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The Future of U.S. Armored Combat Vehicles

While an early December 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) protest denial decision renewed momentum on the next-generation U.S. Army Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) program, other service planners continued to focus on the future of the complete spectrum of U.S. armored combat vehicles. A representative glimpse of some of the planned program activities was offered during a Program Executive Officer Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) Industry Day, held in conjunction with the October 2011 Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting and exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Although the U.S. Army’s large ground combat systems fleet size might not be representative of other armed forces around the world, many of the technologies and priorities directed toward those combat vehicles are reflective of similar trends taking place on a global basis.


GCS Trends

Opening what was dubbed a “Top Level View,” Scott Davis, U.S. Army PEO GCS, began his industry day presentation by offering a bulletized mission and vision encompassing keeping “the world’s best combat systems” with “collaborative learning and development” supporting “modernized affordable systems” with “common integrated capabilities” that are all “focused on the joint warfighter.”

Paladin Integrated Management M109A6

The Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) enhances the M109A6’s combat-proven capabilities. BAE Systems

The current GCS portfolio of systems includes programs like Abrams, Bradley, robotic systems, Paladin/Paladin Integrated Management (PIM), Armored Knight, Bradley Fire Support Team (BFIST), M113s, and GCV.

The PEO offered the Bradley family as one representative example of service plans for armored fighting vehicles.

“We are still procuring, as we speak, ODS-SA [Operation Desert Storm – Situational Awareness] configurations, which are going to be fielded to the National Guard,” he said. “And at the conclusion of that fielding activity we will have a dual fleet of Bradleys – both A3s and ODS-SAs – with the ODS-SAs predominantly fielded to the National Guard. And there are a couple of National Guard units that will have A3s at the time that we finish.

“And then we are working on an ECP [Engineering Change Proposal] to recover the size, weight, and power [SWAP] margins and many of the other lost capabilities that we have seen over time on the Bradley A3,” Davis added. “So there will be lots of things related to power generation; suspension sorts of things; we may be looking at boosting engine power; and working on some transmission things … but really set to accommodate those things that the Army has already invested in, that we know are ‘inbound,’ or are already mounted on the system but, because of their mounting, have degraded the system’s performance.”

Projections call for that ECP program to begin in FY 14 and run through FY 18 or FY 19.

Davis described the GCV as “today aimed at replacing the IFV variants of Bradley in the 2020 time frame … and as GCVs get fielded, the M2A3s will be available for ‘cascade’ to other units – perhaps the National Guard or other places.”

Davis shifted platforms to the once-ubiquitous M113 series of armored personnel carriers. Senior service leadership has indicated service plans to retire the M113s from the fleet, replacing them with a different platform – being called Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) – to assume the current M113 roles and missions in the Heavy Brigade Combat Teams (HBCT).

Citing efforts to start an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), he explained, “What we are really after is looking at the four primary HBCT mission roles that the 113 serves today: ambulance; general purpose; C2 [command and control]; and mortar. And the AoA is going to look at each one independently, look at all of the possible systems that can fill each one of those mission roles, and then look at cost – because the real emphasis of AMPV is to get capability that replaces the 113 that is very affordable. So [it will be] probably something that we already have – either designed today or will require very minimal modification to serve in that function.”

The Army is also directed toward a two-variant fleet for the Abrams main battle tank: M1A2 SEP V2 and the M1A1 AIM-SA (Abrams Integrated Management-Situational Awareness).

“We are actively pursuing an ECP on the tank,” Davis said. “Again, that’s to recover the size, weight, and power margins and some of the lost performance that we have seen over the last 10 years.”

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

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