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Alcoa Defense’s aluminum structure for Army demonstrator reduces weight by up to 10% and fuel consumption by 6-7%

Alcoa Defense has created an aluminum structure for the Army’s Fuel-Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator (FED) that will make the vehicle up to 10% lighter than a comparably sized steel vehicle and reduce fuel consumption by 6-7% because the lighter vehicle frame enables a lighter engine, driveline and chassis.

Alcoa supplied the FED’s aluminum chassis and cab structure with integral underbody armor protection to Ricardo Inc., the project’s lead engineering contractor. During the initial stages of design, Alcoa collaborated with Ricardo to determine which Alcoa solutions could best help achieve FED’s goals. In addition to a welded aluminum spaceframe, other Alcoa innovations on the FED vehicle include:

  • An interchangeable aluminum blast and brush shield reduces curb weight. The strong aluminum blast shield that protects the underside of the vehicle can be switched to a thinner brush shield for use in non-combat environments to save on fuel. The blast shield was designed with Alcoa’s 2040 aluminum armor, a high-strength alloy that doesn’t fracture and resists blasts without failure or cracking.

    This is the first time that alloy 2040 has ever been used on a vehicle. Additionally, the blast shield is connected directly to the FED’s rocker panels beneath the doors and wheel wells. The rocker panels are load bearing, so integrating the blast shield directly into the vehicle structure gives it additional strength, which better protects the soldiers in the cab.

  • Instead of a conventional chassis design with frame rails on each side of the vehicle the FED cab is integrated directly into the front and rear chassis modules without frame rails. By eliminating the redundant frame rail components that typically connect the cab with the front and rear chassis modules, the weight of the vehicle is reduced while still maintaining its strength.

  • To increase survivability in combat environments, the FED vehicle features Alcoa’s CR56 aluminum alloy armor in both integral and appliqué (add-on) armor applications, providing excellent ballistic and blast performance protection.

  • To reduce weight and increase payload, new forged aluminum wheels were added to the FED vehicle. The wheels perform reliably in harsh conditions and provide substantial weight savings compared to conventional steel wheels. Aluminum wheels reduce tire rolling resistance by up to three percent compared to a comparably sized steel wheel, which results in one percent fuel savings, quicker acceleration and improved braking performance. Additionally, a lighter wheel assembly helps compensate for the weight of armor added to vehicles that were originally manufactured without armor. Finally, the lighter the suspension and wheels, the better the grip when tracking over rough terrain, which improves handling during hard acceleration or braking.

  • Pioneered by Alcoa on the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle by Oshkosh, the FED will feature aluminum suspension components and mounting structure that can withstand harsh environments and difficult terrain. Forged aluminum suspension components deliver strength equivalent to steel at dramatically lower weight. One-piece aluminum forgings also eliminate welding, require minimal machining, easily bolt into place and reduce parts count significantly, which improves quality and streamlines the OEM manufacturing and supply chain process.

  • Many structural components of the FED vehicle are joined with Alcoa’s Bobtail fasteners, which deliver strong joints without compromising the integrity of the materials, which can occur with conventional welding techniques. In addition, they enhance long-term vehicle durability by maintaining joint strength when absorbing sudden impacts.

  • Alcoa also used friction stir welding, a specialized welding technique which improves quality by reducing weld-induced distortion, to join several aluminum alloys. Friction stir welding also allowed Alcoa to weld the thick aluminum plates that were integral to the vehicle’s blast shield. Alcoa has the expertise to help defense and commercial OEMs integrate aluminum components with high-quality friction-stir welds in their platforms.

With Alcoa’s all-aluminum cab and chassis structure serving as the vehicle’s foundation, Ricardo Inc. will integrate all other technologies and components into the vehicle, which is scheduled to debut at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Winter Symposium and Exposition in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

To demonstrate that FED’s aluminum technologies can be cost-effectively incorporated into future vehicle fleets, Alcoa built the prototype structure with the same cost-reduction considerations it applies to OEM platforms. Whenever possible, Alcoa uses aluminum product forms, such as forgings, extrusions and castings, that streamline production and decrease machining costs because their shapes very closely match the structures final form. To further reduce costs and streamline manufacturing for OEMs that typically specialize in steel structures, Alcoa also constructs aluminum subassemblies or full structures that OEMs can integrate into their vehicles.

The FED project was launched by the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in 2008 to develop a prototype vehicle that would showcase fuel efficient technologies, while maintaining the vehicle’s performance, payload capacity and protection of soldiers.

