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Army Unveils Smartruck Concept Vehicle (Jan. 24)

DETROIT --- "This is not Hollywood," the announcer declared while airing a short clip on the new SmarTruck in action. "This is today's Army!"

That live coverage by Detroit's local ABC affiliate aired Jan. 11 during the 14th Annual North American International Auto Show charity preview.

Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White helped officially open the auto show in a black-tie ribbon-cutting ceremony. White also officiated at the formal unveiling of the Army's own exhibits at the show.

SmarTruck was, hands-down, the show-stealer, according to officials of the Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and it's National Automotive Center.

SmarTruck is a concept vehicle built upon a Ford F-350 pickup as a platform for NAC to test several anti-terrorist, homeland defense systems.

Examples of SmarTruck's James Bond-like capabilities are hidden body armor, high-voltage door handles, oil slicks, tacks, blinding lights, pepper spray, smoke and detection devices. It also boasts both roof-launched grenades and a roof-concealed laser on a relatively normal-looking F-350 pickup.

SmarTruck was exhibited against the backdrop of a seven-minute production-quality film that dramatically demonstrated the vehicle's spy-age defenses. In the video, SmarTruck transported a soldier carrying an embassy pouch safely and quickly through danger.

In operation, SmarTruck is 90-percent defensive, 10-percent lethal, and 100-percent excitement, TACOM officials said. They said SmarTruck's "weaponry" may one day be adopted for use on more traditional Army equipment, but for the present, it is only experimental.

The rest of the Army's exhibits focused on automotive engineering breakthroughs resulting from cooperative research efforts between the NAC and it's industry and academia partners.

The Army's exhibits included cooperative ventures between NAC engineers and their counterparts in each of the big three auto companies -- DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors. Actually, 15 automotive equipment manufacturers, as well as four academic research centers, participated in the technical developments showcased by NAC and were recognized within the show's displays.

NAC-partnered technologies exhibited at the show included a state-of-the-art wiring system; new steel manufacturing and applications processes being explored in a partnership with Ford Motor Company engineering; and an "electronic drive" transmission which NAC helped partner with General Motors' Allison Transmission Division.

NAC officials said the transmission may well eventually surface as the "techno-gem-sleeper" of the entire auto show. They said the transmission is "that dramatic, that revolutionary!"

The "electronic drive" transmission virtually takes control of the operating efficiency of its mated engine, NAC officials said. They said no matter the engine manufacturer, the resultant power train effects 60-percent improvements in fuel economy and a 90-percent reduction in pollutant emissions while maximizing the engine's operational efficiencies.

The transmission is already in use in select military trucks and municipal bus equipment applications with great results, NAC officials said. They added that it is also being earmarked for application in the Interim Armored Vehicle.

Billed as "next generation electrical architecture," the electrical wiring system prototype at the show was developed in partnership with DaimlerChrysler and Oakland University's Product Development and Manufacturing Center. The wiring system was showcased at the exhibit on an otherwise standard-looking Jeep Cherokee.

The wiring system itself, however, literally pushes the envelope in on-board diagnostics, NAC officials said. They said it can provide owners, dealers and manufacturers with real-time monitoring of every major and minor component within the vehicle's frame, with the exception of the chassis itself.

For auto owners, the wiring system will provide the confidence and security of knowing all systems are up, running and working at their optimum each time the car is being operated, NAC officials said. Should a part begin showing signs of failure or if systemic problems surface in like cars, owners would be notified immediately of both the problem and its recommended repairs, followed by an invitation to 'bring it in."

Application of such a system to military equipment, once matured, should be obvious, NAC officials said. It would provide battlefield commanders with total, real-time oversight of armor and wheeled fleets throughout the critical stages of combat.

A NAC-industry partnership with Ford on display at the show explored innovative steel manufacturing applications that deliver 20-year-plus corrosion protection and reduce overall vehicle weight while increasing both strength and structural integrity. This technology is already being applied to the Ford IMPACT program and will become available for Ford's F-150 SuperCrew's by the 2005 production year, officials said.

TACOM first unveiled the NAC exhibits during a media-only preview Jan. 8. TACOM Chief of Staff Col. R. Bruce Harrison provided the welcome and opening remarks to about 75 media representatives.

Following Harrison's welcome, NAC's director, Dennis Wend, gave a brief overview of the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and the National Automotive Center exhibits on display.

The purpose of the Army's exhibit, NAC officials said, was to provide a forceful demonstration of automotive innovation and dual-use technologies in action. They said the exhibit showcased how the Army today is leveraging common goals with its automotive engineering counterparts to benefit the Army, industry, and American consumers alike.


Army Unveils Smartruck At Auto Show