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Defense Secretary To Review GCV Study; U.S. Army Wants Firepower

Feb. 21, 2013 - 04:49PM   |  
By PAUL McLEARY   |   Comments
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FORT Lauderdale, Fla. — The U.S. Army is preparing to submit the results of an analysis of alternatives it conducted last year on its Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program to the secretary of defense in March, according to a service official.

The Army Requirements Oversight Council also is reviewing the program and will submit its requirements report to service leaders on March 1, Col. Rocky Kmiecik, of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, said at the AUSA convention here.

After a speech updating industry on mobile firepower requirements, Kmiecik offered reporters something of a sneak peak at some of what the Army found during the AoA conducted on a variety of mostly foreign-made infantry carriers at Fort Bliss, Texas, over last spring and summer.

During the AoA, “what you saw were vehicles that were optimized for that country’s mission sets,” he said, and therefore weren’t a good fit for the U.S. global mission.

The infantry carriers that the Army drove around the desert at Fort Bliss were the Bradley A3, a turretless Bradley, a double V-hulled Stryker, the Swedish CV9035 and the Israeli Namer. The Army also evaluated other European vehicles in other locations, including the German Puma, the Russian BMP and the VBCI infantry fighting vehicle, produced by France’s Nexter.

Kmiecik singled out two programs. The Israeli Namer, for example, was simply too heavy to be seriously considered by the U.S. Army. The vehicle is so large that the Army had to contract with a Russian company to fly it to Texas for testing. But it was never designed to be expeditionary, since the Israelis optimized it to operate in places they can drive to, such as the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip.

“But we learned about crew compartment protection and force protection,” Kmiecik said, which has helped inform the GCV program.

The CV90 infantry carrier, on the other hand, “was optimized for the European plains … but we learned a lot about digital architecture” from studying the vehicle, he added. The Army also studied the larger caliber gun on the CV90, which spurred leadership to put more thought into how much firepower the Army wants on its GCV.

As of right now, the Army is planning on a gun “larger than 25mm, most likely a 30mm” for the GCV, Kmiecik said, which would allow the crew to eliminate dismounted and other small threats with fewer rounds. This would save weight because the vehicle would carry fewer rounds.

Weight has always been a source of controversy with the GCV, since it is estimated the final product could weigh anywhere from 64 to 84 tons.

“Deployability is important” Kmiecik admitted, but “people say, my God, it’s 20 tons more than the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, how does that affect deployability? It doesn’t, because it takes the same amount of planes the same amount of time to deploy a Bradley as a Ground Combat Vehicle.”

The program has been in a state of flux, however.

On Jan. 17, the Pentagon’s head of acquisition, logistics and technology sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh informing him the Army would have to extend the technology development (TD) phase of the program by six months, “in anticipation of the fiscal pressures over the FY14-18 timeframe,” and “the need for additional development time led to this restructured program.”

By moving the program’s schedule back by six months, a final production decision is now expected in fiscal 2019, as opposed to the expected first quarter of fiscal 2018.

The TD phase of the program kicked off in August 2011 with the awarding of contracts to BAE Systems for $449 million and General Dynamics Land Systems for $439 million for continued work on the program.

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