WASHINGTON — The Army is testing a solution to address overheating and toxic gas production in the newest version of the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle’s turret battery, but its release has been delayed by almost a year, the service’s program office told Defense News.
The problem was discovered during the Army Test and Evaluation Command-run Full Operational Test and Evaluation at Fort Hood, Texas, where the Bradley A4 batteries were hooked directly into test equipment placing additional strain on them. The Bradley A4 design features a new charger but not new batteries. The new charger did not come with a voltage regulator, which caused the older batteries to overheat and produce the toxic gas during testing.
The command suspended the maneuver portion of the test due to safety concerns related to the batteries overheating in all six test articles, according to a report recently released from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
“All six test article turret batteries overheated and discharged toxic fumes into the turret and crew compartment,” the report states. “This is a safety hazard to soldiers. The program manager was present during test and observed the turret battery issue. He supported the recommendation to suspend the remaining maneuver missions.”
According to the program office, the service is partnered with several vendors that developed Bradley A4 — BAE Systems is the prime contractor — to design and test a solution after determining the problem during the testing process.
The program office now expects to receive a materiel release by January 2022 with field maintenance new equipment training and operator new equipment training beginning at the same time. The original materiel release decision was expected in third quarter of fiscal 2021, the DOT&E report stated.
The first Armored Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to get its new Bradley A4s in September 2022, the Bradley program office said.
The Bradley A4 is an engineering change proposal program that brings in new suspension and track upgrades and upgrades the electrical system and power train to restore lost mobility and integrate new technologies.
The current Bradley, for example, struggled to take on the power needed to run an active protection system. The Bradley won’t receive an APS system until A4 is up and running.
The Army reduced its Bradley modifications further in its FY21 budget request after cutting future upgrades beyond its A4 variant in FY20. The service is working to replace the Bradley down the road with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program. But the Bradley and its fire support vehicle will remain in ABCT formations until the 2050s.
The FY21 appropriations bill slashed the Bradley program by $161 million due to production delays.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.