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DARPA’s Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation (FANG) Ground Vehicle

It had to have been just coincidence that the GAO protest decision on the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle was issued the same day – Dec. 5, 2011 – as the release of the Defense Advanced Research Agency’s (DARPA) Broad Agency Announcement for the Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation (FANG) Ground Vehicle.

Released under the auspices of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, the announcement points to DARPA’s current Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio of programs as being designed to compress “at least five-fold the development timelines for new complex cyber-electro-mechanical systems such as military vehicles.”

While several current DARPA program elements comprise an enabling infrastructure to radically transform system development, they remain largely “generic” in nature, with general applicability to a range of complex systems.

The new FANG solicitation is designed to direct those elements toward a relevant military system, which DARPA had identified as “a new heavy, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) with functional requirements intended to mirror the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV).”

“The FANG program, however, is undertaking a radically novel approach to the design and manufacture of an IFV,” it states. “The FANG performer will be responsible for staging a series of FANG Challenges, prize-based design competitions for progressively more complex vehicle subsystems, culminating in the design of a full IFV.”

The envisioned process will leverage DARPA’s ongoing META design tool program and vehicleforge.mil collaboration environment “to significantly change the design experience and open the aperture for design innovation.”

The program overview structures FANG around three challenge areas:

  • Mobility/Drivetrain;
  • Chassis/Survivability; and
  • Full Vehicle

The goal of the challenges is “to sequentially apply the AVM tools and processes to products of graduating level of complexity, but aligned toward the ultimate goal of building the FANG IFV.”

The products resulting from the three sequential challenge areas will include:

  • Mobility/Drivetrain Challenge – An IFV mobility/drivetrain automotive rig for full scale dynamometer testing;
  • Chassis/Survivability Challenge – An IFV chassis/survivability suite, including a complete IFV hull structure assembly and crew compartment to be tested for static and dynamic structural properties and a demonstrated ability to incorporate modular bolt-on armor, and a complete modular armor package for both fit checking on the hull structure assembly as well as testing as survivability test articles for kinetic impact and blast; and
  • Full Vehicle Challenge – A complete IFV for operational test & evaluation typical of initial lots of full rate production vehicles.

The industry proposal due date for the FANG Broad Agency Announcement is Feb. 17, 2012.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...