GM Defense taps new president, opens N.C. production center


The initial Infantry Squad Vehicles were built at GM’s Milford Proving Ground in Michigan. The North Carolina plant was built in just 90 days to meet the Army’s April 1 production timeline. GM Defense transported the tools from Milford and installed them at the new plant.

The 75,000-square-foot North Carolina factory includes some of the latest manufacturing technology, including a digital operating system utilizing Bluetooth-enabled tools to meet U.S. Army requirements, GM Defense said.

“It will actually prompt the process technicians on what fastener needs to be addressed and when, and it also enables that via Bluetooth technology for each of the tools that they would use. So they can’t just randomly pick up the wrong tool and use it in place of the correct tool,” said Joe Moraschinelli, senior manager.

The facility is minutes from racing company Hendrick Motorsports, which provides a chrome-moly steel exoskeleton for the vehicle frame and a rollover protection system designed by GM Defense. Ricardo Defense leads integrated product support for the vehicle, including technical manual development, new equipment training, provisioning, total package fielding and field service support.

“There’s a lot of similarities between racing and defense,” said Mark Dickens, chief architectural engineer at GM Defense. “It’s optimizing for a very particular intense use. My background and my engineering team came from the high-performance side, so it was a natural extension of our capability.”

The Infantry Squad Vehicle, based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, can transport nine soldiers and their equipment. Despite coronavirus-related challenges, GM developed the vehicle in just four months after it was awarded the contract.

The truck is made up of 90 percent commercial, off-the-shelf parts, including Chevy Performance race components, and was engineered for rapid movement. It is light enough to be sling loaded from, or carried beneath, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and can fit inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to be transported by air.

“That flow of commercial to defense is a window into what we could do when you start to think about battery-electric,” said Dickens.

GM Defense showed an all-electric concept version of the vehicle at its plant opening. It was retrofitted with EV components from the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt. GM Defense has no plans to build an electric Infantry Squad Vehicle, but the concept shows the company’s capability, said Dickens.

“The acceleration and performance were very comparable between the two. The vehicle’s overall mass was very similar, so it can still be sling loaded,” Dickens said.

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