Alcoa, US Army to Develop World's Largest Single-Piece Aluminum Hull for Combat Vehicles to Improve Troop Protection

Alcoa (NYSE: AA) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have launched a cooperative effort to develop an aluminum solution to a grave threat to soldier safety: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The solution, a single-piece aluminum hull for ground combat vehicles, would replace today’s assembled hulls and deliver even greater strength and durability. In addition to safety benefits, the single-piece hull would reduce vehicle weight and assembly time, and, therefore, overall cost.

"For decades, the Army has recognized the survivability benefits of a single-piece hull due to its thickness, size and shape for ground combat vehicles," said Dr. Ernest Chin of the Army Research Laboratory. "Our collaborative effort to develop continuous and seamless aluminum hull technology has the potential to be a game changer for how combat vehicles are designed and made to better protect our soldiers."

Alcoa’s single-piece aluminum hull would improve combat vehicle performance through:

  • Improved blast protection: A single-piece hull would eliminate welded seams used in today’s manufacturing processes, which is expected to significantly improve protection. The single-piece hull would cover the entire lower section of any combat vehicle.
  • Increased damage resistance: The use of more blast-absorbent Alcoa alloys is expected to further increase damage resistance.
  • Efficient design: Forging hulls as one unit would facilitate three-dimensional shaping, allowing Alcoa to tailor the thickness where needed to maximize protection and allow for weight savings.
  • Cost savings: The structure is expected to reduce costs over the life of the vehicle by increasing fuel efficiency through lightweighting and eliminating assembly time and complexity.

“Alcoa has helped the U.S. military stay ahead of emerging threats by innovating durable, lightweight aluminum technologies since World War I,” said Ray Kilmer, Alcoa Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “Our experts are now developing the world’s largest, high-strength aluminum hull for combat vehicles to better defend against IEDs, the greatest threat our troops face in Afghanistan, while meeting the Army’s affordability needs.”

The Army Research Laboratory, in partnership with Alcoa Defense, initiated the program after Alcoa modeled significant performance advantages of the single-piece hull. Alcoa also brings proven advanced materials expertise and experience forging the world’s largest aluminum structures. This initiative is part of the Army’s Affordable Protection from Objective Threats program, created to improve the military’s defense against modern-day threats, such as IEDs, using affordable, advanced manufacturing technologies. IEDs are a critical threat against soldiers in combat zones.

Hull Development and the Alcoa Advantage
During the next 18 months, Alcoa Defense, the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will coordinate research and development efforts with scientists at the Alcoa Technical Center, the world’s largest light metals R&D facility, to refine the hull design and develop the alloy requirements. Alcoa Defense will then work with engineers at Alcoa Forgings and Extrusions in Cleveland to produce 20- by 7-foot demonstrator hulls to validate the performance benefits. These hulls will be forged using Alcoa Cleveland’s 50,000-ton forging press—one of two heavy closed die forging presses of this size in the United States and a strategically important asset to the Nation’s defense.

Affordable Innovations
This latest project is only one of a portfolio of ways in which Alcoa has supported the United States defense effort with innovations across air, land and sea platforms. The following are a few examples:

  • Applying its commercial aerospace expertise, Alcoa has helped the Air Force extend the life of its fleet, including aircraft developed more than 50 years ago. Alcoa developed previously unavailable replacement parts using new alloys that have increased fleet damage tolerance and corrosion resistance at an affordable price, helping the Air Force improve its fleet while avoiding approximately $100 million in costs to purchase new aircraft.
  • Alcoa developed a lighter, lower-cost, single-piece forging for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) bulkhead, enabling the JSF to meet exacting government weight targets and improve affordability.
  • In addition, Alcoa has provided a number of innovative technologies and materials to improve the performance of Army vehicles, such as the Heavy Equipment Transport and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, providing increased soldier protection while making the vehicles more lightweight, energy efficient and durable.

Source: Alcoa
Date: Oct 22, 2013