WASHINGTON ― Industry is repositioning as the U.S. Army’s critical effort to buy new infantry fighting vehicles moves toward a key decision in 2023.
The service is set to move into the detailed design and prototyping phases of its competition to replace the 40-year-old Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. To advance one of its major modernization efforts, the Army anticipates awarding a contract around April 2023 that will see three teams design and build the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, or OMFV.
The OMFV program, if successful, will be among the few major combat vehicle acquisition efforts since the Stryker combat vehicle program began in 2002. OMFV seeks to replace Bradley IFVs, which went into service in 1981.
The OMFV effort is part of a major modernization push by the Army with a goal of fielding highly capable weapons systems in the 2030 timeframe to maintain overmatch against high-end, near-peer adversaries Russia and China. The next-generation combat vehicle is a top priority, second only to long-range precision fires capabilities.
This is the second attempt to hold a competition for OMFV after the service’s first try ended up with just one bid. The Army canceled that competition and worked on a plan to better foster a robust competition.
The Army dropped the requirement to provide a physical bid sample at the outset and mapped out a phased effort that begins with an initial design phase, moves into a detailed design phase and is eventually followed by prototyping, testing and production.
OMFV, estimated to be a $45 billion effort, could also prove whether the Army’s new way of moving through development works. The service used to spend five to seven years developing requirements followed by another five to seven years developing the capability.
“The Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle is a good example [of] how the Army is approaching modernization and its acquisition efforts differently than we have in the past,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the budget in the spring of 2021.
“Unlike the future combat system, for example, where we loaded up a lot of requirements very early in the process and were perhaps somewhat unrealistic about what was technologically possible, with OMFV, we’re trying to do it in a much more incremental, iterative way,” she said.
The Army, while it hasn’t cemented its requirements, has said it wants a hybrid vehicle featuring a 50mm weapon system and wants to move from a three-person to a two-person crew, with six seats for infantry troops.
The detailed design phase is slated for fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024; the prototyping phase is anticipated to begin in FY25.
Bids to compete in these two phases were due Nov. 1, and five teams announced their participation — the same five the Army picked to develop design concepts in the previous phase, which recently ended.
Teams led by prime contractors General Dynamics Land Systems, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems, American Rheinmetall Vehicles and Point Blank Enterprises all met the deadline for consideration by the Army to build the OMFV.
General Dynamics Land Systems is continuing to work with GM Defense, Applied Intuition, a specialist in modeling and simulating autonomy for the automobile industry, and AeroVironment, which is providing its Switchblade loitering munitions for integration into the design. The company also continues to work with General Dynamics Mission Systems to incorporate networks, radio gear and cyber capabilities into the design.
Ray Kiernan, program director for next-generation combat vehicles at General Dynamics Land Systems, told Defense News the contractor is teaming with Cummins on power pack integration to include the mobility system as well as electrical power generation and management across the vehicle.
Oshkosh Defense continues to partner with South Korean defense company Hanwha, which is providing the chassis design based on its Redback infantry fighting vehicle. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, QinetiQ and Plasan will provide Oshkosh technology from turrets to armor to autonomy, as well as command-and-control capabilities. And Pratt Miller, which Oshkosh bought in 2021, is also a teammate, according to Pat Williams, the company’s vice president and general manager for the OMFV program.
American Rheinmetall Vehicles has added Anduril to its team. Anduril’s Lattice software was originally designed to counter drones and other threats, but it has wider applicability for sharing battlefield information and data at a tactical level, according to Matt Warnick, managing director of American Rheinmetall Vehicles.
The company is also working with Textron, Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies and Allison Transmission, as it did in the previous concept design phase.
Point Blank Enterprises has made several major changes to its team by swapping out its powertrain partner and turret supplier. The company originally teamed with Keshik Mobile Power Systems on hybrid powertrain technology, but the relationship with Keshik “went sideways on us,” according to Mark Edwards, Point Blank’s executive vice president of military sales and business development.
After Keshik attempted to get out of its contract with Point Blank midway through 2022 and, according to court documents, allegedly tried to poach subcontractors to compete separately, Point Blank successfully sued Keshik in summer 2022. A court decision rendered Keshik unable to compete against Point Blank with any other team in the OMFV competition going forward.
Edwards said Point Blank’s team has brought in RENK America to provide a powertrain solution. RENK, a German company, opened up shop in Muskegon, Michigan, in 2021 to build advanced mobility systems. Cummins will remain the engine supplier.
Additionally, Point Blank swapped out turret manufacturer John Cockerill with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace. Palantir, a data analytics specialist supplying the Army with its Distributed Common Ground System, is also a Point Blank teammate.
Bradley-maker BAE Systems announced Nov. 30 that it was partnering with Elbit Systems of America, Curtiss-Wright Corp. and QinetiQ on its design. Elbit is providing a 50mm unmanned turret, while Curtiss-Wright is contributing to the team’s modular open-architecture design. QinetiQ is providing its experience in developing hybrid-drive capability — and specifically its modular E-X-Drive transmission.
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.