The new challenge in armoured vehicles: Crew comfort
Gerlach vehicle developers working with Siemens to minimize disturbances
Armoured vehicles are ordinarily judged by their resilience, mobility, and protection system against outside attack. But when constructing new generation vehicles, crew comfort is equally important, which among other things depends on the level of noise and vibrations transmitted into the cabin. Therefore, the job of the developers is to make sure any disturbances are as minor as possible.
The nature of combat operations has changed significantly in recent years and these new conditions are driving higher demand for technological tools and communications equipment. Seamless communication with the control center and clearly received intercom messages can determine the success of a mission. In tense crisis situations, fast and effective communications between crew members are also crucial.
In general, armoured vehicles generate higher levels of noise and vibration than conventional commercial vehicles, possibly interfering with smooth communication and decision-making. As Gerlach project manager Pavel Bušta explains, high noise and vibration levels can cause fatigue and reduce crew response time in critical situations. The crew is also at risk of health problems when thresholds are reached or there is long-term exposure to these effects.
When developing armoured vehicles, it is necessary to look into how the impact of noise and vibrations can be minimized. As early as the design stage, all available knowledge and innovations are evaluated before looking at how to apply them to the vehicle’s specifications.
“Starting with the construction elements for the axles and drive train all the way to the seats in the cabin and other details inside,” begins Mr. Bušta as he talks about developing Gerlach vehicles, “everything is aimed towards the goal of providing the crew with the best possible conditions.” They are equipped, among other things, with special noise and vibration absorbing materials along with systems actively canceling out the adverse effects.
Yet the development team at Zetor Engineering Slovakia, a.s. wants to go even further in improving these parameters. Toward this end, they have started working with Siemens, with its own know-how and experience in acoustic measurement. The first design measurements were made with a special sound camera. “These measurements help us create an “acoustic map” to let us effectively monitor sound sources and work towards eliminating them,” says Mr. Bušta as he discusses the objective of making these tactical armoured vehicles the best in its category.
Gerlach is a new generation tactical armoured vehicle. The latest 21st century engineering and design requirements have been taken into account in the development of this vehicle, alongside actual experience in military conflicts. The concept is unique due to the emphasis on safety, agility, and versatility.
Gerlach has demonstrated superior terrain skills during the army tests.
The vehicle has overcome a 500-meter stair a one-meter wide trench, carrying six 120-kilogram weights to simulate a six-member crew in full battle gear. In addition, it was transporting a 1,000-kilogram load in its cargo space outside the main crew compartment.
In other stress tests conducted by the manufacturer, the vehicle climbed gradient of a 100% on a short stretch by overcoming a 45-degree approach angle with a full 14-tonne. On long stretches, it can comfortably climb 60%.
The cabin is designed as an armoured capsule with an unprecedented SAFETY space of 7.7 cubic meters. Compared to standard space for four or five people, it has enough room for a six-member crew up to 190 centimeters tall and weighing 130 kilograms including gear. When necessary, space can be provided for an additional two crew members. The cabin is anchored independently of the vehicle undercarriage, so the crew remains protected even if the vehicle itself is damaged. The cabin is also designed to enable the crew to evacuate it very quickly.
Gerlach can be readied with different degrees of ballistic and anti-mine-blast protection provided in STANAG 4569 – Volume 1 and Level 3 ballistic protection and Volume 2, Level 3a and 3b anti-mine protection. Besides fire from the small assault weapons used in current conflicts, the vehicle is also able both under the axle and under the cabin to withstand anti-tank mines with the equivalent of up to 8 kilograms of TNT.
An important parameter of vehicles in this class is their dynamics, which is measured by the ratio of power to vehicle weight. Gerlach has an exceptional ratio of 17.1 kilowatts per tonne. The vehicle is dynamized by a German 240-kW, six-cylinder MTU engine, supported by a 6-gear automatic transmission for maximum engine power across a wide scale. The independently suspended wheels are powered by a set of uniquely balanced drive shafts through a downward GHN transmission that is among the world’s leaders in torque distribution on all-wheel drives.
In tests conducted in rainy weather at the Slovakia Ring racetrack, it reached a maximum speed of 125 kilometers per hour. The vehicle also demonstrated its tractive force by pulling a 28-ton tractor and circling for one hour along a circuit while keeping to the required temperature.
Gerlach is a highly variable vehicle that can carry a further 1.5 tonnes of necessary gear and equipment. Vehicle versions can be rapidly altered to meet requirements of a given mission. The basic version has a curb weight of 12 tonnes with filter ventilation plus air conditioning and protection against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons already installed.