Our employees call it the Monster Garage. But it’s not a scary place. It’s where we gather new ideas, innovate, and experiment to bring combat vehicle prototypes – not Frankenstein - to life.
Located in our San Jose, California facility, the Monster Garage is officially called the Vehicle Testing and Integration Lab. It is one of two prototype facilities the company owns (the other in Sterling Heights, Michigan) where we get to be hands on to produce the best possible solutions for our customers and those who serve in uniform.
Our engineering and business development teams regularly come together to create a new prototype vehicle for Modern Day Marine – the Marine Corps’ premier exposition for military equipment, systems, services, and technology. We often refer to this prototype as our demonstrator vehicle. The intent of the demonstrator is to show our customer the art of the possible. The demonstrators not only illustrate our ability to make our customers' current wish list a reality, but show that we can incorporate futuristic technology that may not have been previously considered.
One example of a Monster Garage creation is the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), which is now in full rate production and in service with the Marines. Utilizing feedback and ideas from the Marine Corps, the San Jose facility went to work to develop a family of vehicles, each with their own capabilities that would help the customer to meet several different mission sets.
“The Monster Garage is really at the heart of how we come up with innovative solutions as a world leader in combat vehicles,” said Jesse Swangnete, senior principal electrical engineer. “We are not just thinking about how to meet our customers’ requirements, but also looking at and predicting potential future threats on the battlefield to help our customer stay on the cutting edge of warfare.”
We design our prototype vehicles in several different ways. One way is by listening to customer feedback, then mapping out their ideas to develop a design. And while we are introducing some of our own technologies, we also identify and reach out to industry partners to integrate their advanced and existing solutions into our vehicle. This process allows us to bring our customers’ needs to life.
Throughout the process we continuously tap into our combat vehicles manufacturing network to get the job done in a timely fashion. Our Anniston, Alabama facility helps build parts; our York, Pennsylvania facility procures materials; our Sterling Heights facility helps perfecting the design; and our Stafford, Virginia office coordinates with our Marine Corps customer.
“Working on these demonstrator vehicles is one of the most satisfying parts of my job,” said Swangnete. “Modern Day Marine gives me the opportunity to talk to Marines in-person and explain how our vehicle will help them achieve their mission. It’s incredibly humbling and motivates me to continue to look for new ways to provide them with the best possible product.”
By building prototypes we can create multiple solutions to meet our customers’ needs without requiring them to spend research and design money of their own. Ultimately, this encourages innovative and radical thinking and helps us meet our primary mission of delivering the best possible vehicle to protect the men and women who protect us.
Because at the end of the day, we want adversaries on the battlefield to feel like they’re facing a monster when they come up against our combat vehicles.