Lockheed Martin's Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment
(MULE) autonomous vehicle is developed by Lockheed Martin for
the US Army Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle is designed
to carry the load of two infantry squads, totaling about 2,000
pounds (907 kg), and support troops with water and power sources
for extended operations. The estimated cost of each MULE platform
(without mission systems) is expected to be US$300,000.
The Mule will be a "follower" to the human team.
Each of the team members will be able to order the Mule to come
forward, to support the operation. Otherwise, the vehicle will
maintain a safe distance behind the team, waiting for orders.
Like its human combatants, the Mule will have day and night
thermal sights, while additional sensors, such as forward-looking
imaging systems and chemical biological sensors will be installed
in a forward payload to support team operations. The mule can
communicate with and sometime, deploy unmanned aerial and ground
vehicles (UAV/UGV) to give the squad members a true 360-degree
image of the battlefield.
At AUSA 2008 Lockheed Martin displayed the latest configuratio of the MULE which recently received new wheels, utilizing springs made of composite materials, instead of inflatable tires. These wheels are less vulnerable to small-arms and fragments hits, and can operate continuously without replacement or maintenance even after suffering severe damage or hits.
The MULE engineering evaluation vehicle uses
a diesel electric engine powering the six wheels, mounted on
independent articulated suspension. The wheels will be fitted
with Run-Flat inserts and Central Tire Inflation System for
improved mobility and survivability.
The future system will employ hybrid electric propulsion, with
in-hub motors powering each wheel, providing extreme mobility
in complex terrain, far exceeding that of vehicles using more
conventional suspension systems. The MULE's unique mobility
will enable it to follow everywhere the soldier can go and more.
MULE will be able to travel cross country at speeds of 43.5
mph (70 km/h), climb and cross obstacles 3.28 ft (1 meter) high
or wide, traverse side slopes greater than 40 percent, ford
water to depths over 1.64 ft (0.5 meter) and overpass obstacles
as high as 1.64 ft (0.5 meter) while compensating for varying
payload weights and center-of-gravity locations. MULE will be
transportable internally in a CH-47 Chinook or C-130 transports,
and could be sling loaded under a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
The MULE includes three variants: Armed Robotic Vehicle -
Assault (Light), Transport and Countermine. The assault version
will be armed with rapid-fire suppressive weapon and anti-tank
missile launchers. It is designed to provide immediate heavy
firepower to dismounted troops. The Transport MULE will be configured
to support the Future Force Soldier by providing the volume
and payload capacity to carry the equipment and supplies to
support two dismounted infantry squads. Multiple tie-down points
and removable/foldable side railings support virtually any payload
variation, including casualty evacuation. The Countermine variant
is designed to detect and mark mines and minefields, greatly
increasing the safety and mobility of the infantryman.
Currently at an engineering evaluation phase, MULE is expected
to mature into a full scale development system and be ready
for deployment with the first FCS units of action, around 2013-1014.
The company expects a requirement for 1,530 vehicles, based
on current Army plans.