Many military enthusiasts were astounded upon seeing Northrop Grumman’s entry to the Army’s call for a new light reconnaissance vehicle (LRV) during the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2015. The eye-catching vehicle prototype, clad in chic, badass matt black, resembled an excellent cross between a dune buggy and a Humvee.

Army’s Potential Future LRV

The Hellhound is a six-passenger lightweight scout vehicle designed in response to the Army‘s need for a quick responder that could respond effectively in and out of enemy territory while remaining vicious and deadly. The program was part of the service’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy (CVMS), which was approved in September of that year, that aims “to provide formations with the appropriate combinations of mobility, lethality, and protection to defeat the enemy and accomplices the mission across the range of military operations.” Though CVMS, the Army strives “to stay ahead of adaptive, determined, and increasingly capable enemies” in the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.

During the unveiling ceremony, Northrop’s business development director for mission solutions and readiness said that “the vehicle was designed from the ground up with the crew and mission in mind so that it could be used by light infantry, border police, National Guard or first responders.”

In line with the Army’s goals, the Hellbound was presented as an LRV capable of addressing multiple land-based “war-fighting challenges” such as maneuverability, off-road capabilities, and protection against roadside bombs and/or improvised explosive device (IED) attacks through speed and agility.

Furthermore, Northrop’s Hellbound highlighted another challenge the Army faces: generating enough electrical power to power up radios, sensors, and other onboard devices during missions. In the Hellbound LRV prototype, the company used a modular energy system from German company JENOPTIK that can generate up to 120 kilowatts of “exportable, stable power,” enough to juice up laser weapons and shoot against small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This energy system can also run Northrop’s LN-270 Inertial Navigation System and other crucial vehicle sensors, such as the visible-light camera that can spot objects up to 800 meters away and an infrared sensor effective out to reach 10,000 meters.

At the AUSA 2015, the company’s director of vehicle modernization explained that Hellbound’s power would enable “new opportunities in powering expeditionary command post or key infrastructure as part of disaster response teams,” via Defense News.

The Hellbound has a reported weight of about 6.5 tons, a rear engine, and can carry up to six fully-equipped soldiers plus the driver. In the 2015 expo, The vehicle featured a 30mm ATK M230LF cannon on an EOS Technologies R-400 remote weapon station, as well as a high-energy laser that is “normally reserved for much heavier vehicles.”

Meanwhile, the heavy protective gear of the LRV has been sacrificed in order to keep it light for ease of transportation, allowing platforms such as the CH-47 Chinook to carry it. The mounted cannon can be stowed inside during transport, while its suspension can be adjusted based on the terrain type.

Production Remains Unclear

Currently, the fate of Northrop’s Hellbound remains unclear. It is still being determined whether the Army will proceed with acquiring the vehicle as part of its future CVMS. While developing Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) programs, the Army has also been looking into active protection systems, upgrading Abram tanks and Bradley armored fighting vehicles, and replacing its aging M113 armored personnel carrier with new armored multipurpose vehicles.

AUSA 2015 defense news
Screengrab from Defense News

It has so far prioritized addressing the shortcomings of IBCTs in terms of tactical mobility and lethality, as well as research and development for more capable protection systems. Shifting to its mid-term (between 2022-2031) goals, the Army aims “to improve the limited mobile-protected firepower capabilities within IBCT and SBCTs (Stryker Brigade Combat Team)” before finally moving on to the far-term (between 2031-2046) objectives, which are to enhance deployment capabilities “while improving the formation’s mobility, protection and lethality.” By then, the Army expects to “replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms” with new systems.

Moving through times, the Army has been working relentlessly on its modernization with the following areas announced initially as priorities, including long-range precision fires; the next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift; network command, control, communication, and intelligence; assured position, navigation, and timing; air and missile defense; soldier lethality; and the synthetic training environment. Amid the hiccups caused by changes in the top chain command, the service branch continued to roll on with the R&D to ensure it remained ahead of the modernization efforts.

In October, General James E. Rainey, who took over the Austin-based command a week prior, spoke in a panel discussion at the annual AUSA, saying that the Army has been directed to transform into a more “sustainable, strategic path … while maintaining combat-credible, ready forces every single day in between,” subsequently recognizing that no matter how abundant, resources are still limited, thus being sustainable and making smart decisions on what to prioritize on spending in line with the budget constraints set by Congress is a must.