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CBO Report on Ground Combat Vehicle Neglects Army Data

This week’s release of the report, “The Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Program and Alternatives,” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) leaves almost as many questions as it attempts to answer.

The CBO report [CBO Publication Number 4343], which was prepared “at the request of the former Chairman and the former Ranking Member of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services,” looks at four options for the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program:

  • Replacing the current Army Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) with the Israeli “Namer” armored personnel carrier;
  • Upgrading the Bradley IFV to be more lethal than the notional GCV;
  • Purchasing the German “Puma” IFV to replace the Bradley IFV; and
  • Cancelling the GCV program in favor of reconditioning the current fleet of Bradley IFVs.

In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective and impartial analysis, the report makes no recommendations on the four different approaches, though there does seem to be some confusion on the level of “objective and impartial analysis” conducted.

Specifically, the selection of those four alternatives seems to ignore much of the Army’s significant effort at a broader and more comprehensive analysis and assessment.

For example, Army sources point to the fact that throughout 2012, the Army conducted a Non-Developmental Vehicle (NDV) assessment with a combination of live testing and engineering analysis that evaluated domestic and international vehicles.

As part of that analysis, live Army assessments were conducted on five different vehicle platform designs operating on White Sands Missile Range approximately May 17-24, 2012:

  • Stryker with Double-V Hull;
  • Bradley with turret;
  • Modified Bradley with raised hull and turret removed/replaced by Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station;
  • Swedish “CV-90;” and
  • “Namer” armored infantry fighting vehicle

Elements of the Army’s assessment process were also applied to other vehicle platforms not present at White Sands.

Army GCV Namer 2

Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, maneuver around an Israeli Namer during the Maneuver Battle Lab’s Ground Combat Vehicle assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, June 6, 2012. Army leaders used the session to learn about eventual requirements for a new Infantry fighting vehicle, but according to the Army, the new CBO report on GCV fails to incorporate what was learned from the 2012 assessment. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Tyler N. Ginter

According to service representatives, “The assessments confirmed that currently fielded vehicles are optimized for performance within their expected operating environments, but are limited with regard to specific GCV capability performance areas. Although all assessed NDVs met some of the critical GCV requirements, none met the minimum set of GCV requirements without needing significant redesign.”

“The Army has been conducting a knowledge based acquisition model for the GCV program in the Technology Development phase of the GCV program,” they continue. “The GCV program followed a disciplined requirements management process that used emerging analysis and data from the Analysis of Alternatives and NDV assessment to fine-tune the program’s requirements for unit cost and technical risk. The Army continues to fine-tune the vehicle requirements to support cost targets while continuing to evaluate requirement trades that better aligns with the goal of an affordable and achievable vehicle.”

While the CBO report does reference earlier Army AoA efforts conducted in 2010, there seems to be little coordination with the continuation of those efforts in the current program phase.

By

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

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-161979">

    Having conducted similar comparative field and analitical endeavors I suggest that the statement highlighted regarding off-shelf systems vs GCV is really a “non-conclusion” and frankly self-evident. Stating “The assessments confirmed that currently fielded vehicles are optimized for performance within their expected operating environments, but are limited with regard to specific GCV capability performance areas” is almost predetermined. Naturally each was designed based on the tactical requirements and trade-offs made by each developer and fielder. For instance the Puma and CV90 uses a smaller dismounted element because their doctrine sees the vehicle as essentially a “third fire team”. The vehicl and dismount will operate together. Similarly the IDF do not se the need for a larger caliber gun (using a.50 RWS significantly opens internal volume – ie a larger squad),
    The key question missed in both the Army evaluations and the CBO report is what are the priorities in the envisioned overall tactical employment concept In tis case of the mech infantry “system” (vehicle + squad)?
    A system design driver has been you can get a manned large gun turret or you can get a larger carry capacity – but achieving both n one system drives size. The bigger the vehicle the more one finds the spiral of design impacts. Bigger means more area to protect, adding weight, degrading moility, transportablity and deployability and requiring more power. Each aspect impacts and increases the design risk and likely the cost/price.
    An essential question that should be asked is what i the priority for the Army infantry vehicle?
    Too many system develpments/fielding have gone aground seeking to achieve unreconcilable multiple capabilities.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-164287">

    “A system design driver has been you can get a manned large gun turret or you can get a larger carry capacity – but achieving both in one system drives size. The bigger the vehicle the more one finds the spiral of design impacts. Bigger means more area to protect, adding weight, degrading mobility, transportablity and deployability and requiring more power.”

    Agreed. But I would add to that equation the mine-resistant mania that has gripped Congress and some areas of DoD. Taken to its extreme it will mean building V-hulled Abrams tanks.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-165827">
    Dave Blevins

    Yes, Congress is full of maniacs alright. Let the men that use these things make the choices that will help them in the combat field. My dollars are paying for these units, and unfortunately there is no one in Congress that is making sure my money is being used appropriately.There will never be a perfect fighting vehicle. I would be all for improving the sniper unit instead.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-165871">

    Intervention by Congress can be a compication – however, some of their concerns on program development is justified based on the track record of previous system development efforts.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-166444">

    Of course some of their concerns are justified. No question there.

    My point is that you can’t legislate that every fighting vehicle in the Army and Marine Corps has to be IED-proof when it will mean they can’t cross 70 percent of the bridges in the world because of how much they will have to weigh. The “iron triangle” of mobility, protection, and firepower is an enduring formula, and when politics determine that protection is paramount, to the exclusion of all else, the vehicle designs can become so compromised that they have no chance of being produced. Enemies are always going to be able to emplace a bigger bomb, no matter how much armor or shaping you add to an AFV. The result of this sort of thing is that we can’t seem to develop an AFV under 60 tons. Not an MBT. An AFV!