Ground Combat Vehicle
|Ground Combat Vehicle|
Ground Combat Vehicle logo
|Type||Tracked or wheeled armored fighting vehicles|
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||mid-to-late 2010s (projected)|
|Designer||Industry and U.S. Army (Government Furnished E/I/M and synchronization)|
|Variants||Infantry fighting vehicle|
The Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) is the U.S. Army's replacement program for armored fighting vehicles in Heavy and Stryker brigade combat teams. The GCV is organized under the Follow On Incremental Capabilities Package of the BCT Modernization program. The first variant of the vehicle is to be prototyped in 2015 and fielded by 2017. It replaced the canceled Future Combat Systems, manned ground vehicles program.
Specific design elements of the GCV will be contracted out, though the army will design the architecture and retain overall responsibility for synchronization. This contrasts with the former FCS manned ground vehicles program where contractors had more control over the design. The GCV will be networked and offer improved survivability, while using the state-of-the-art mobility and power management functions. The military is releasing classified details of the FCS Manned Ground Vehicles program to interested contractors to be utilized in design proposals for the GCV. The GCV family will be built around a common chassis.
The GCV will be operable with the current battle command control and communications suite but would gradually use a more state-of-the-art networked integration system known as the BCT Network. It will provide exportable electrical power, and a battery charging capability for external hardware including vehicles and electronics from the BCT Soldier subsystems. The system would be capable of integration with unmanned systems and dismounted soldiers.
The GCV must be transportable by cargo aircraft, rail and ship. The army requires it to meet the availability rates of the current Stryker. The army is not limiting the vehicle by the dimensions of the C-130, which, in the past, has constrained many designs. Air mobility will be provided by the more spacious C-17. The GCV will have good cross-country mobility, with a baseline requirement of 30 mph off-road speed. The GCV should deliver higher sustainability levels and consume less fuel than the Bradley or other vehicles of similar weight and power. The military is accepting both tracked and wheeled designs. The operational maintenance cost requirement of the GCV is up to $200 per mile, compared to $168 per mile for the M2 Bradley.
The army would like the GCV to have a passive blast protection level equal to the MRAP and would utilize hit avoidance systems. The Army wants to install an active protection system on the Ground Combat Vehicle. BAE is testing the Artis LLC Iron Curtain and General Dynamics is demonstrating a version of the Israeli Trophy system. By incorporating an APS, the GCV wound only need 18 tons of ballistic armor protection, compared to 52 tones of armor required without it. Developers are considering modular armor technology, with the ability to add-on and remove armor plates depending on threat levels and mission requirements.
In June 2009, a blue-ribbon panel met in Washington, D.C. to discuss requirements for the Ground Combat Vehicle. In October and November 2009, more than 100 defense contractors turned up for two U.S. Army-organized industry day events in Michigan to express interest in bidding on the vehicle. A review required for continuation was held and passed in February 2010 in Washington D.C. A request for proposals (RFP) was issued on February 25, 2010 to which companies had 60 days to respond, but was extended an additional 25 days. A committee is currently examining the current schedule for the GCV to "shave a little time off". For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. Army wishes to spend $934 million of the $2.5 billion allocated for BCT Modernization to develop the GCV.
Up to three competitive contracts were to be awarded by early fall. A prototype development contract decision would have followed by 2013. The Technology Development Phase (or Milestone A) would begin in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2010 with the award of up to three vehicle contracts. This will be followed by an Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase and Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) phase before full production could start.
Nine vehicles were evaluated in the Analysis of Alternatives (AOA). The four primary vehicles included in the AOA were the M2A3 Bradley II, a modernized Stryker, an M2A3 Bradley variant used in Iraq, and a XM1230 Caiman Plus MRAP. The five secondary vehicles included two unnamed foreign-made platforms, the M1126 Stryker Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the M1A2 SEP TUSK Abrams, and a modernized M1 Abrams. Vehicles included the The AOA were determined to be inferior to the planned GCV.
On 25 August 2010, the U.S. Army canceled the current RFP to revise the requirements. A new RFP was to be issued 60 days later. When Peter Chiarelli was asked if the army was developing an alternative to the GCV, Chiarelli replied "We're totally committed to GCV." The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform suggests deferring development of the GCV until after 2015.
