Defense Media Network

Abrams Dieselization Project: Doing the Math

Part 2 of 2

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According to S. Michael (Mike) Cannon, senior vice president, ground combat systems, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), the concept for the Abrams Dieselization Project is supported by company modeling dubbed Formation Based Decision Making.

“You take a look and you identify the parameters that you want to build your costs around and what you want to measure so that you have that stable baseline across the formations,” he explained. “The main object is ‘Do No Harm’ when you start to add a new system into a formation.”

“The main object is ‘Do No Harm’ when you start to add a new system into a formation.”

Cannon offered the example of likely replacing Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the current Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT) with Ground Combat Vehicles.

Pointing to the notional GCV operational maintenance cost requirement of $200 per mile noted in requirements documents, Cannon balanced a modeled $162 per mile operational maintenance cost for the Bradley, noting that the replacement “would add $38 per mile per system fielded across the formation by putting that parameter into the requirements document.”

Bradley Fighting Vehicle

U.S. Army soldiers refuel their Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Feb. 21, 2013. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) used the potential cost per mile increase in replacing the Bradley with the notional GCV to model the cost of a dieselized Abrams. U.S. Army photo by David Vergun

“The M113 operates at about $58 per mile,” he added. “The parameter that they have established in the current draft RfP for cost per mile of the Armored Multi Purpose Vehicle is $90. So they may go up another $32 per mile on those systems. If you start adding all of that up across the board you have made the formation vastly more expensive that it was.”

“Can you mitigate this?” he offered. “Well, we started by looking at GCV. If you’re making that GCV decision, the fact is that you are actually carrying more soldiers in a GCV than you were in a Bradley. So you can actually have fewer of them in the formation, which could mitigate some of that $200 per mile. Unfortunately, the Army has chosen not to have fewer in the formation, because they want to have a vehicle that’s empty enough to carry the interpreters, extra medics, some maintainers or whatever special needs they might have on a certain combat mission.”

Cannon offered a quantified operational cost for the combat systems in the current ABCT baseline – including 60 Abrams, 60 Bradley IFVs and 112 M113 combat systems – of $66,735 per mile.

“So now you look across the formation and see what else might be going on with the systems in that formation. You’ve got a Stryker ECP [engineering change proposal] going on. You’ve got an Abrams ECP going on. You’ve got a Bradley ‘non-IFV’ ECP going on. So there are engineering change proposal programs that you can work to affect how you want to mitigate those costs,” he said.

Cannon offered a quantified operational cost for the combat systems in the current ABCT baseline – including 60 Abrams, 60 Bradley IFVs and 112 M113 combat systems – of $66,735 per mile.

HEMTT Fuel Trucks

A convoy comprised of 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) HEMTT Fuelers depart Fort Drum, N.Y., Nov. 5, 2012. One of the benefits of dieselization for the Abrams is that it would reduce the number of fuel trucks needed to keep a unit running. U.S. Army photo by Katie Wright

“So at almost $67,000 per mile you’ve got a tank that only goes 205 miles before you have to ‘hit it with fuel.’ And in order to help that happen you’ve got to carry 195,000 gallons of fuel with you, to basically do a LOGPAC [logistics package] every 12 hours,” Cannon said. “And you’re limited in your range to 205 miles. So that’s 126 fuel truck drivers, 15 M969A1 5,000 gallon fuel tankers, and 48 M978 2,500 gallon fuel tankers.

“But if you put the diesel engine in the tank you’ve just decreased that cost by $10,000 per mile.”

“We just came out of validation testing on this [dieselized Abrams] design with TARDEC [Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Command] at the end of September,” Cannon said. “And they’ve validated our numbers. So basically this vehicle design uses 50 percent less fuel on a combat day than a turbine-based Abrams.

Specific GDLS supplied figures for the ABCT with dieselized Abrams are $57,636 per mile (14 percent reduction), while also creating a 300+ mile range for all vehicles, decreasing fuel truck drivers by 14, decreasing 5,000 gallon fuel tankers by three, and decreasing 2,500 gallon fuel tankers by four.

“We just came out of validation testing on this [dieselized Abrams] design with TARDEC [Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Command] at the end of September,” Cannon said. “And they’ve validated our numbers. So basically this vehicle design uses 50 percent less fuel on a combat day than a turbine-based Abrams.

M1A2 Abrams

U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, 1-145th Armored Regiment, 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, practiced tactical maneuvers with a refurbished M1A2 Abrams tank the unit received, Fort Hood, Texas, May 19, 2013. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) believes that a dieselized Abrams would both lower operating costs and increase range. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly S. Hill

“And that’s with better performance,” he added. “The modern diesel has greater torque in it than the turbine does. And you’ve got a couple of other things going for you as well. First, we’ve changed the nuclear, biological and chemical protection system, so it doesn’t operate off of the engine. On the turbine it operated off of ‘bleed air,’ so you had performance degradation on the turbine when the NBC system was on – and it’s on quite a bit. So that helps. Then, at idle, this [diesel] vehicle uses less fuel than if you put an under armor auxiliary power unit in there. And it’s quiet – it’s very quiet. The heat that comes out the back of the engine is 300 percent less than what was coming out of the back of the turbine. So there’s a significant reduction in heat signature and you can actually stand behind the tank now – when it’s running – and have a conversation.”

The GDLS model extends the benefits of Formation Based Decision Making beyond a dieselized Abrams to include Armored Multi Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) options that would replace current M113 vehicles with Stryker-based platforms.

Not surprisingly, the GDLS model extends the benefits of Formation Based Decision Making beyond a dieselized Abrams to include Armored Multi Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) options that would replace current M113 vehicles with Stryker-based platforms.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...