August 25, 2022
According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the United States spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined. Of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2023 requested spending budget of $773 billion, a good portion will go to defense vehicles. These expenditures include everything from new vehicles, warranty costs, spare parts, maintenance fees, repairs, personnel training, and even 12.6 billion for modernizing Army and Marine Corps fighting vehicles.
The unfortunate reality is that increased vehicle complexity presents a whole new slew of challenges that are not only costing the DoD a pretty penny but also jeopardizing mission readiness, effectiveness, and personnel safety. Fortunately, real-world data logging provides a solution to many of these challenges. But before we get into that, let's examine the key pain points impacting defense vehicles.
When the military first started utilizing vehicles in the early 1900s, they were dealing with a much simpler architecture. Back then electronic control units (ECUs) didn’t exist, so even a basic knowledge of auto mechanics was enough to meet mission requirements. In contrast, today’s vehicles contain upwards of 80 ECUs that interact and depend on each other to maintain functionality. This in itself, wouldn’t be a problem, if the military had the qualified workforce necessary to maintain them. As it so happens they don’t. This lack of vehicle expertise and manpower results in faulty parts and software code jeopardizing mission effectiveness, while routine maintenance often gets postponed.
This is a huge cause for concern resulting in countless unnecessary accidents, injuries, and deaths. One recent example is the amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the coast of California during a training exercise in July 2020. Nine military personnel lost their lives that day, not due to unfriendly fire or combat, but due to neglected maintenance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we also see instances of over maintaining defense vehicles. In other words, perfectly good parts are replaced and services are performed prematurely. Not only does this drain valuable time and resources away from military service technicians but it is a needless waste of money. The question is: why is this happening?
It is partially due to a lack of data and understanding of the vehicle’s current state of functionality. According to a study by the United States Army Material Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA), between 97 and 98 percent of the tactical vehicle fleet and instrumented Strykers are being serviced based on time instead of actual use. Imagine driving your vehicle 200 miles a month but having its oil changed once every three months simply because that’s what the service schedule says you should do. Not only would that astronomically increase vehicle ownership costs, but it just wouldn’t make any sense. Steps are already being taken to remedy this issue, such as adopting a condition-based maintenance approach. This change has the potential to save the US Army $47 million a year. However, that is only half the battle.
The next hurdle is having the ability to access relevant, sufficient, and quality data directly from the vehicles. Although there are a lot of different options available for data collection, most provide a narrow and unreliable view of vehicle functionality and usage. The digital source collectors currently being tested in the US military only collect 80 signals from a limited number of ECUs. A more effective means of data collection is an embedded telematics platform that is fully integrated with the vehicle’s systems and able to relay an almost limitless range of data points from every ECU.
Although embedded telematics-based data logging can’t create a larger workforce, it can expedite and ease defense vehicle maintenance and repair. Instead of taking shots in the dark, service technicians can pull precision data from every vehicle sensor and perform in-depth analytics to determine the exact cause of the issue. This millisecond-level data can be compiled with data from other units to determine whether the fault is an isolated event or a widespread issue. In addition, it enables more accurate maintenance schedules based on more than just time passed or miles driven. Once all relevant information is pulled from the vehicle it is parsed out to take effective action, whether that’s vehicle enhancements, preventative maintenance, or even military training.
In a study conducted by the US Government Accountability Office, during a ten-year span, the Marine Corps and Army reported a total of 3,751 non-combat-related accidents resulting in 123 service member deaths and millions of dollars in damages. Precision data logging opens a new realm of understanding these instances. It allows the military to look at what was happening before, during, and after the accident, to answer questions like: Was the vehicle being misused? If so, how was it being misused? Were there any environmental factors? Was there a malfunction in any of the vehicle’s systems prior to the incident? All this information can be compiled and utilized to enhance training exercises and fine-tune education around vehicle usage. For example, if data reveals that Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV) rollings almost always happen when rounding a corner on rocky terrain at speeds over 60 mph, then this information can be leveraged and shared to improve training and prevent future incidents. It also provides a jumping-off point to assess and improve vehicle design and handling capabilities.
Leveraging defense vehicle data has the potential to change the way the military manages its vehicles. Not only through the use of training-related data but also real-time data during times of combat. It provides a comprehensive view of vehicle functionality and the ability to identify and address gaps and vulnerabilities in vehicle design, driver training, and even defense tactics. Other benefits include:
Precision data logging in defense vehicles has the potential to alleviate many of the challenges faced by the military. In addition, to cost reduction associated with routine maintenance or lack thereof, access to in-depth data decreases service technician workload, provides invaluable insights, and enhances overall safety. Most importantly, it can keep vehicles in the fight on the battlefield and ensure our service members have the equipment they need to complete their missions successfully.
As it stands, the military and defense vehicle manufacturers have two options:
Sibros Deep Logger solution is an embedded telematics solution that integrates seamlessly with a vehicle’s existing systems and architecture to safely unlock deep, reliable data. At 95% product and 5% integration it is designed to be deployed in under 4 weeks and access millisecond-level data from 80+ ECUs. It includes customizable data collection parameters to reduce cloud storage costs and expedite data analysis.
One thing in the military is certain, whether service members are on a training mission or in unfriendly territory, having a dependable and properly maintained vehicle is critical to their success. Precision data logging is the next step in ensuring both individual and national safety. To learn more about how Sibros powers connected vehicles via in-depth data, contact us today.