Where the military and motorsports collide


So I got a call from my good friend and neighbor Frank Sturek the other day to tell me about a new military vehicle his company – Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC) – would be unveiling at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2012 annual meeting and exposition in Washington D.C. this week.

I thought to myself, sure, getting a chance to kick the tires (as it were) on this new Medium Assault Vehicle – Light (which is quickly shortened to “MAV-L” in military circles) would offer an opportunity to view a very different kind of “truck” up close and in living color; one designed to survive in environment far more dangerous than what freight haulers experience.

Yet it’s HOW this vehicle came to be – rather than the final product itself – that is almost the more interesting part of the MAV-L’s story (at least from where I sit), because the military experts at NGC chose a very unusual design partner to create it: motorsport engineering firm Pratt & Miller.

[To view more photos of the MAV-L, click here.]

Sturek told me that NGC not only wanted to start with “clean sheet of paper” to design the MAV-L but also to apply extreme vehicle engineering expertise from outside the military as well: gaining a fresh perspective on how to handle the often violent forces military vehicles are subjected to (explosions, machine gun fire … need we go on?) in their line of work.

Jim Miller – the president of Pratt & Miller and one of its co-founders – explained to me that his company operates on a very simple philosophy: design, develop, build, race, and win.

Originally, he told me NGC came to his firm solely to find ways of improving vehicle occupant safety. “We crash cars into walls at speeds of 150 mph or greater, but the driver gets out and walks away,” he told me. “They wanted to learn how we did that.”

Very quickly, however, that design conversation broadened to encompass many other vehicle parameters: maneuverability, ride and handling, reparability, and (of course) durability.

Those were all facets of the request for proposal (RFP) released by the Department of Defense (DOD) back in April this year in an effort to provide a safer yet faster and more durable vehicle for “special operations” forces, such as the Green Berets, U.S. Army Rangers, as well as long range reconnaissance patrol missions conducted by regular Army units.

“The DOD wanted an affordable vehicle that not only met the operational requirements of those soldiers, but one that also proved fast, flexible, and above all reliable,” noted Tom Vice, NGC’s corporate vice president and president of its Northrop Grumman Technical Services division. “Combining our defense expertise with racing expertise marks what we believe is unique advancement in military ground vehicle technology.”

[NGC also brought in BAE Systems into the project to help on the production end of things, tapping the expertise of BAE’s factory in Sealy, TX, to maintain the quality of the MAV-L design if and when it gets the green light from the DOD for mass production.]

Pratt & Miller’s Miller pointed out that his firm is no stranger to military work: indeed, they’ve done defense work for the last 10 years. But this is really the first time they’ve really brought their racing experience to bear on a military project – with some interesting results.

For starters, the MAV-L came into being in just 12 weeks – not the years and years often required to design a new vehicle for military operations – marrying the latest cutting-edge computer design programs with decades of hard-won “old school” battlefield and race track insights.

“In the racing world, we like to say that when the green flag drops, you must be ready,” Miller told me. “So while we use the latest in computer simulation, CFD [computational fluid dynamics, for aerodynamic analysis], and materials science, we’ve also got to be able to not only build it fast but repair it fast too.”

That meant putting the MAV-L prototype out in the racing shop where Pratt & Miller’s racing veterans gave it a “real world” once over. “These guys can tell immediately if bolt connections will hold up under extreme conditions, or whether a fan belt location means it’ll take 30 minutes to replace … or five hours. And you can’t spend five hours replacing a fan belt, in racing or in combat.”

From where NGC’s Sturek sits, though, there are even bigger benefits from injecting motorsport expertise into the MAV-L design – especially drawn from his 25 years spent in the U.S. Army, with time spent under fire in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For starters, the high performance ride – especially off road – of the MAV-L means all the bouncing and banging around troopers typically suffer in their tough but rigid transports is eliminated, he said. That way, they don’t arrive at the battlefield already worn out and sore at the very moment when bulletsand rocket propelled grenades are flying.

