DARPA Offering $1M for the Best New Drivetrain Idea

By Stew Magnuson
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is offering a $1 million prize for an innovative drivetrain that could eventually go on a new Marine Corps amphibious fighting vehicle.
DARPA opened up the competition Oct. 2 to any team with “expertise in designing and engineering drivetrain and mobility systems.” The prize is part of the Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) program, which is seeking to change the way the military acquires trucks and fighting vehicles. There will be two similar prizes: One in 2013 for chassis and structural subsystems for survivability, and the third in 2014 for a full vehicle design.
FANG’s primary goal is to alter the way systems are designed by decoupling design and fabrication and using foundry-style manufacturing to compress the development process timeline, the statement said.
“FANG is applying a radical approach to the design and manufacture of a military ground vehicle while seeking to engage innovators outside of the traditional defense industry,” said Army Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, program manager in DARPA’s tactical technology office, in a statement.  
In addition to receiving a cash prize, the winning team in the third and final challenge could have its vehicle tested by the Marine Corps alongside other amphibious combat vehicle prototypes in operational testing, the statement said.
Designing a new amphibious vehicles has been a particularly tough challenge for the Marine Corps, which had its Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle canceled after nearly two decades of work with little to show for it. The vehicle was supposed to swim ashore from ships, then immediately convert to a fighting vehicle. The  service had a difficult time overcoming some of the technical issues, and the cost per unit had soared to more than $22 million apiece.
The winning team will build its drivetrain in DARPA’s new iFAB Foundry, a facility designed to be rapidly reconfigured to accommodate new hardware manufacturing.
“By tapping fresh ideas and innovation, we are striving to fundamentally alter the way systems are designed, built and verified to significantly improve DoD’s capacity to handle complexity, something that has rapidly outpaced DoD’s existing 1960s-era approaches to managing it,” Wiedenman added.
Photo Credit: Marines

Topics: Combat Vehicles, Expeditionary Warfare

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