LONDON (Jan. 27, 2016) -- Military and defense industry representatives, from more than 20 countries and six continents, converged on Twickenham Stadium here to discuss the state of armored vehicles during the International Armoured Vehicles, or IAV, Forum, Jan. 26.

Hosted by British-based Defence IQ, the forum provided an opportunity for dialog regarding research and development initiatives, foreign military sales and opportunities for further collaboration and partnership between the international military community and defense industry.

"Despite this cash-strapped, risk-averse environment, [armored vehicles] remain an essential capability in most operations. We still need to shoot, move, communicate, protect, sustain and adapt," said IAV Forum chairman, retired British Lt. Gen. Sir Gary Coward.

The senior U.S. military leader and keynote speaker at the forum, Gen. Dennis L. Via, Army Materiel Command, or AMC, commanding general, said that ground combat vehicles were known as the workhorses of recent combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The armored vehicle fleet saw dramatic change since the inception of the IAV Forum 16 years ago, Via said. With the platforms being no less critical today, AMC and the U.S. military continue to invest a great deal of time, talent and resources on developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the best armored vehicles possible for troops.

"As our Soldiers find themselves operating in increasingly diverse and austere environments, they need reliable, capable, expeditionary and effective systems that have protection and improved mobility, transportability and connectivity," Via said. "These vehicles must protect our troops and enable them to effectively accomplish their mission."

Nearly every U.S. armored vehicle platform is undergoing upgrades or modernization efforts, Via said. Developments in the V-hull shapes of mine-resistant, ambush-protected, or MRAP, vehicles continue, intended to divert roadside blasts away from Soldiers.

Stryker vehicles are receiving lethality upgrades with better turret fire control, advanced sensors and cannon systems. Bradley fighting vehicles are seeing suspension and track upgrades and engine improvements while M1 Abrams tanks are improving in sites and sensors and upgraded network capabilities and diagnostics.

"We are looking to make vehicles lighter… providing increased flexibility," Via said. "In these unpredictable times, that flexibility could mean the difference between mission success and mission failure."

Via also took the opportunity to highlight the future deployment of the new joint light tactical vehicle, or JLTV, which will have improved mobility and transportability. JLTV is the first vehicle designed with command and control networks in mind.

"The JLTV will narrow an existing gap in payload performance and protection, as well as greatly enhance mission command, or command and control," he said.

Research and development initiatives for next-generation vehicles was a theme carried across nations and the forum, and the United States was applauded by several conference-goers for efforts in autonomous vehicles.

"Driverless convoys can reduce injuries and loss of life by delivering supplies to hostile areas and navigating through tough terrain to deliver material and supplies in urban and rural settings," Via said. "We've determined that advanced autonomy-enabled technology will play a greater role in keeping our troops safe in the future while continuing to reduce the logistics footprint and the logistics burden on our units."

Via said other innovative efforts in new helmet night display systems, fuel efficiency and hydrogen fuel cell technology.

"These are just a fraction of the cutting-edge technologies we're currently developing," he said. "We're looking to many other areas, from energy to armor, to lethality and communications. For the scientists and engineers working on our armored vehicles, this is truly an exciting time."

While at the forum, Via toured several industry exhibits and booths with British Maj. Gen. Robert Talbot-Rice, head of Armoured Vehicle Programmes for Defence Equipment and Support, Ministry of Defence. Via said that partnerships and continued collaboration will remain critical to future developments in defense.

"We understand that it takes a team effort - government, industry and academia - to produce the R&D [research and development] successes our armies will need in the future," Via said. "We're committed to working with you to develop the next game-changing, leap-ahead technology breakthroughs."