The vehicle is also built to comfortably accommodate fully-loaded soldiers wearing their body armor, ammo, and weapons. “You’ve got no idea how all that gear can cramp you up in a typical military vehicle,” Sturek (seen above at right) told me.

They also get that comfort without sacrificing speed, as the MAV-L can go 60 mph off-road and 80 mph on paved highways. And speed, Sturek reiterated, often means the difference between life and death in a combat zone.

All in all it’s a very neat vehicle, the MAV-L, all the more because it results from an unusual mix of military and motorsport expertise. Now all I must do is figure out how to test drive one of these machines! 

Discuss this Blog Entry 22

on Feb 2, 2013

I would like to thank you for your nicely written content, its useful and your writing style helped me to read it without any difficulty. Thanks
software download

on Feb 3, 2013

I have been studying this topic for a long time. You have provided great information in your post and some things I have not seen in other content I have read by others.
gzdfs.org healthy meals

on Feb 4, 2013

Your approach to this topic is unique and informative. I am writing an article for our school paper and this post has helped me a lot. Cheers
houston gold buyers

on Feb 19, 2013

The MAV-L is one of the lightest vehicles in the military. They are so light yet so stable and protective. You must be very lucky to get your hands on one of those vehicles. The interiors look so grand just like a luxury vehicle.go to this site

on Feb 25, 2013

you did nice work your post is awesome its increase my knowledge.the post is best i can never read before this type of post nice sharing. keep it up buy auto blogs | buy wiki backlinks | buy google plus

on Jun 30, 2013

Another examples of an argumentative essay comes from Bogazici University:"Throw out the bottles and boxes of drugs in your house. korean restaurant

on Jul 3, 2013

That is a great matter of collision.Military person always get extended facilitires.clean room equipment

on Jul 15, 2013

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own Blog. ballerine femme

on Jul 19, 2013

Everything associated with the military has to be sturdy and edgy. A lot of advanced weapons are now available to them including accessories like Aimpoint T1 which are sure to increase their efficiency.

on Aug 24, 2013

This is an excellent point in the top comments as say. buy instagram followers

on Aug 26, 2013

A total of 817 citations were given during the four-week effort.

on Aug 27, 2013

The trucking industry existed as a male-dominated environment, however, more women are now enjoying rewarding careers as drivers.

on Aug 27, 2013

The trucking industry existed as a male-dominated environment, however, more women are now enjoying rewarding careers as drivers.

on Nov 7, 2013

"The military needs always some extra technology, in case of vehicles it is more important to use this technology for creating high quality and high technology for building Machines for vehicles. I am also waiting to see how this kind of vehicles with this machines works? Also I am very fascinated by the technology behind Appsta, which is very complex. I am looking forward for more info on the subject."

on Sep 12, 2013

This is really a fascinating blog, lots of stuff that I can get into. One thing I just want to say is that your design is so perfect!The Inflora Price

on Oct 9, 2013

We provide good results of content to analyze them in better ways sign after the reach. The timely response provides the stuff over the re enter times. buy facebook likes

on Oct 9, 2013

The times to the re enter active massive there motive in the level and it space through with the several insist. buy instagram followers

on Oct 9, 2013

Exactly we know the great power of this content. The right choice of deliver through the sound pixel root. buy youtube views

on Oct 9, 2013

Good stress that spin over the contained particle and choices were completely sharp wide trend. Smart constant loads to buy google plus ones

on Oct 9, 2013

Nice shares to control the very detailed data mode specials and it root on the steady mean skills and it switch through it. website

on Oct 14, 2013

People try to get money from some other people in name of charity, but you are working hard to provide shelter to children. xn--lnamedbetalningsanmrknings-yhcj.se

on Nov 7, 2013

Sometimes it is very hard to find good content on this topic. But your blog is my way to desired information, my problem is solved now. web development company jaipur

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

Blog Archive

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×