The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is gearing up to develop a host of technologies for the next generation of armored fighting vehicles.

The agency recently announced that its new Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program aims to pave the way for vehicles that are faster, lighter, smaller and stealthier than today’s fleet, and agile and smart enough to drive on slopes, dodge enemy weapons, reposition armor and give crews a clear view of the battlefield.

While armored fighting vehicles have traditionally relied on armor and maneuverability to protect themselves from attack, enemy weapons continue to become more powerful, and the U.S. military cannot keep adding armor to its vehicles without weighing them down and making them too expensive, DARPA explained. As a result, the agency seeks “innovative and disruptive solutions” to make vehicles more survivable without adding more armor.

“GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle — it’s about breaking the ‘more armor’ paradigm and revolutionizing protection for all armored fighting vehicles,” said Kevin Massey, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

DARPA plans to brief potential bidders for the new program Sept. 5, and award initial technology development contracts by April 2015.

Services Buying New Ground Robots

GXV-T is not the only new defense initiative to improve ground vehicles. A Navy-led, multi-service program, for instance, has begun source selection for the first variant or increment of the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS). Compared to existing unmanned systems that counter roadside bombs and unexploded ordnance, AEODRS will have more commonality among its variants, including a common operator control unit.

Increment 1 will be small enough to fit in a backpack, and “its primary role will be for initial reconnaissance and threat characterization,” the Navy said. Increments 2 and 3 will be larger and equipped to neutralize bombs.

Increment 1 bids were due Aug. 11, and a prime system integrator is due to be picked in fiscal year 2015. Fielding of Increment 1 is to occur in FY 2018.

“Lessons learned from Increment 1 will be applied to the acquisition strategy for Increments 2 and 3,” the Navy said.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.