WASHINGTON — The US Army's much observed ultralight combat vehicle activities have been given a new name — the Ground Mobility Vehicle — and Army officials said they will issue a request for proposals by the end of next year.
With the quiet name change in March, the Army has assigned a provisional manager within the Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support. Army acquisitions officials consider their GMV strategy, which has involved a mix of available commercial vehicles and soldier experimentation, as a potential model for procurement without hefty schedule or cost growth.
The new name is somewhat fraught as US Special Operations Command already has a program called GMV 1.1, and it was awarded to one of the contenders for the Army program, General Dynamics. While Army program officials acknowledge GD has does have an advantage overall because its vehicle is on contract with SOCOM, that is not driving the Army toward a sole-source award. for its GMV.
"There are multiple vendors, and all options are on the table," said Lt. Col. Garth Winterle, the provisional program manager.
Winterle acknowledged the potential for confusion at a recent tactical wheeled vehicles conference here, saying the Army's "acronym fratricide" has prompted him to explain how the SOCOM and Army vehicles will differ.
The key difference, Winterle said, is that the Army GMV would be much lighter. The draft requirements call for the Army's to be sling-loadable by a UH-60 Black Hawk, while SOCOM's is sling-loadable by a CH-47 Chinook and has the capacity to be up-armored.
The name is derived from its job of speeding paratroopers from their landing point to an objective, though not necessarily into combat as it is not meant to carry protection or heavy weaponry. The concept calls for troops, if they ride the vehicle into combat, to exit before fighting, Winterle said.
"It's to get soldiers to the fight, refreshed, with a larger amount of gear, from Point A to Point B," Winterle said — an alternative to a long foot march.
Contenders for the Army GMV have welcomed the recent advances and discussions at the tactical wheeled vehicle conference.
"It underscores the program and the requirement are moving into the process, going into a program of record, and I think all that's good," said Mark McCormick, director of US government sales for Polaris.
The nascent Lightweight Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV) will fall under the same portfolio, though it’s in earlier stages than the GMV. Last Earlier this month at Fort Benning, Georgia, vendors who demonstrated potential prototypes for the vehicle included HDT Global, Polaris, Navistar, Northrop Grumman, Rheinmetall and Vyper Adamas.
According to General Dynamics, its Flyer 72 did not participate in the demonstration due to program commitments on its SOCCOM GMV program, but the company plans to offer it for an LRV competition.
The LRV is envisioned as a scout vehicle to provide reconnaissance screening for dismounted troops during a massive airdrop operation, though it is expected to have more and it lacks the armor and firepower lethality restrictions of than the lighter GMV. The two have missions that don’t compete with each other, Winterle said, and neither is meant to compete with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
In 2016, the Army will launch an analysis of alternatives for the GMV to decide its base requirements, which of those industry can meet, which are critical and which are tradable, Army officials said.
With the Army GMV, acquisitions officials are working closely with their counterparts in Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Army staff for operations, plans and policy to develop the required characteristics, and map out how to get through the Pentagon's intricate acquisition apparatus more quickly.
"We're using GMV as the exemplar for how we streamline our acquisitions processes to be more innovative and more rapid," said Kevin Fahey, director of system of systems engineering and integration in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
"This is going to be our opportunity to partner with TRADOC and tease out what are going to be the most important facets and aspects of this and make sure we understand those, so before we write [a request for proposals], we've locked those down."
Though the Army GMV is due for a narrow fielding to 18th Airborne Corps, Army procurement officials left open the possibility that it might fill other roles as the Army becomes more expeditionary.
Winterle was assigned to manage the program because of his expertise in matching commercial equipment to military requirements. As acquisitions lead for combat engineer and material handling systems, his office contracts for hydraulic excavators, backhoe loaders, asphalt mixers and the like.
Tests and demonstrations, some including units that would use the vehicles, have included GD and Polaris vehicles. Both participated in the 82nd Airborne Division's Operation Dragon Spear at Fort Irwin, California, a mock forcible entry operation.
Polaris has offered vehicles for the Network Integration Evaluation 16.1/Army Warfighter Assessment, due to begin at Fort Bliss, Texas, this fall.
The 82nd Airborne is conducting proof-of-principal exercises with the Polaris MRZR-4, dubbed the light tactical all-terrain vehicle, for increased mobility during airfield seizure operations, and the vehicle would provide a rifle company with an air-droppable maneuver and small arms platform. The purchase was to satisfy an earlier urgent operational need.
The Army conducted an ultralight combat vehicle ULCV demonstration last summer that included commercial and modified commercial vehicles last summer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina: 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.