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Revolutionary rotary suspension system from Piedrafita-led consortium brings competitive advantages for armoured vehicles

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Photo: © Piedrafita Systems

Photo: © Piedrafita Systems

Leading mobility solutions company Piedrafita has announced the development of a new revolutionary rotary suspension system for future integration into armoured vehicles.

The project, from a consortium led by Piedrafita along with French company Repack-S and the German company IB Fischer CFD+Engineering GmbH, is a revolutionary rotary hydro-pneumatic suspension system for armoured vehicles and was conceived for possible future integration into armoured vehicles such as the French’s Army’s Leclerc tank.

The SRB Project consists of a complete rotary hydro-pneumatic suspension, composed of a rotary damper (energy dissipating element) and a rotary pneumatic spring (elastic component).

It has been developed within the framework of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) 2020 and is part of Piedrafita’s mission to improve the mission-critical capabilities of land platforms.

Although in the early stages of development, the design and prototyping phases have already been completed, and it is intended to be an option to be considered in future upgrades of the main tracked battle tanks.

Cutting-edge mobility solutions

Photo: © Piedrafita Systems

Photo: © Piedrafita Systems

Founded in 1987, leading technological company Piedrafita Systems focuses on the design, development, validation and certification of the most complex mobility solutions for the most demanding vehicles and harshest working environments. With a focus on innovation and excellence, Piedrafita has positioned itself as a benchmark in military vehicles and strives to continue developing cutting-edge solutions for the future of mobility. Its mission is to contribute as a European technological reference to provide ground-breaking solutions and products to enhance mission critical system capabilities. It does this through the development and supply of innovative products for highly demanding vehicular applications, through continuous knowledge growth and a multidisciplinary team that balances youth and experience.

Piedrafita has a longstanding link with the army – particularly the French army. The company first started collaborating with the defence sector in 1995 with the instrumentation of the first prototype of the Spanish armoured vehicle called Pizarro. From then on, Piedrafita has collaborated with different mobility solutions in major armoured vehicles all over Europe and particularly in France. The first collaboration there started in 2017 with Nexter (formerly KNDS France) in the area of rugged data acquisition onboard prototype platforms. Since then, Piedrafita has been intensifying its links with French technological SMEs in order to bring state-of-the-art technology and products to the market.

Improved performance and integrability

Promoted by the European Defence Fund (EDF), the Technological SME consortium named SRB, formed by French, German and Spanish SMEs, is aiming to develop an innovative suspension system for Main Battle Tank weight class vehicles. The project has received the support of French DGA and is under close supervision as a solid solution for future programs like Leclerc upgrade or MGCS.

The project comes as a response to the growing need to cater for a constant increase in weight and demanding high-mobility requirements in recent decades, which have challenged different suspension technologies. Unlike current solutions (hydropneumatics cylinders, torsion bar with mechanical or hydraulic damper, rocker actuated rotary suspension systems based on hydropneumatics cylinders) this system would be able to offer a much better performance as well as a much easier integrability. Rotary dampers have notably increased their energy dissipation capabilities by moving from friction-based technologies to Full Hydraulic high efficiency/low maintenance rotary dampers.

The new high-performance solution is particularly fit for tracked vehicles due to its compactness, robustness and incomparable energy dissipation/space claim ratio. The current, rapidly changing, technological and threat environment calls for the need to develop more and more innovative solutions which utilise novel technology; innovative, rapid and cost-effective solutions for defence applications. The system that will result from this project is an extremely innovative suspension system, especially designed for tracked vehicles but whose underlying technology can be applied to any kind of vehicle. Its suspension travel to space claim required ratio will, whilst maintaining high force damping, ensure a much better vehicle mobility, performance and product integrability.

Competitive advantages

The new fully rotary suspension for armoured vehicles will bring competitive advantages, both in terms of defence capabilities and economic competitiveness. These would include:

  • Increased mobility: the proposed suspension system shall provide increased suspension travel, and energy degradation capacity, all of which would greatly influence platform mobility. The suspension system’s energy degradation capacity shall be independent of the suspension travel and position and the proposed solution shall enable a controlled progressiveness throughout the travel. The energy degrading component shall be a fully hydraulic element, enabling much greater vibration damping, thus increasing comfort and aiming capabilities by providing a more stable ride. It will eventually result in:
    • Increased effective suspension travel
    • Ability to control suspension progressiveness throughout the whole travel
    • An energy dissipation capacity independent of travel and position
    • Increased hydraulic degradation allowing for a greater vibration dampening, specially at track pattern.
  • Decreased maintenance and increased availability: By employing hydraulic technology as opposed to friction technology, the product shall eliminate wear elements and thus reduce the need for maintenance. The objective of this proposal is to design a maintenance-free system, guaranteeing that no maintenance shall be required throughout the system’s entire lifetime (estimated at I0-20 years).
  • Increased protection: By combining the elastic and energy degrading elements into a single product, the suspension system enables the elimination of torsion bars. The use of torsion bars highly affects protection, causing platforms to be more vulnerable to IEDs and mines, thus eliminating them would automatically lead to a better protection.
  • Easier integrability: By integrating both elements of the suspension into a single product and thus eliminating the need for torsion bars, it enables the resulting system to be easier to integrate in both new platforms and mobility upgrades of current vehicles.

One of the objectives of the SRB Project is to minimise the space requirements of the system in order to increase the integration capability of even the most demanding platforms, such as Leclerc. The full rotary suspension system for armoured vehicles is the result of a project aimed at delivering improvements in armoured mobility once the relevant tests have been completed.

This project has received funding from the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) under Grant Agreement No. EDIDP-SME-2020-064-SRB

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