US Defense Department crowdsources new battle vehicle

27 December 2012
, CarsGuide

We’ve seen car companies crowdsource concept designs, usually just with a mind to increasing their Facebook profile or producing a special edition of an existing vehicle.

But the US military has taken the idea a massive step further by crowdsourcing the design for a new battlefield vehicle. The United States Department of Defense has put out a call to the public to design a new amphibious infantry vehicle.

The project comprises a three-part series of design challenges with a million dollars in prize money for the successful projects. A secure website has been set up for the entrants to workshop their designs, with access to a library of Department of Defense components.

The exercise is being conducted by the Department’s skunkworks wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that oversees the development of new military technology for the US.

The project -- codenamed FANG for Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle – will design and develop a new heavy-duty amphibious infantry fighting vehicle.

The design brief mirrors the US Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle project: able to move from land to water without pause; have countermeasures against a full range of direct fire and land mine threats; visible and thermal camouflage; able to manoeuvre in concert with the Abrams tank; and have the capability to destroy enemy combat vehicles -- including those with similar firepower – with precision fire.

FANG Challenge “is a key component of DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make portfolio, which takes a radically novel approach to the design and manufacture of a ground vehicle,” the agency said in a statement. The project aims to “tap into the innovation of individuals and companies that may have new ideas.”

In the first FANG Challenge, entrants vying for the million dollars and glory will use a secure online DARPA system called VehicleFORGE to develop the FANG’s powertrain and mobility system, with the winning design to go to a build process.

Scheduled for late 2013, the second challenge will ask entrants to produce the chassis and structural subsystems for the FANG’s ‘survivability’. The following year will see the final challenge to produce a full vehicle design.

The first competition starts in January 2-13, but inspired designers, innovators and engineers from outside the US need not apply – the challenge and the design site are open only to US residents.

And a million dollars might seem a lot of money as a design competition prize, but it probably comes in at far less than most government consultancies – especially those projects that go on to soak up even more money. Collins Class submarines, anybody?