In August 2011, technology development contracts were awarded to BAE Systems Land & Armaments for $449.9 million and General Dynamics Land Systems for $439.7M.
Budget concerns and proposed cuts
In December 2012, it was reported that the army may need to cut $150 million from the GCV program in 2014, with deeper cuts between $600 million-$700 million between 2014 and 2018. This puts the program, one of the Army's highest priorities, at serious risk. With the drawdown of the War in Afghanistan and budgetary concerns, the expensive development of a new combat vehicle is not seen as feasible. BAE Systems and General Dynamics were each awarded engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase contracts in August 2011. The EMD phase is to last 48 months for both contractors, but there were arguments for only one to proceed as a cost-saving measure. This would present the problem of selecting a vehicle based on design outlines, rather than on real prototypes. Another suggestion was to lengthen the EMD period to allow for smaller contract awards over time. This might delay the operational deadline beyond the planned 2018 date. The underlying concern is the fact that the army plans to spend 80% of its ground combat vehicle budget on GCV development from 2013-2018. With 1,847 GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicles expected to be acquired, they would make up only 10% of the Army combat vehicle fleet. Redirected funds could be shifted to modernization efforts for the combat-proven Stryker, M1 Abrams, and Bradley families of vehicles.
The GCV acquisition strategy was revised on 17 January 2013 to further reduce risk and maintain affordability of the program. The revision extended the technology development phase by six months to give industry more time to refine vehicle designs. Milestone B will occur in 2014, with the selection of a single vendor for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) and production phases of the program. This will initiate critical design and testing activities in anticipation of vehicle production. Budgetary pressures caused the reduction of number of vendors to be selected from two to one.
On 2 April 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report on the progress of the GCV program. The report questioned the program, estimated to cost $28 billion from 2014-2030, with the possibility of alternate vehicle options. While none will meet overall army goals desired in the GCV, they offer advantages in being less costly and delayed. Planned GCV prototypes are heavy, weighing up to 84 tons, to be better protected and seat a 9-man squad. Officials have said that a vehicle of that size would not be well suited to operations faced in Iraq or Afghanistan. Alternate vehicles would be cheaper and more maneuverable in urban settings. The CBO report analyzed four alternative options:
- Purchase the Namer APC - Seats 9 soldiers with combat survival rates expected slightly higher than the GCV, and costs $9 billion less. The Namer has less ability to destroy other enemy vehicles and is less mobile. Production would be conducted in part domestically, but fielding would require collaboration with foreign companies and governments.
- Upgrade the Bradley IFV - An upgraded Bradley would be more lethal than the GCV against enemy forces and would probably survive combat at about the same rates as would the GCV, saving $19.8 billion. Upgrading the Bradley would make it "significantly more capable" than the GCV. The Bradley still only carries a 7-man squad and has less mobility.
- Purchase the Puma (IFV) - More lethal than the GCV, combat survival and protection at better rates, and just as mobile. Purchasing the Puma would save $14.8 billion and is considered the most capable of the vehicles. Puma IFVs only carry six infantrymen, which would require five vehicles to replace every four Bradleys. Development and production would require collaboration with foreign companies and governments.
- Cancel the Ground Combat Vehicle - If the Army reconditioned its current Bradley instead of replacing them, the current capability of the IFV fleet could be maintained through 2030. The Army could continue to investigate ways to improve the current Bradleys, but it would not field any new or improved vehicles. The $24 billion saved in funding could be used on other programs.
General Dynamics and BAE Systems, who have received contracts in the Ground Combat Vehicle program, have criticized the CBO report, saying they used the wrong vehicle in its analysis. Officials from both companies said they used the wrong notional model of the GCV that did not account for the change in requirements made by the army or the advancements made in the technology development phase of the program. They also criticized the comparisons of the other vehicles. The report factored cost, survivability, mobility, and lethality, ranking the GCV's capabilities as lower than all others. The army's response was that none of the vehicles meet the requirements to replace the Bradley. An army test of currently fielded vehicles in 2012 revealed that some met critical GCV requirements, but none met enough without needing significant redesign. They also note that lethality was judged with a 25 mm cannon for analysis, before the army planned to mount a 30 mm cannon. The CBO report does give credit to cost, assuming the army's goal of $13 million per vehicle. However, Pentagon cost assessments estimate the price at $16–$17 million per vehicle.
