US Air Force and Army: Together at Last

The Air Force Advanced Power Technology Office (APTO) unveiled its latest award winning demonstration/evaluation support vehicle during the Aviation Industry Expo’s GSExpo in March 2006 in Las Vegas. The SATSII, Standard Aviation Towing System II (second generation), is a multi-purpose aircraft support system, which is the result of a great partnership between the US Air Force and Army. The APTO team and the Aviation Ground Support Equipment (AGSE) Office of the US Army teamed to identify common requirements for aircraft ground support equipment. They worked to design, develop and fabricate a vehicle system capable of multitasking, thus reducing logistical and support man-power requirements. The SATSII is produced by Giliberti, an Indiantown, Fla.-based manufacturer.

Thus far, two vehicles have been delivered to the Army, at Fort Eustis in Virginia for evaluation, and the third will be delivered to the Air Force for evaluation at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and then on to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan for cold weather testing.

APTO anticipates the new hybrid system will assist the Air Force in meeting requirements to lessen their dependency on foreign petroleum projects and meet environmental policies while also inserting advanced energy technology into the warfighter’s toolbox. The SATSII can obtain 100 miles per gallon of diesel fuel and run on pure electric power for indoor operation or when silent running is mandated. The demonstration/evaluation will be performed over the next year to determine if the SATSII should be looked at for purchase as a new vehicle acquisition.

The multi-purpose aircraft support vehicle system provides a low profile, high ground clearance vehicle capable of towing small aircraft, providing export power for light sets, power tools, computers and carry heavy loads (tool sets, field gear, etc). The vehicle also provides easy loading/unloading of payload and provides an advanced powered 4-wheel drive platform capable of negotiating off-road terrain. The multi-purpose aircraft support system includes a platform to perform an array of diverse tasks while maintaining a primary role as an advanced powered aircraft tug—providing the Air Force with a vehicle of great diversity and the potential to be a force multiplier.

For tactical use in electric mode, the vehicle provides full operation with low audible and nominal heat signatures—making the vehicle harder to detect or target. The vehicle can also have armor plate encasing its electric power plant providing protection for its primary power source. The floor can be armored affording some protection to its occupants from hazards directly beneath the vehicle. A roll cage is also being implemented to protect its occupants in the case of a forward or lateral roll. The vehicle will provide export power of 110 VAC Single Phase/60 Hz at 30 amps for powering tools, computers, communications, etc. An inverter will also provide DC power at 28 V for those tools/accessories requiring DC.

For enhanced logistical vehicle transport, the vehicle system is stackable on itself. According to John Giliberti, vice president of Giliberti (manufacturer of the SATSII), the vehicle is designed with a 4x4 payload area capable of supporting 4,000 pounds at 15 mph. Also, if the unit has two rear axles, Giliberti says it can handle 8,000 pounds in rear. The SATSII is available in 2x4, 4x4, 4x6 and 6x6. The vehicle is also equipped with a drive train disconnect so that it can be towed at convoy speeds of more than 65 mph.

The ultimate benefit, due to its advanced power configuration, is that operations will be enhanced with a fuel efficiency range of approximately 100 (combined diesel/electric) miles per gallon of diesel (depending on load) as compared to the existing efficiency of approximately 15 miles per gallon of diesel. The vehicle equipped generator provides enough amperage to charge the power train batteries while the vehicle is being used at full power, therefore the vehicle can be operated even if the batteries are fully discharged (at this point, operation of the vehicle will charge the batteries). The advanced battery power enhancement will subsequently reduce the Air Force’s fuel dependence for this type of vehicle as well as other Department of Defense services, achieving the objective of transitioning away from complete dependence on fossil fuel.

This versatile project to bring new and innovative new technologies into the Air Force garnered the APTO Team the 2005 Air Force Science and Technology Award.

“This project shows how great partnering across the services benefits everyone,” says Mike Mead, chief of APTO. Mead said that if all goes well with the initial testing, this vehicle could enhance the warfighter’s capabilities both in garrison and while deployed. Mead also says that he hopes this is just the first of many partnerships with other services to get the best projects for all at the best price for the DoD.

Giliberti says the SATSII is ready today for civilian use as a pushback or ramp runner to replace Bobtail-type vehicles. The multi-use chassis can also be purchased to mount scissor lifts, stairs, catering, deicing, water, lav or mechanic trucks.