By Paolo Valpolini
With the 8×8 Dragon exhibited not far away from its booth, a significant presence although very silent, as no industry of Army representatives were present at its side, General Dynamics European Land Systems was showing some of the technological capabilities developed at GDELS Santa Barbara Sistemas, other technology developments being under way at the other GDELS sites in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, the group technology development lines being coordinated in order to provide maximum synergy.
One of the two key areas being explored is robotics. An ASCOD chassis has been transformed into an Optionally Manned Vehicle (OMV), the project being carried out in cooperation with the Polytechnic University of Madrid, more precisely with the Institute for Automotive Research (INSIA), and with SENER engineering and technology company. The main problem to be solved was to develop the interfaces between a mechanical system such as the ASCOD tracked chassis, and the remote control system. The aim was to have a vehicle that can be driven by a soldier, who will disembark when a dangerous situation arises, i.e. crossing a suspected minefield or moving on a road that might be infested by IEDs, “the best protection being not staying on board the vehicle,” a GDES representative told EDR On-Line, explaining that initially the OMV will be fitted with a teleoperation system, a spiral programme bringing to the insertion of autonomous modes.
Besides being able to be teleoperated, the ASCOD chassis exhibited at FEINDEF contained also another novelty. The APC was fitted as a “mother vehicle” for Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), a UGV being exhibited just beside the ASCOD.
The platform was the MUTT (Multi-Utility Tactical Transport), produced by General Dynamics Land Systems, in its 6×6 version; in July 2020 the MUTT was selected by the US Army for the Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (S-MET) programme. This has a 400 kg payload and at FEINDEF was fitted with a remotely controlled weapon station, the Guardian 2.0 by Escribano, GDELS-SBS proposing the UGV in the combat version, the company considering it as a force multiplier for armoured infantry fighting vehicles. The OMV was fitted at the back with two workstations, one dedicated to the control of the platform, and one ensuring the man-in-the-loop for the weapon station. Here too further development will be done in order i.e. to allow a single operator to control multiple platforms.
Saving lives and reducing manpower was part of aforementioned developments. Reducing the logistic footprint was that of the third development shown at FEINDEF by the company; Maintenance 4.0 tools exploit the NGVA (NATO Generic Vehicles Architecture) and HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) to acquire data from a vehicle’s fleet, which are then processed, exploiting also artificial intelligence and self learning technologies, stepping from preventive to condition maintenance, reducing the logistic footprint and associated costs. The process from data acquisition, to information and decision becomes seamless, the whole system increasing fleet availability. Not only, GDELS-SBS is also looking at virtual reality in order to provide support to maintainers deployed in the field.
Photos by P. Valpolini