The Army is gearing up to start a Ground Mobility Vehicle Program in fFiscal Year 2017, slower than some in industry expected, but more quickly than a traditional procurement program would likely move, according the head of Combat Support & Combat Service Support.

The Ground Mobility Vehicle emerged as a popular topic at the Association of the US Army's annual meeting this week as the unveiling of the Army's Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy prioritizes, in the near term, the need to quickly procure lightweight combat vehicles for its infantry brigade combat teams.

In summer 2014, several companies turned up at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, with vehicles that might fit the bill. Since then, the Army has continued to assess what it wants, but it was not until March that the Army greenlighted a way forward to procure the GMV, Scott Davis, chief of combat support and combat service support, told Defense News Tuesday.

An analysis of alternatives "just kicked off in the last week," he said. Some preliminary work to look at requirements for the vehicle has already begun and the Army is expecting to lock in a "hard-core" analysis in six months. "So by the end of third quarter '16, we are hoping to have final results," Davis said.

The Army is hoping to have an approved requirement document by the end of fiscal 2016FY16. The analysis of alternatives will feed into that effort, Davis said.

The first year the Army would be authorized procurement dollars to start GMV would be in fiscal 2017FY17, "pending a continuing resolution and everything else," Davis said. If everything goes according to plan the Army would release a request for proposals by fiscal 2017FY17, he added.

Davis acknowledged that some in industry believe procurement could move a lot faster, but said "we can't start an acquisition without requirements and dollars, and what we are trying to do is compress that whole requirements cycle to be all done when the dollars appear."

Photo by Dan Gross / For Defense News Polaris Dagor ultra-light weight vehicle at the 2015 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. Tuesday October 13, 2015. Walter E Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.
Photo by Dan Gross / For Defense News Polaris Dagor ultra-light weight vehicle at the 2015 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. Tuesday October 13, 2015. Walter E Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.

A Polaris DAGOR ultra-lightweight vehicle is displayed Tuesday at the AUSA conference in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Dan Gross / for Defense News

The acquisition plan for GMV is "sort of straddling the line ... It's sort of in between. It's really following the normal program of record process but in as fast a time as we can," Davis said.

That also means the Army doesn't plan to do any development work in the program, based on what it's seen from industry in demonstrations and through several market surveys, according to Lt. Col. Garth Winterle, the provisional product manager for the Ground Mobility Vehicle. This allows the service to enter the program directly at Milestone C, the production and deployment phase. Winterle added the first market survey saw seven respondents and the second one had nine.

"We want to leverage the commercial market as much as possible, but obviously our first priority is making sure we are closing the gap for what soldiers need," Davis said.

The Army's ultralight combat vehicle demonstration at Ft. Bragg in 2014 included commercial and modified commercial vehicles: GD's Flyer, the Boeing-MSI Defense Phantom Badger, Polaris Defense's deployable advanced ground off-road DAGOR, Hendrick Dynamics' Commando Jeep, Vyper Adamas' Viper, and Lockheed Martin's High Versatility Tactical Vehicle, which is a version of the UK Army's HMT-400 Jackal.

At the time, the Army wanted a vehicle that carries an infantry squad of nine soldiers with equipment, that weighs 4,500 pounds and can travel 250 to 300 miles on one tank of gas. It also needed to fit inside a CH-47 Chinook, by sling load on a UH-60 Blackhawk and be air-droppable by a C-130 Hercules or of C-17 Globemaster.

Davis and Winterle again highlighted the need to accommodate a full squad but said it's under consideration whether the vehicle is a nine-seater or two vehicles that seat five soldiers each.

Several companies at the Ft. Bragg demonstration also touted their offerings for the competition at AUSA.

Polaris brought its DAGOR and MRZR vehicles along with an ATV as a family of systems. The company's business development director Mark McCormick told Defense News, Polaris could deliver its vehicles to the Army quickly. "Everything in this booth is fielded with special operations," he said.

"I think we are uniquely positioned in that we offer a family in this space and so as the Army continues to evaluate how they want to get mobility into light forces and whether that is one vehicle to move a nine-man infantry squad or one vehicle to have a weapons or mortar team on or whether it's to have several vehicles to move a squad," McCormick said.

General Dynamics' Flyer family of light tactical vehicles was also on the AUSA showroom featuring "three different mission profiles," said Michael Iacobucci, director of business development for light tactical vehicles. A three-seater for long-range reconnaissance, a five-seater for general purpose and a seven seater with an airfield seizure package.

"Essentially it's very, very versatile. I refer to this vehicle as the transformer," he said. "It's very configurable."

Hendrick Dynamics, working with BAE Systems, unveiled its offering on the lawn across the street from the Washington convention center.

The vehicle is a Jeep GMV prototype, that has completed "successful" deployment in combat and the Army's GMV performance demonstration, according to Marshal Carlson, Hendrick Dynamics' general manager.

While Boeing did not bring its Phantom Badger to AUSA this year, it is still an active program and the company remains "committed to providing support to our current customer and engaging with other potential customers," company spokeswoman Deborah VanNierop, confirmed. Boeing submitted a response to the Army's RFI for the GMV, she added.