Forget what kind of rims are on your ride, the Army is testing a new kind of airless tire they’ve dubbed “Tweels.”
The tires have tread on the outside like a standard off-road tire, but no air inside.
Instead, they are hollow with rubber-like “spokes” connecting the hub to the tread. The spokes “flex,” helping the tread grip the terrain below.
That’s important because soldiers are kicking the tires on this new option to find better ways to maneuver, especially in jungle areas.
Though the major wars of the past generation have been mostly in sandy, desert areas, historically, that’s not always the case.
The majority of conflicts have taken place in tropical areas in recent decades, according to an Army news release on the new Tweels design.
The Army is trying to answer a simple question that hasn’t totally been solved, despite more than a century of jungle fighting: “Will muddy, biomass-laden jungle terrain destroy the integrity of wheels and tires on a combat vehicle?”
Evaluators at the Tropic Regions Test Center, headquartered out of Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, but with experiments in tropic areas, replaced tires on the all-terrain Polaris MRZR with the Tweels and gave them a muddy spin.
The Michelin-made Tweels can conform to multiple different terrain types, and last three times longer than standard tires, according to the release.
A hopeful side benefit is reducing weight on vehicles and cutting tire repair items from the load list like spare tires, jacks or puncture-fixing gear, Carlos Mora, an official at the Tropic Regions Test Center, said in the release.
And the Tweels are designed to ride farther after damage than run-flat pneumatic tires. Testers damaged the Tweels with a drill to simulate a bullet strike, according to the release.
The ride’s not super smooth, but early results look workable.
“It is not as comfortable, but it is sturdier and heavier with a rolling cage,” Mora said. “It is more mission-oriented.”
Testers drove the Tweel-sporting vehicles in Suriname, a tropic zone country on the northeast coast of South America.
“All of these old mining roads and logging roads were the perfect scenario for the vehicle,” said Mora.
But drivers didn’t just carve donuts into jungle mud.
“We added a portion of savanna, which is a sandy terrain with small brushes,” said Mora. “It turned out to be very demanding.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.