If the Army, which operates the world’s largest fleet of ground vehicles, can improve fuel efficiency by just 1%, it will result in 6,000 fewer soldiers being put at risk by driving highly targeted fuel convoys in combat locations.



IIRC, there was an article on GCC about two years ago about rubber tank treds that were more durable than steel, weighed half as much, improved fuel efficiency by 5%, and made the vehicle much much quieter.

An aluminum M1 Abrams with rubber treds, a hybrid drivetrain running off a micro turbine, and reactive armor. Anyone?

The thought of a fast and quiet tank is really scary... if you're the enemy. The good news about tanks now (from the enemy's standpoint) is that you can hear them from quite a distance away. The thought of one just rolling up on you with little to no warning is very frightening.


How about 100% savings by not traveling around the world to station GIs as targets for the locals(the countries citizens).

We've got aircraft carriers.

Or maybe first providing the foundation of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" through actual health care for our own citizens(been happy/productive while sick?), instead of murdering 45,000 Americans unable to afford 17% GDP medical insurance annually.

If you think Congress fixed health care, try crawling into a hospital without an insurance card.

Or at least catch one dialysis-riden terrorist, "wanted dead or alive" for decades, or maybe invade the right country - the one that sent 18 students to do 9/11 and still finances all the rest.

Paper or plastic/aluminum or steel can come later.


"Only the dead have seen the end of war."-Plato

Since that seems to hold true, I'd say it's better to be prepared.


BTW, I don't disagree with you re: healthcare. IMO, the government took the wrong approach. They should have made it so that prescriptions are essentially free (or, included in taxes to be more correct) for all Americans. Same for diagnostic services. Doctor service, however, they should leave alone and let market forces act.

I have several friends who are medical professionals (Oncologist, Endogcrinologist, etc.) They are all highly respected but they have a hard time making a buck (this is at a top facility in a wealthy city btw). 36%+ of their revenue goes to malpractice insurance, 15% goes to rent, 25% goes to their staff. Because those write offs exceed the alternative minimum tax by a long shot, they end up paying taxes on ~50% of their revenues which is like paying 72% on the remaining 24% of their revenues.

If the government wants to mess with market forces they should provide (more heavily) subsidized loans for students to go to medical school. Increase the supply of doctors.


The US 4% of humanity has produced over 50% of the world's arms for over sixty years, which suggests "being prepared", or at least a need for some diplomacy before total national bankruptcy.

Little things like providing health care, rebuilding infrastructure, debt reduction, and a just legal system must start at home before military adventurism. Laws are on the books, especially the right to a speedy trial. When judges and lawyers drag proceedings into years with the obvious purpose of hundreds of dollars per hour/millions in fees, the result is unpunished criminal lawyer fraud - not justice or common sense.

My nephew is headed for medical school. Your mention of 36%+ of doctor revenue for 'malpractice' insurance is an excellent example of overcharged 'legal' fraud, as are $billion salaried/pensioned CEOs.

A show, 'American Greed', recently showed three Kentucky lawyers charging $66 million(33% + expenses) for a drug settlement and then taking $120M - leaving their 400 clients with $80M for funerals and hospital bills.

Would justice improve if just 1% of the 45,000 US medically uninsured dying annually met with those representing their interests didn't die alone?


Yes, wide spread greed and corruption, lobbies and pressure groups rising power, illegal contributions to politicians (for future consideration and contracts), useless very expensive wars (over $1000 billions for the 2 current one), rising health care cost, education inefficiencies and poor quality, junk foods, complacency, illegal drugs, etc etc are all taking their tolls on America.

Can it be corrected or will it become progressively worse until the empire caves in from within?


HarveyD, I agree, and thoughts return to those lawyers who, in OUR "justice" system, could LEGALLY charge 33 % of settlement = $22M/6000 hr(3 yr.)= $3,667 per hour!!!

$3,667 per hour for what? The lawyers weren't sick nor did they have ANY hospital bills! There was no risk. The law suite was against Fen Fen diet pills, which had already been found guilty across the nation!!

I don't like the odds on your question, "Can it be corrected or will it become progressively worse until the empire caves in from within?"

It seems that not even a US President raised as far as possible from a silver spoon and the "good old boy's club" can change the legal "from within" tide.

Not even incuding the 'Alcoa Defense’s aluminum structure for Army demonstrator reduces weight by up to 10% and fuel consumption by 6-7%' revelation..

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