WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is launching a phase for the concept design of its future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which is intended to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The service held a virtual industry day Dec. 9 for the $4.6 billion and plans to release a request for proposals to move into the design phase by the end of the month, according to a Dec. 9 Army statement issued following the completion of the industry event.

Since the service bungled its original attempt to hold a competition for the OMFV program, the Army has reconfigured the effort into one that lets industry dictate much of what is in the realm of the possible.

The Army’s first attempt laid out threshold requirements on a timeline that many in industry did not see as feasible or worth the investment. BAE Systems, which manufactures the Bradley, for instance, decided not to enter. And when only one physical bid sample from General Dynamics Land Systems was turned in by the deadline, the Army went back to the drawing board and came up with a different competitive plan with more flexibility.

Instead of a laundry list of requirements that, when paired together, became unachievable in the timeline, the Army laid out nine characteristics to help shape designs.

The Army plans to request whitepapers and then choose five prime contractor teams to design rough digital prototypes. The service will then award up to three contracts for a detailed design and prototype phase that will include options for low-rate initial production. One vendor will be selected to go into production.

Following the release of a draft request for proposals in July, the Army has taken into account a wealth of industry feedback and incorporated it into its plans for the upcoming phase of competition.

The service plans to spend $4.6 billion from fiscal 2022 through FY26 on OMFV so it is turning to industry input earlier and more than ever.

“As we enter Phase 2, the Concept Design phase, for OMFV, inclusive feedback and innovative thinking from industry remains key,” Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the new program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said in the Army statement. “We received tremendous feedback from Industry on the draft RFP released in July, and we have made significant changes as a result of that feedback.”

The RFP for the concept design phase “reflects a reduction in scope and deliverables commensurate [with] the maturity of requirements at the outset, and lays the foundation for subsequent phases with respect to open architecture and modern engineering practices,” Dean said.

The new approach “is novel in the way it maximizes industry innovation while also reducing the burden and cost to industry for participation,” the Army statement notes.

Industry will develop digital designs as requirements mature and before prototypes are built, according to the Army. The designs will also inform the Abbreviated-Concept Development Document (A-CDD) expected to be published in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.

“The A-CDD allows us to make future decisions on the design without overly constricting vendor efforts to innovate,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, who is in charge of Next-Generation Combat Vehicle efforts, said in the statement.

Following the concept design phase, the Army will move into a detailed design phase that will be executed over the course of FY23 and FY24. The entire program will consist of five phases that include designing, prototyping, testing and producing an OMFV.

The prototyping phase will begin in fiscal year 25, according to slides presented at the OMFV industry day. Vehicle testing will begin in FY26 and wrap up in FY27 with a production decision planned for the fourth quarter of FY27. Full-rate production is expected to begin in the second quarter of FY30.

In parallel to the concept design phase, the Army will develop an open architecture for OMFV.

An open architecture has risen to the top of the OMFV planner’s list of required capability, particularly after seeing the need to be networked with other capabilities across the battlefield and at the forward edge at Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, over the summer.

The Army will establish a voluntary consortium beginning in January 2021 that will represent industry, government and academia, in order to develop such an open architecture, according to the statement.

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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