Haydn Wadley of the University of Virginia led the wrap-up discussion of the workshop. He said that several questions are relevant to the ongoing discussion of using material substitution to lower combat vehicle weight: Is 20 years long enough to design and build a tank that weighs half of the current M1 tank in the U.S. Army inventory? Is this sufficient time to motivate researchers to explore enabling materials and structures? Normally, it can take 15 years to move from discovery to scaled manufacturing. A key aspect of determining this will be the risk and reward for making these discoveries and moving them into production.
Wadley noted that the participants had heard about several possible materials, including super high-strength steels, titanium alloys, 100 ksi aluminum, composite materials, and nanoscopic materials. What other materials might be possible solutions? Furthermore, Wadley wondered whether “far-out materials” are even required to meet the needs. Another related question is, How should the military research and development community proceed with maturing the material readiness levels?
Some workshop participants also raised questions about manufacturing capabilities. Wadley noted that the numbers of vehicles that need to be replaced are extremely low by commercial standards. In addition to 6,000 M1 Abrams tanks, he went on to say that there are also armored personnel carriers and other vehicles that will need to be replaced, but even in total the numbers represent a small fraction of the annual production rate of commercial vehicles. A participant pointed out that the Abrams tank remains the front-line armored vehicle for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, but thousands of them will need to be replaced in the next
two decades. This will require consideration of the fabrication methodology from a low volume perspective. In light of this, Wadley asked, What existing manufacturing capabilities can be exploited? What is the best manufacturing analogy? He concluded by saying that these questions will not be easy to answer.