composite military vehicle that weighs 900 pounds less than the humvee it was modeled after. The vehicle already has passed durability and road tests, and the final step, the blast evaluation, is expected to be completed by July.
Steve Lockard, CEO of Arizona-based TPI Composites Inc., the manufacturer, says the potential weight reduction could result in lower fuel costs. Military officials would be able to attach additional armor, if necessary. “It offers the Army different options,” Lockard says.
The vehicle’s structure is composed entirely of non-metallic parts — mainly a mixture of fiberglass, carbon fibers, balsa wood and resin. Industry experts have raised concerns that composite vehicles might not survive blasts as well as steel vehicles. But so far, Lockard says, the truck has demonstrated in evaluations that it meets Army requirements and is as strong as its steel counterparts.
It will be more expensive, though. “The composite materials themselves cost more than steel,” Lockard says. “But the total increase in the price of the truck should be fairly small.”
The composite material could be installed in other vehicles, as well, Lockard says. “It’s up to the Army to decide how it will use this technology.”
The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command funded the vehicle’s development.