Northrop Grumman Pitching New Humvee Chassis to Army

By Valerie Insinna

Northrop Grumman has designed a new Humvee chassis that would restore the vehicle’s original mobility and payload capabilities while maintaining its current level of protection, a company executive announced Oct. 7.

The service has not signed on those upgrades yet, but Northrop executives hope that its performance in testing will convince the Army to invest in the new chassis, said Greg Schmidt, vice president and general manager for Northrop Grumman Technical Services’ mission solutions and readiness division.

The threat of improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prompted the Army to outfit its fleet with heavy, but protective, armor. “What this did is it greatly degraded or limited the capabilities of the Humvee,” including decreased fuel economy and mobility, he told journalists at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

That, in turn, resulted in a longer logistical tail, including more fuel tankers and larger convoys, Schmidt said. “You can see where this really becomes a spiral.”

The company has already installed the new chassis on four vehicles through a cooperative agreement with the Army, two of which have been delivered to the service for trials, he said.  Northrop is putting the other two vehicles through endurance testing at sites in Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The new chassis enables the vehicle to accelerate to 66 miles per hour in 22 seconds and increases gas mileage to 18 miles per gallon, he said.  Northrop is working with automobile component manufacturer Meritor Corp. and Pratt & Miller Engineering. Cummins is supplying the engine.

“What we're talking about doing is, through a depot operation, rolling the Humvee into the depot, removing the six attachment bolts and the electrical connections, lifting the body of the Humvee off, rolling the old chassis out and rolling the brand new chassis in,” he said. The chassis would include a new power train, transmission and transfer case.

Northrop plans on releasing more information about its upgrade plan at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting and exposition next week, Schmidt said.

A new Humvee chassis is just one of the upgrades the company is pitching to the service. With Army budgets downsizing and little money available for new-start programs, Northrop Grumman’s is pinning its hopes on modernizing the service’s land and aviation systems, officials said.

The company’s strategy is to offer mature technologies that can be rapidly installed at low cost, said Jeffrey Palombo, vice president and general manager for its land and self protection systems division. It is also focusing on keeping upgraded systems within the same size, weight and power requirements as the legacy ones.

It can be just as expensive to install a new capabilty as it is to buy the equipment itself, he said. If the engineering or installation involved with a weapons system is too pricey, the military will not buy into the program.

“The design of the upgrade, that new capability, how it gets integrated in the platform is just as important as the capability itself,” he said
One area ripe for modernization is electric warfare systems, Palombo said.

“Over the past seven years, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of investment by the Department of Defense, or indeed globally, in the area of electronic warfare,” he said. “With not having that kind of investment from the various governments and industry over a period of time, you have to start to question the relevance and the survivability of the platforms that we do have out there.”

Electronic warfare threats grow quickly and inexpensively, he said. “We have a heck of a lot of catching up to do, he said.”

Northrop is pitching its AN/APR-39D(V)2 radar warning receiver to replace the legacy APR-39 receivers, which have been installed on almost every Army, Air Force and Marine Corps airplane or helicopter, Palombo said.

The new digital AN/APR-39D(V)2 can fit into the same space as older receivers, he said. The four antennas on the outside of the aircraft can be installed without having to redo the cabling, bracket or location of the antenna.

The platorm can also be outfitted with an additional communications card or radar jamming capability, he said.

Topics: Aviation, Rotary Wing, Land Forces

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