Some components developed under the canceled Future Combat Systems program were incorporated into the Paladin Integrated Management mobile howitzer system. (US Army)
HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — Despite being canceled in 2009 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, bits and pieces of the US Army’s $20 billion Future Combat Systems (FCS) program keep hanging around.
The service’s lone ground vehicle acquisition success of the past several years, the Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) mobile howitzer system, uses the power system and cannon loader that were originally developed for the Non-Line of Sight cannon program that was scuttled with the FCS cancellation.
“We got a huge amount of technology reuse out of FCS,” Mark Signorelli, BAE Systems’ general manager for combat vehicles, told Defense News. “It’s not a new vehicle so it tends to get buried inside of other things, but there really was a lot of recovery of the investment.”
The BAE-made PIM also uses a chassis similar to the company’s Bradley infantry carrier, along with an engine similar to the one used by the Bradley and the Bradley’s transmission, track and other components, he said.
The PIM is undergoing firing tests at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, following its low-rate initial production award in 2013. The Army is slated to buy about 133 vehicles over the next several years as it prepares for the program’s initial operational test and evaluation milestone in 2016.
The PIM program “represents the kind of automotive architecture that Bradley is going to migrate to as we update its designs going forward,” said the Army’s head of Ground Combat Systems, Brig. Gen. David Bassett. There is “a lot of commonality” between the two platforms, he added, “and we’re seeing savings on Bradley because of the work that Paladin has already done. It’s coming in under our estimates because of the work” on PIM.
In separate interviews during the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) symposium here this week, Signorelli and Bassett also shared their thoughts on the uncertain future of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle, which recently saw its fiscal 2014 funding slashed from $580 million to $100 million.
The cut has changed the focus of the program into more of a research-and-technology harvesting effort than an acquisition program, something that competitors BAE and General Dynamics are still trying to figure out along with their Army customer.
“We’re still making adjustments that will allow us to complete the [technology development] phase the way we originally envisioned it,” Bassett said. “So we’re looking at downscoping.”
That said, Bassett was quick to point out that “the kinds of investments that the Army has made in GCV I think really could be an enduring investment that could go on any [future] combat vehicle. When you look at what the Army was trying to achieve with GCV, the focus was on buying back a number of things that the Bradley doesn’t have,” like being able to carry a nine-man squad, increased force protection, upgrading the 25mm cannon and building in a network infrastructure.
“All of those capabilities are still things that are important to the Army.”
BAE’s Signorelli said that narrowing the program will force the company to slash the number of engineers it had working on it from 350 to 50. Since the $100 million that the two companies will split doesn’t pay for the technology demonstration extension program that the companies negotiated last year, “we are in discussion with the Army about potentially stretching the period of performance for that extension so that there’s a chance that it can match up with some FY 15 funding.
“I think the Army is interested in identifying what are the key technologies and capabilities that we can continue and how can we demonstrate those technologies and capabilities on an integrated platform” he added.
Signorelli also divulged that BAE is planning to drive its GCV test rig in Santa Clara, Calif., for the first time this week. “It’s a drive around the test track. We’ve driven it virtually, but that’s different from doing it under a full load,” he said.
The pause on the GCV program means that upgrades and modernization of the Bradley program are assuming new significance, something that both Bassett and Signorelli said is being worked.
Going forward, “we’ve laid out a program for the Army that we think will allow us to sustain that capability,” which the companies and the Army have already invested in. But he added that after the GCV— or whatever it becomes —“we’re largely exiting the wheeled vehicle business. When you look at the wheeled vehicle market, it’s starting to look more the commercial vehicle market” than a military market. ■