If Peter Jackson needs someone to play Barnes Wallis in his remake of The Dambusters, he should talk to Val Dare-Bryan, who I spoke to at the Defense Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) show at Millbrook in the UK yesterday.
If you don't know DVD, it can be summed up in the words "playing with trucks in the dirt". Millbrook was established in the late 1960s by General Motors to test cars and trucks. Today it is an independent facility, and its off-road course includes mudpies, a 5-foot-deep pond, a one-in-one (45 degree) slope and other minor obstacles including simulated mortar holes and "offset sinusoidals". At the DVD show, customers and guests can strap into the hardware and see how it copes with the terrain.
The eight-ticket ride at Millbrook is the Jackal, originally developed covertly as a Chinook-deployable ride for the UK Special Air Service and now widely used in Afghanistan. The Jackal has a complicated heritage (the design authority is the Supacat company and it is built by Babcock) but the running gear and chassis incorporates a lot of intellectual property originally developed by Dare-Bryan's HMT company, later acquired by Lockheed Martin.
Dare-Bryan's latest creation is the Advanced Vehicle Architecture (AVA) family of vehicles. The 4x4 AVA-1 appeared at Millbrook last year and was back this year, looking more like a real prototype and less like a dressed-up mockup. It was joined by AVA-2, the 6x6 configuration and a candidate for the UK's Offensive Utility Vehicle System (OUVS) requirement, and a bodywork mock-up for what Lockheed Martin calls Jackal 3, and what Dare-Bryan calls "a land gunship". Even ambling around the showgrounds, AVA drew some stares, because it really doesn't look like a truck.
Dare-Bryan started designing military vehicles 12 years ago after a long career in Formula 1. Like the Lotus, McLaren and Porsche cars he designed, Dare-Bryan gave the military vehicles a space-frame chassis, mid-engine and double-wishbone suspension. On the AVA, the space-frame also carries the mine-protection hardware, including an armored floor that forms the top of the chassis box.
AVA is designed to be highly modular. Different upperworks with different levels of ballistic protection (Israel's Plasan is working on the AVA team) can be attached to the flat-topped chassis. Depending on configuration, the engine can be installed behind the front wheels or ahead of the rears. The chassis can be converted from 4x4 to 6x6 in an hour by bolting on a rear module.
The F-117-like body shape is not for show. The idea is that, in a mine blast, the front wheels will pass to either side of the cabin - and there is no need for more than two front seats.
I did not go offroad in the AVA - the prototype is at too early a stage - but did run around the course at remarkable speeds, strapped into the rear-facing open seats of a Jackal. It was (given the speed and the terrain) not a bad ride at all.