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News from the National Academies
Date: April 2, 2003
Contacts: Barbara J. Rice, Deputy Director
Corbin Arberg, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

For Immediate Release

Publication Announcement

Army's Needs Drive Development of Lightweight Materials
To Improve Truck Durability and Performance

Crucial to today's military readiness is the ability to place a combat-capable force on the ground anywhere in the world as quickly as possible. Trucks and trailers, responsible for transporting personnel, equipment, food, water, ammunition, and fuel once on the ground, represent the logistical backbone of military operations. Although built to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions and threats, the Army's truck fleet is aging and becoming less effective over time. Many of these vehicles are kept in service for decades and left unsheltered between missions, increasing their maintenance costs and diminishing their performance.

High fuel consumption also takes a financial and logistical toll, and limits the Army's agility. Fuel makes up 70 percent of the tonnage shipped to a battle zone, and one armored division alone consumes 600,000 gallons per day. The major users of fuel are Army trucks and supply and support equipment. Improved fuel efficiency could reduce not only the amount of fuel transported but also the numbers of personnel and equipment needed to do so.

To overcome readiness problems caused by an aging truck fleet, to support a more agile military force, and to reduce costs over the long term, the Army is focusing on the benefits of using high-strength, lightweight materials. It turned to the National Academies' National Research Council to evaluate and recommend R&D opportunities for new manufacturing processes and materials that could reduce vehicle weight, improve fuel efficiency, increase corrosion resistance, and lower costs over the lifetime of the vehicle without compromising safety.

Several commercially available materials and technologies can be used now to improve today's Army truck fleet, says a new report from the Research Council's study committee. High-strength steels could reduce weight without reducing protection, and aluminum and magnesium alloys could replace steel altogether in some components. Also, ceramic- and metal-matrix composites could reduce the weight of braking systems without sacrificing performance.

The Army could stimulate new advances in lightweight materials and manufacturing technologies within private and academic sectors by investing directly in their R&D programs, the report adds. Good candidates for long-term investment include titanium, because of its enhanced armor and anticorrosive properties; smart materials that can respond to stimuli like heat and vibration with improved performance; and metal-processing technologies that could be used to repair trucks and produce spare parts in the field.

The committee identified opportunities for lightweight materials research and development that are achievable over short, medium, and longer time frames for structural components only, such as vehicle frames and drive trains. Programs to retrofit or remanufacture older trucks are also discussed in the report, as are ways to track the age and condition of vehicles, and to improve the process for soliciting and procuring bids.

There are about 250,000 trucks and 110,000 trailers in the Army's fleet for moving the weapons, equipment, personnel, and supplies crucial to success on the battlefield. Trucks fall into three classifications: military light trucks, of which the Humvee is the best known, weighing 8,500 to 10,000 pounds; medium-duty trucks, with 2.5- or 5-ton payload capacities; and heavy-duty vehicles such as equipment transporters and line haul tractors, commonly called semis. Types of trailers include cargo, flatbed, tanker, and special purpose.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Copies of Use of Lightweight Materials in 21st Century Army Trucks are available from the National Academies Press for $33.00 (prepaid) plus shipping charges of $4.50 for the first copy and $.95 for each additional copy; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or order on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
National Materials Advisory Board

Committee on Lightweight Materials for 21st Century Army Trucks


Harry A. Lipsitt (chair)
Professor Emeritus
Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Wright State University
Yellow Springs, Ohio

Rodica A. Baranescu*
Chief Engineer in Engine Performance Analysis
Technical Center of Engine and Foundry Division
International Truck and Engine Corp.
Melrose Park, Ill.

John V. Busch
Consultant
Waltham, Mass.

Glenn S. Daehn
Mars G. Fontana Professor of Metallurgical Engineering
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Ohio State University
Columbus

Larry J. Howell
Executive Director, Science
General Motors Research and Development Center (retired)
Royal Oak, Mich.

Manish Mehta
Program Manager
Net Shape Manufacturing
National Center for Manufacturing Sciences
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Walter D. Pilkey
Morse Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and
Director
Impact Biomechanics Program
University of Virginia
Charlottesville

Oleg D. Sherby*
Professor Emeritus
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University
Palo Alto, Calif.


RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

Bonnie A. Scarborough
Study Director


* Member, National Academy of Engineering