WASHINGTON — American Rheinmetall Vehicles and venture-backed defense technology company Anduril Industries are joining forces in a “strategic partnership” to compete in the U.S. Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle design program, according to a Sept. 6 joint statement from the companies.
The Army opened up the competition to design and build prototypes for the replacement of the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, releasing a request for proposals to industry this summer.
Last year the Army awarded contracts to five teams to develop preliminary designs; American Rheinmetall was among them. The other four teams are Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems.
“The partnership with Anduril brings with it exceptional innovations in software development, command and control, sensor integration, and counter-[unmanned aircraft systems] for inclusion in our OMFV offering,” Matt Warnick, American Rheinmetall’s managing director, said in the statement.
Other companies in the Rheinmetall-led industry team include Textron Systems, Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies and Allison Transmission; all together they are known as Team Lynx, a nod to Rheinmetall’s vehicle that was the company’s planned original bid sample in the Army’s earlier attempt to hold a competition. That effort ended in the fall of 2019 when only General Dynamics Land Systems was able to deliver a physical bid sample to the Army by deadline. Rheinmetall, based in Germany, ran into issues delivering the Lynx and had to drop out of the competition.
With only one bid sample, the Army decided to scrap the competition and reworked its strategy in a lengthier, five-phase effort that begins with an initial design phase, then moves into a detailed design phase, followed by prototyping, testing and production.
The founder of virtual reality maker Oculus, Palmer Luckey, created Anduril. Its co-founders are CEO Brian Schimpf, Chief Operations Officer Matt Grimm, Joe Chen and Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens. Peter Thiel ― who leads Founders Fund with Silicon Valley investors Ken Howery and Brian Singerman ― created data analytics company Palantir, which has since achieved a foothold in the defense sector.
Last year, Anduril acquired Area-I, which has made its mark in the Army aviation development community for its Altius unmanned system used in several major Army air-launched effects demonstrations and experiments to assess future capabilities that could be aboard future vertical lift aircraft.
“Software is at the core of the weapons and military systems of the future,” Zach Mears, head of strategy at Anduril, said in the statement.
The company plans to “leverage our deep experience in artificial intelligence, mission autonomy, and sensor integration to significantly reduce the cognitive burden of the OMFV’s two soldier crew and provide them with next-generation tactical awareness, C2, and decisive lethality to dominate future battlefields,” Mears added.
The Army will select up to three teams to participate in the detailed design phase followed by a prototyping phase. Written proposals are due by the end of October.
The detailed design phase will take place in fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024, and the prototyping phase will begin in 2025. The Army plans to choose three teams in the third quarter of FY23 to build up to 11 prototype vehicles, two ballistic hulls and turrets, and armor coupons, as well as to provide digital engineering data, the service said.
The Army expects to select in the fourth quarter of 2027 one company to build low-rate production vehicles. Equipping of the first unit is planned for FY29, and full-rate production is expected to begin in 2030.
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.