Possible delay or cancellation
On 29 July 2013, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno warned that the Ground Combat Vehicle program may be delayed or possibly even cancelled because of the sequestration budget cuts. Although he specifically said it could be delayed, he did not rule out the possibility of cancellation. The GCV is high-priority for the Army to give better protection than the M2 Bradley, but because of the sequester cuts everything is being considered. On 1 August 2013, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined two basic results if the effects of sequestration continued: modernization programs like the GCV would be cut to maintain troops levels, or high-end capability efforts like the GCV would be preserved to continue modernization and keep equipment technologically advanced with troop levels being cut. Odierno is committed to balancing soldiers, readiness, and modernization, and is intent on the need for the Ground Combat Vehicle. Suggested alternative options, such as further upgrading the Bradley and buying currently available infantry fighting vehicles like the German Puma, have been recommended as cost-saving measures. Army leaders say the Puma's low troop carrying capacity would require buying five vehicles to replace every four Bradleys, and that upgrading the Bradley would essentially be engineering a new vehicle. While these options would offer no improvement over the fleet's current capability, not pursuing the GCV would allow the money to be spent elsewhere.
Some reports are suggesting that the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program to replace the M113 family of vehicles is being favored over the GCV program. While procurement of the AMPV fleet would cost over $5 billion, the Government Accountability Office estimates the GCV fleet would cost $37 billion. In April 2013, the Congressional Budget Office said the AMPV would be a better buy because analysts have asserted that the vehicles the GCV is slated to replace should not be first. The GCV would replace 61 M2 Bradley IFVs per armored combat brigade, making up 18 percent of the 346 armored combat vehicles in each armored brigade. A 24 September 2013 Congressional Research Service report suggested that given budgetary constraints, the GCV program may be unrealistic, and that one potential discussion could focus on a decision by the Army to replace the GCV with the AMPV as their number one ground combat vehicle acquisition priority.
Army leaders say having a large ground army is still necessary for deterrence and "regime change" operations. They also realize that their equipment will be mostly modernized versions of current equipment for the rest of the decade. Technologies from the GCV program are being explored, although development and procurement of a vehicle is not. By mid-November 2013, both BAE and General Dynamics designs had passed Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR), but neither company had commenced building prototypes. The Army is increasingly willing to slow down the GCV program or push it back from EMD to research and development. While the Army has said previously that it was their highest priority acquisition program, they have since shifted their main modernization priority to an integrated electronic command network. Short-term incremental upgrades will be applied to existing weapons systems to keep them from becoming obsolete, and advanced technologies available in the future will be used to build entirely new systems when funding is restored.
The army is using an incremental approach to combat vehicle modernization, centered on the Ground Combat Vehicle. The deployment will be synchronized with upgrades, reset and divestiture of existing vehicles. Vehicles displaced by the IFV may then replace selected M113 family of vehicles such as command and control, medical evacuation, and mortar carrier, allowing the army to begin divestiture of the M113 family of vehicles. Upgrades to existing Bradley and Stryker vehicles may be considered as risk mitigation based on the rate at which the GCV is introduced. Although upgraded, the Bradley and Stryker would also be replaced in the midterm.
Infantry Fighting Vehicle
The Infantry Fighting Vehicle supersedes the previous infantry carrier replacement effort, the XM1206 Infantry Carrier Vehicle of the FCS MGV program. It is the U.S. Army's intention that the IFV replace the M113 APC by 2018, the M2 Bradley later, and the Stryker ICV in the midterm. The IFV will hold a crew of three and a squad of nine.
- Future Combat Systems manned ground vehicles, a recently canceled American family of tracked vehicles
- Marine Personnel Carrier, wheeled U.S. Marine Corps counterpart
- Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, tracked/amphibious U.S. Marine Corps counterpart
- Stryker, a recent American family of wheeled vehicles
- Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, a future American family of light vehicles
- Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), an earlier but similar British family of vehicles
- Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled), an earlier but similar British family of vehicles
- MRAP (armored vehicle), Mine Resistant Ambush Protected light vehicles
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