About that 70 Ton GCV (Updated)

I choked a bit when I read that Reuters story the other day saying the Army pitched chief Pentagon weapons buyer Ashton Carter on plans for a new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) that tipped the scales at 70 tons. I know the Army has done some really dumb things acquisition wise in recent year (see FCS), but building a 70 ton infantry fighting vehicle sounds pretty far fetched.

Army officials have been clear that the GCV’s design is being driven by survivability, which means lots of armor and some type of underbelly blast-defeating hull design. But that’s not the only parameter. To repeat what Army Chief Gen. George Casey said about the GCV: “Our goal is for the GCV, carrying an infantry squad, to equal or surpass the under-belly protection offered by MRAP, the off-road mobility and side protection of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and operational mobility of the Stryker.” Now that’s asking a lot of a single vehicle.

I fired off an email to Army spokesman Paul Mehney trying to get some clarity on the GCV weight issue. Here’s his response:

“Discussion on the weight class of the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) is premature as the government has yet to release the GCV request for proposal and therefore the PEO has not received industry proposals on potential vehicle weight.

The first phase of GCV technology development will focus on obtaining competing designs and assessing their ability to meet requirements in the Request for Proposal. One of those requirements is that the GCV include a modular armor approach, which will allow the attachment of different armor modules to meet specific threats. Therefore, even when the vehicle is fielded, its’ overall weight may vary based on the tactical situation. It will be the commander’s decision as to what level of protection is appropriate and suitable for the mission and the operational environment.”

The modularity part is key. As we’ve seen throughout the history of armored vehicle design, once contact is made with the enemy, extra armor is added. World War II provides plenty of examples, as do the various Arab-Israeli wars, Vietnam and of course Iraq. I would expect the baseline GCV to come in around 30 tons, then bolt-on armor packages could increase that weight by up to 20 tons.

That GCV RFP is expected any day now so we’ll soon find out what the key performance parameters really are.

The RFP has been released and I’ve posted it over at sister site DOD Buzz.

— Greg

  • JEFF

    Bolting on 20 tons of armor in the field sounds easy…..

    • Jeff N

      It wouldn’t necessarily be in the field. More like vehicles being cylcled through established maintenance yards. Even if it were done away from base you would still need vehicles and equipment to assist in carrying and lifting the armor, which means at worse it would still be happening in a pretty secure location.

      The point of bolt on armor is it gives the army the flexibility to fly in vehicles rapidly and if the combat in a area becomes more protracted provide heightend protection. Otherwise you have to wait several months while its all brought in on boat or flown in half as fast.

  • DualityOfMan

    The Germans have the Puma, which starts at ~30 tons and can be up-armored to 40+ in the field. This seems like the same concept, except with a bit more armor.

    • Chris NAlly

      Yes when I was in the Australian Army before going SF I drove Panzer Leopard MBT’s, and the Germans had at the same time the fabulous Marder, basically a tank lower, {with the speed , suspension and power} and could carry men with a sofisticated gun system, anyone remember that here, the Puma is a good design, bascically anything out of Germany is in Armour, the Leopard A2-6 will defeat M1A2’s{ well those that are not deisel powerd, {Australia went for that for speed and distance and to standardise the rest of the Armour, plus new inventions were so good that the US Marines wanted the OZ model, do not know if they got it, Strykers, and so on will not help, like a guy said they had to bring a city block down to defeat a Merkarva , you need mobility, power, ability to carry the men in a safe inside spot with suspension seats, and 4 point harnesses like the Australian Bushranger, and be fast deafeat shaped charges, well I went of track here but….PUMA ..good
      Chris

  • Ed!

    Why don’t we do something like what the Israelis did with the Merkavas when they created the Achzerit? Take the Main gun off the thing, enlarge the crew compartment, and just add that bushmaster turret to the top of it like a bradley?

    • Valcan

      Those are based off the T-54/55 tanks from russia.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDF_Achzarit.

  • Hunter

    The problem with the ‘armor up’ concept is that once the GCV is loaded down with %50 more weight it stops being as mobile as either the Bradley or the Stryker. So then you’re right back to having to choose between mobile or ‘well protected’ vehicles in the field.

    • Jeff N

      True, but with a scalable system it would give flexibility for commanders to choose which one they believe is more important. For the Army, heightend deployability has been the most important aspect of mobility. That rapid build up has always been of the greater importants over say land speed or maneuvaribilty. With a scalable system you can determine which things to emphasize without making the baseline system into a 70 ton warmachine.

    • William C.

