Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The US army goes green...in a different way

As reported on by Popular Mechanics this summer, ( http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4217017.html) the US army is currently undergoing production and field trials of the first hybrid vehicle to be widely used the the military. The somewhat in-appropriately named "Aggressor"Alternative Mobility Vehicle (didn't run that past foreign policy image focus groups) is a new diesel electric hybrid that is being proposed as a scouting and ground exploration vehicle. The Army's auto research division, TARDEC, developed the Aggressor with a wide wheelbase for offroad duty, an electric battery dominated engine that tops out at 80 MPH, and a almost non existent thermal signature. The Aggressor also has the added stealth benefit of being able to switch into a "silent running mode".

This is the second generation of the Aggressor, with significant improvement on the battery life and durability of the vehicle. While not at all battle worthy and offering scant protection to its occupants, the army hopes it will be able to fill a general purpose role in quick scouting and stealth missions as well as transportation in safe areas (i.e. on stateside bases). The army is also interested in the long-term reduction of the need for non-renewable fuels.

This is much more of a breakthrough than would appear at first glance. First and foremost, implementation of this new vehicle on a large scale would be a major green move for the army, and hopefully seriously reduce costs. Secondly, as seen with the toothbrush, SPAM, and German shepards, use by the army will often translate back into increased civilian use back in the states. Once released to the public, a sturdy, efficient, powerful hybrid engine could be a major breakthrough. Lastly, to all those nay-sayers pointing out the obvious frailty of the "Aggressor", this also shows that the Army is beginning to understand that big, noticeable, heavy ground vehicles certainly have a place in urban combat and traditional warfare, but there is a need for quick, stealthy, ground vehicles as well (think of Specfor soldiers on horseback in Afghanistan). All in all, the development and proposed use of the "Aggressor" should help to effectively and efficiently fill an important spot in the Army's garage.

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