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Secrets of Defense: Michigan’s Military Innovation Often Remains Under the Radar

In motorsports, it’s impossible to miss the car roaring toward the checkered flag. But there’s a purposely hidden race elsewhere that often matters as much as anything that happens on the track – a race of innovation where engineers and machinists tinker until they have built stronger, lighter, faster vehicles that give their driver the microsecond advantage needed to win championships.

That combination of secrecy and innovation has cross-market value and is just one of the reasons that when the U.S. Army needs a next-generation vehicle solution – it looks to the Detroit Region and its global leadership in all things mobility.

“It’s a short commute from motorsports to defense,” said Matt Carroll, the chief executive officer of Pratt Miller, which has a legacy of championship racing dating back to the late 1980s. “Motorsports is so secret … it’s why our ‘under one roof model’ markets really well.”

And under that “roof” at Pratt Miller’s multi-building facility in New Hudson, engineers and designers are working on an endless flow of complex, high-tech projects. For example, a Corvette C8R race car fresh off 195 mile per hour laps at a race in France or a prototype of the new 30 mm unmanned turret for the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle.

The company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oshkosh Defense, employs about 370 and prides itself on delivering some of the most technical and complex challenges in motorsports, defense, and mobility.

Case in point – in 2020, Pratt Miller Defense and QinetiQ Inc. delivered the first robotic combat vehicle-light (RCV-L) prototypes to the U.S. Army combining modular autonomous vehicle technology and robotic control systems.

Of course, the secrecy required for such competition as companies compete for contracts from the Department of Defense is a double-edged sword, as many residents are unaware of the industry’s $31 billion role in Michigan’s economy.

“It’s amazing the level of innovation that’s happening in this region in these facilities every day, but so much of it is not on the general public’s radar,” said the Chamber’s Chief Operating Officer Tammy Carnrike, who also serves as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. “So many people just drive by these facilities and have no idea the amazing work and careers inside them. That’s something we need to change.”


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