DARPA unveils combat vehicle with reconfigurable wheel-track

A shape-shifting wheel-track mechanism enables a round wheel to transform into a triangular track and back again while the vehicle is on the move

Wheel-track, DARPA, Defense, Combat vehicle, Terrain


The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently demonstrated the technical progress on its ground X-vehicle technologies (GXV-T) programme, which aims to improve mobility, survivability, safety, and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on armor.

GXV-T envisions future combat vehicles that could traverse up to 95 percent of off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations. Capabilities include revolutionary wheel-to-track and suspension technologies that would enable access and faster travel both on- and off-road, compared to existing ground vehicles.

Reconfigurable wheel-track (RWT)

Wheels permit fast travel on hard surfaces while tracks perform better on soft surfaces. A team from Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center (CMU NREC) demonstrated shape-shifting wheel-track mechanisms that transition from a round wheel to a triangular track and back again while the vehicle is on the move, for instant improvements to tactical mobility and maneuverability on diverse terrains.

Electric in-hub motor

Putting motors directly inside the wheels offers numerous potential benefits for combat vehicles, such as heightened acceleration and maneuverability with optimal torque, traction, power, and speed over rough or smooth terrain. 

Multi-mode extreme travel suspension (METS)

The METS system aims to enable high-speed travel over rough terrain while keeping the vehicle upright and minimizing occupant discomfort. The vehicle demonstrator incorporates standard military 20-inch wheels, advanced short-travel suspension of four-to-six inches, and a novel high-travel suspension that extends up to six feet – 42 inches upward and 30 inches downward. 

Maj. Amber Walker, the program manager for GXV-T in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said: “We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids. For mobility, we’ve taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.”

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