Aluminum manufacturer and processing company Alcoa has teamed with the US Army Advanced Research Laboratory (ARL) to develop a hull for a Ground Combat Vehicle armored vehicle hull made of a single piece of aluminum. Today, such hulls are manufactured from several metal plates welded together to form the hull structure. The seams are often becoming weak areas, becoming susceptible to blast damage. Replacing today’s assembled plates hulls, a single piece aluminum hull would offer a lighter, better protected structure, offering higher resistance to IED blast, be more durable to deformation, offering overall lower acquisition and life cycle cost.
“Our collaborative effort to develop a continuous and seamless aluminum hull has the potential to become a game changer for how armored vehicles are designed and made, to better protect our soldiers.” Dr. Ernest Chin of the ARL said.
The single hull structure will eliminate the use of welded armor plates, providing a single structure covering the entire vehicles’ lower hull. Alcoa plans to use advanced blast absorbent alloys, to further improve the structure’s tolerance to damage. The forging process will also enable designers to tailor the three-dimensional design and the structure’s width to meet specific protection and strength requirements in certain areas, while reducing the overall weight of the entire structure.
Reduced weight also means lighter vehicle weight, which further contributes to lower fuel consumption, and wear over the entire life cycle of the vehicle, thus contributing to lower life cycle cost. Once production processes are proven, it can be expected that the production of a single piece hull will become more economical and faster, further improving manufacturing cost.
ARL and Alcoa Defense have launched the program after Alcoa has modeled the advantages of the single piece large aluminum hull. The company already has the capabilities to forge the largest aluminum structures. Under the 18 month program ARL will coordinate the research efforts at the Alcoa Technical Center, to refine the hull design and develop the alloy requirements. Alcoa Defense will then work with Alcoa Forging and extrusions in Cleveland to produce a 20 by 7 foot demonstrator hull with the company’s 50,000 ton forging press, one of the two heaviest forging presses in the USA, to validate the performance benefits of the new hull.