Armor: Full Motion Training For Armored Truck Drivers


August 9, 2010: The U.S. Army is seeking a full motion vehicle simulator for its armored vehicles (M1, M2, Stryker and MRAP). Such full motion systems have long been used for aircraft simulators, to give pilots the “feel” of aircraft turning and twisting in the air while undergoing simulated flight. This sort of thing was never believed necessary for ground vehicles, although there have always been driving situations where a realistic “feel” of how the vehicle is moving along the road, comes in handy.

This has changed with the wide scale use of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles, which have a high center of gravity and are prove to flip over, especially when moving off-road. To train drivers to avoid flipping these large armored trucks, a realistic simulator is necessary. Otherwise, you are going to damage a lot of MRAPs, and injure many trainees and their instructors. This is what full motion simulators were designed for. The companies that design and build full motion simulators believe they are up to the task of producing an affordable, and realistic, full motion vehicle simulator for ground vehicles. The army will find out in a year or so when the prototypes from several manufacturers are delivered for testing.

Meanwhile, the U.S. developed a special MRAP for off-road use in Afghanistan, one that is less fatal to inexperienced drivers. The M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and road range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. An M-ATV costs about a million dollars, including equipment, weapons and transport (it costs about $150,000 each to fly one in).

U.S. troops in Afghanistan already have thousands of older MRAPs, but most are of the "easy rollover type", and mostly confined to the roads. The M-ATV design was heavily modified based on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that it could operate off road. Over a thousand M-ATVs are in Afghanistan, and troops are getting a sense of what these new armored trucks are capable of. Turns out that their "all terrain" capabilities are greater than expected, if you know how to drive them off the road. That’s where the new simulator will come in. Troops have found that the M-ATV can safely handle a lot of cross country travel that would be dangerous for a conventional MRAP. But, like taking a tracked vehicle (like a tank) off road, you can't just drive it anywhere. Even a tracked vehicle will flip, or lose a track (hit an obstacle that will tear the tracks from the wheels) if you don't drive carefully. Same deal with the M-ATV. Off the road, this is a more stable and forgiving MRAP, and commanders are coming up with new tactics to take advantage of it. The enemy can no longer assume all MRAPs will stay on the road.

The M-ATV design improved on the fact that all other MRAPs were, after all, just heavy trucks. The basic MRAP capsule design produces a high center of gravity, that makes the vehicles prone to flipping over easily. They are also large vehicles, causing maneuverability problems when going through narrow streets. Most MRAPs don't have a lot of torque, being somewhat underpowered for their size. And, being wheeled vehicles, they are not very good at cross country movement (especially considering the high center of gravity.) The M-ATV was designed to deal with all of these problems.

The rush to get MRAPs to Afghanistan is all about reducing casualties. Anyone in these vehicles is much less likely to be killed by a roadside bomb. The math is simple. If all the troops who encountered these bombs were in a MRAP, casualties would be about 65 percent less. About two-thirds of all casualties in Afghanistan are from roadside bombs. Thus these vehicles reduced overall casualties by about a third.



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