Army working to fix Mobile Protected Firepower toxic fume issue
WASHINGTON — The gun on the Army’s new light tank is sending toxic fumes into the cabin when fired, a recent report revealed — but the service is confident it can find a fix and may have one in place as soon as possible. next month.
Last year, the Army awarded GDLS a $1.14 billion contract to produce prototypes of its new 38-ton Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) “light tank” design. But the FY2022 Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report, released last month, found that while the GDLS prototype demonstrated “satisfactory progress” toward “operational effectiveness, reliability and availability to support infantry brigade operations,” several “vulnerabilities” remain that must be addressed before the Army makes a full-rate production decision in fiscal year 2025.
“Risk to achieve operational effectiveness includes: minimizing audible MPF signature, improving compatibility of MPF and infantry target designators to enable sharing of target information and improved usability of the intercom system,” according to the DOT&E report, which adds that changes need to be made to the vehicle’s cooling system and its “survivability performance.” But nothing will raise eyebrows like the claim that when soldiers fire the main gun, “high levels of toxic fumes” fill the vehicle.
However, the military believes the problem can be solved and already has a solution in mind, according to Ashley John, director of public affairs for the program’s executive office for ground combat systems.
During the development and rapid testing phase of the prototype, “unplanned fumes from the spent main rounds accumulated around the crew” inside the GDLS vehicle and crew hatches were opened to bring in fresh air,” John explained in an email to Breaking Defense.
“To fix the long-term issue, we are adding a purge system to exhaust fumes from the crew area,” she wrote, adding that the plan is to test and validate this fix in March. before it was added to the first production. Vehicles.
The GDLS prototype is made up of four soldiers – a commander, gunner, loader and driver – and includes the XM35 105mm cannon, a coaxial machine gun and a diesel engine, according to the company and the military.
Under the initial contract, the Army plans to purchase 96 vehicles but only 26 MPFS in the first batch, Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, program director for ground combat systems, said last year. If testing goes smoothly and production remains on track, the military should begin receiving the first production vehicles around December 2023.
The DOT&E report also notes that the vehicle’s cooling system needs improvement to reduce the number of preventive maintenance checks. John said the military and company are working on a plan to add a more efficient heat exchanger, improved cooling shroud and larger fan and fuel pump to the vehicle.
Regarding the sound of the MPF, John said the prototype vehicle meets all audible signature requirements, but noted that the service will continue to research ways to make the tracked vehicle quieter.
“The DOT&E report discusses the additional noise an MPF-sized tracked vehicle will bring to a light infantry formation. This is not a capability these formations traditionally had in their unit,” she wrote. Adding a new, larger vehicle to a formation, especially a light tank, will almost always increase the amount of noise the unit produces.
Like the report, John did not provide additional context on MPF’s “survivability” issues. However, she said the Army had gathered several key data points during rapid prototype testing and had a list of areas ready for improvement during low-throughput initial production (LRIP).
“Current LRIP vehicles incorporate design updates that address classified survivability issues referenced in the DOT&E report, which will be validated in follow-up government testing,” John wrote.
A spokesperson for GDLS declined to comment on the DOT&E report, but company officials previously said they were using feedback from soldiers to make changes to the prototype, including changes to vehicle cooling, hatches and the transition to a hinged armored skirt configuration.
It’s unclear when all of these changes will roll out. However, the military said it plans to conduct a host of MPF tests this year to include live assessment of individual armor on the vehicle, live exploitation of potential vulnerabilities, extinguisher system testing of fire and a live fire on the system as a whole using the anticipated threats.
“With each live-fire test, we assess the vehicle’s ability to fully function after being engaged, including critical driving, firing and communication capabilities,” John wrote. “We will also be testing design fixes to address toxic fume buildup issues in crew areas as well as automotive fixes with the vehicle’s ability to cool the powertrain under heat or under heavy loads.”