Robert King, director of Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and the recently named co-chair of a NATO ground vehicle research team, explains the use of some equipment, during one of the many workshops in the Center's facility. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
June 16, 2012 9:32:59 PM
The newest co-chair of a research team developing the next generation of ground vehicles for the world's leading military alliance is from Mississippi State University.
Director of the MSU Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, Roger King has been involved with NATO for a couple of years, doing much of his work with the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Michigan.
He was selected as the co-chair of the applied vehicle team at the end of last year.
"Detroit is kind of my home away from home these days. I help run a project for NATO called Simulation Based Reliability and Safety (SimBRS) for ground vehicles," King said. "MSU has the master project contract and then we have sub-contractors in the industry and academia from around the country."
The SimBRS program is a five-year, $75 million project and consists of a combination of physics-based modeling and experimental work to collect data that will help improve issues related to ground vehicle maneuverability, durability and soldier survivability.
King, who began working at MSU in 1988, has served the University in several capacities, focusing mainly on electrical computer engineering. He also spent time at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he worked with other organizations in the recovery of the space shuttle Columbia, after it crashed during re-entry in 2003.
"I was the technical person that understood satellite technology, I guess. We looked at funding and technical options for a variety of different missions," he said. "I enjoyed it, but it definitely gives you the Washington, D.C. perspective on things."
King said research and preparation make the difference in what he is working on now and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles currently built by Navistar in West Point.
"The MRAPs were a response to a particular threat," King explained. "The Army was having major fatality issues with Humvees getting destroyed by (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq."
He said the resulting design featured a heavy vehicle with a v-shaped hull meant to take the blast from an IED and shoot the force outward. The vehicle is durable and has dramatically decreased Humvee causalities caused by IEDs, but with its high center of gravity and low maneuverability, using it in different war theaters is difficult, King said.
He also noted a desire to make some vehicles amphibious, or at least able to handle multiple terrains, both of which the MRAPs fail to achieve.
"After we moved to fighting in Afghanistan, there were so many fewer paved roads, unlike Iraq, which was pretty developed," he said. "So in Afghanistan, the MRAPs would flip all the time. Soldiers actually started practicing getting out of a flipped MRAP during their training."
King said the new research team's objective is to think ahead of these problems by discussing the development of ground vehicles with the other NATO nations building them.
He added the United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland were participating in the research led by the U.S. and Germany and others were lending support.
"We don't want it to be reactionary; we are trying to anticipate what might be needed," King said. "But we need to get a baseline across the different NATO countries of the different designs for ground vehicles. Think about propulsion, the mobility, the crew protection, armament, weaponry. How do you put it all together and optimize design?"
The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems is incorporating interdisciplinary views into their studies for SimBRS, King explained.
"This is work we have been doing here, as far as SimBRS, where we have been looking at ground vehicles for quite a while," he said. "Our biological engineers are doing a variety of different things to understand, mechanically, what out bodies are like and how to bring that into the impact of explosives on the crew compartment and the war fighters."
Next month, the Center will host several researchers who will discuss the first-year progress of the SimBRS program. For more information about the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems or the SimBRS program, visit www.cavs.msstate.edu.
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