U.S. General Seeks Lessons at Le Mans
By KATE BRANNEN – Before arriving in Paris for Eurosatory, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Vane made a stop in Le Mans to watch the famous 24-hour sports car race that takes place in the French town each year.
The trip wasn’t purely recreational –- it served as a follow-up to several trips Army officials have made over the last couple of months to see what they can learn from the racecar industry. The Army hopes to learn a thing or two from an industry that constantly innovates on a tight schedule and often under cost constraints, said Vane, who directs the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center.
“They’ve got a year between the end of the last race and the next green flag goes down,” said Vane. In most cases, they rebuild completely and constantly innovate to improve the vehicle’s performance, he said.
“They’re concerned with driver protection, at high speeds,” said Vane. “They’re not familiar with blast, so they don’t know the whole equation. They’re cost-constrained generally at some level, depending on who their sponsor is, and they’re schedule-constrained.”
The lessons could be particularly applicable to the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle programs, he said.
There are three or four ideas that have come out of the racecar visits that are worth pursuing, he said.
For example, one of the racecar companies showed the Army how to expand their monocoque hull, designed for one person, so that it could potentially hold a 10-man squad in the back of a Ground Combat Vehicle, he said.
The Army also is interested copying the racecar industry’s ability to create production lines that can simultaneously produce different variants of vehicles, Vane said.
Learning more about this other vehicle industry should help the Army become smarter customers by asking for better designs at the outset of a program, he said.