WASHINGTON — From the ashes of the US Army's canceled 70-ton ground combat vehicle, the Future Fighting Vehicle (FFV) program has begun to sprout — at least concepts for it.
The Army has awarded two contracts of more than $28 million each to BAE Systems Land and Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems to develop design concepts for the FFV. The work is due Nov. 28, 2016.
The effort is meant to inform whether the Army will produce an entirely new vehicle or a potential replacement for the BAE-manufactured Bradley fighting vehicle, or lead to a third round of improvements for the Bradley.
The companies are to conduct trade studies, requirements analysis, and modeling and simulation, and assess technology capability and maturity to support each of three design concepts, according to an announcement Tuesday from General Dynamics.
BAE spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said the company's analysis aims to strike the right balance between payload, protection and performance.
"As the original equipment manufacturer for the Bradley fighting vehicle, we have a unique understanding of the requirements and user needs," Mitchell said. "Among our top considerations will be platform weight and program affordability as we balance overall performance."
In October, Brig. Gen. David Bassett, commander PEO Ground Combat Systems, said the FFV program was largely a science-and-technology development effort, meant to help the Army explore its options while it pursues various engineering-change proposals for its existing armored vehicles.
The program office is monitoring technology development at the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, searching for breakthrough armor technologies and other advancements. That includes an advanced combat engine, a modular active protection system and new hull manufacturing.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who runs the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and is chief of "futures" for Training and Doctrine Command, told reporters in December that he was open to the idea that future vehicles could split the squad between vehicles if a nine-man vehicle would be unwieldy, particularly in urban operations.
The Army's other vehicle efforts include its pursuit of a Humvee replacement, the joint light tactical vehicle, and M113 infantry carrier replacement, the armored multipurpose vehicle, along with upgrades to the Abrams, Stryker and Paladin.
The Army has been testing a light vehicle at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that's designed to enable airborne troops to move quickly to an objective after they've parachuted in, which dovetails with the service's pre-solicitation activity on the ultralight combat vehicle and light reconnaissance vehicle.
On May 28, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said the service is exploring the needs for a vehicle that provides mobile protected firepower, an infantry fighting vehicle and a light tank, using 20 collaborative war-fighting challenges to identify capability gaps — with near-, mid- and long-term solutions.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.