      Not if you give it a powerful enough engine. Look what the 68 ton Abrams can do with a 1500 HP engine.

  • SkysoldierRecon

    didn’t the israeli’s use captured soviet tanks, thier turrets removed and used as a troop carrier? 70 tons? wow, you better have the gas for all that armor.

  • CJ-

    The US military has lost its mind.

  • Valcan

    The army has become (once again) with the idea that you can make a vehicle indestructable.

    The palies blew up a block to destroy one merkeva. Worked and goes to show the fact that as horrible as it is you vehicles wont be perfectly safe.

    Congradulations us army. You have become UN peace keepers some of the most useless troops in the world.

    Your not going to be able to win the battle this way. Hell the marines already dont want bigger crap never really wanted the MRAP.

    • mike j

      Exactly.

      They’re trying to turn an operational/ tactical screw up in Iraq into a design requirement. The insurgency got out of control, we stuck to our vehicles, our patrols were too predictable. OF COURSE the enemy mined the roads!

      I’m not saying the troops don’t need good protection. We need to acknowledge and deal with ALL the factors that went into losing so many good people to IEDs. Lack of armor is not at the top of the list.

      • ed!

        I think the US Army should go back to looking at some of the tactics we used back in WW2. Specifically small unit tactics, especially the stuff Major Winters of the 101st practiced. Speed is the key, not size.

  • Jeff N

    I wonder how Reuters got 70 tons. Maybe their contact said 50 tons with 20 tons bolt on… the 50 was inclusive with the 20 being explanatory. Just seems like a pretty big mistake otherwise.

  • Sev

    The army needs to focus on developing new patrol tactics and systems that allow the individual soldier to be more mobile and maintain more endurance. With all the weight they caryy and the mountains they climb, they could use some exoskeleton systems to support the weight and increase endurance and mobility

  • Wild bill

    Looks like a star ship battle cruiser.

    Now you Afghan civilians stay in your mud houses while we roll through town tearing up what little infrastructure you have.

  • Howe

    I like a strong military as much as the next guy…But this should be canceled immediately. This would be a Huge waste of money. Focus on the JLTV!!!
    Does the Army have ADD or something?!

  • eric

    i bet those tracks can be blown away by a 3 dollar russian at mine.

  • Hooded swan

    The Achzarit is a T54 or T55 tank converted into an APC.
    The Nagmachon is an APC that uses the same chassis as a Centurion tank.
    The Namer is an APC that uses the same chassis as a Merkava tank.
    All of these vehicles are armed with 7.62 mm machine guns. The Namer also has a 60 mm mortar in the roof.
    The BMP-3 goes in the opposite direction - light armor, cramped crew compartment, 100 mm low pressure gun with Bastion missiles, 30 mm cannon.
    DualityofMan made a good comparison between the German Puma & this proposed GCV.

  • DavidB

    Does this concept remind anyone ELSE of the WW-2 German Elefant? Yeah, THAT was a raging success….

    • Sven Ortmann

      Ferdinand/Elefant was actually a powerful vehicle on the battlefield once it was employed as a long range anti-tank sniper instead of as an assault gun.
      Their kill count and survival rates were quite impressive.

  • ohwilleke

    Why is it so important that your entire infantry squadron be in the same vehicle?

    It is a lot easy to deploy three armored vehicles at 25-30 tons each carrying 3-4 infantry than it is to deploy one 70 ton vehicle. There are immense benefits to being C-130 transportable and being capable of crossing civilian grade bridges without collapsing them.

    On the positive side, the GCV concept may reflect the idea that the DOD has finally realized that the primary purpose of heavy armored vehicles doesn’t have to be killing other heavily armored vehicles.

    • Valcan

      They have alot of firepower to support infantry in action. The modern IFV is a cross between a infantry support vehicle and a troop transport.

      • ohwilleke

        So, you send four or five heavily armored 20-25 ton vehicles, three or four of them carry three or four infantry each, one of them provides infantry fire support. And, you can use them without destroying every bridge and road in sight, and you can get them on a plane in reasonable numbers.

  • JSCS

    Didn’t the Rhodesians and South Africans develop a suitable patrol vehicle for mine infested areas? On the cheap? Millions of dollars engineering doesn’t make up for the wrong questions being asked in the first place. None of these vehicle suspensions can have 20 tons additional weight justed “bolted” on at depot.

    Sad note: the motocross kids in the neighborhood have a better grasp on suspension basics than some of the engineers we’ve worked with.

  • CIB/EIB/ABN/11

    The Army is smoking crack on this one!