FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Army requirements officials are not backing away from the service’s plan to field a tracked Ground Combat Vehicle that could weigh more than an Abrams M1 tank.
While a final weight hasn’t been decided upon, Army officials maintain that the GCV will likely have to be considerably heavier than the Bradley Fighting Vehicle it’s replacing to protect the nine-man squad and crew from the powerful blast effects of enemy improvised explosive devices.
“It’s fairly easy for us to make a thicker underbelly plate or add a V-shaped hull to make the vehicle survivable, but what that does not address is the accelerated forces that come with that blast,” Col. Rocky Kmiecik, director of the Mounted Requirements Division at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium. “Right now the best way to protect the soldier is by having adequate space inside.”
Kmiecik said the extra space allows for specialized features such as floating floors for blast deflection and extra headroom above the soldier.
Last fall, the Congressional Budget Office, projected that the GCV could weigh as much as 84 tons, making it heavier than an M1 Abrams and twice as heavy as the current Bradley.
Army officials maintain that the CBO’s estimate is on the high end of the scale, but were not shying away from talking about weight at AUSA.
“The question comes up with the Ground Combat Vehicle ‘My God it’s 20 tons more than the Bradley. How does that affect deployability?’ – It doesn’t because it takes the same amount of planes the same amount of times to deploy Bradleys as it does Ground Combat Vehicles,” Kmiecik said. “If you are moving tanks to a place those planes are going to be able to support the Ground Combat Vehicle.”
Kmiecik also talked about need for the GCV to be tracked instead of wheeled to meet the Army’s cross-country mobility requirements.
“Really to maintain the mobility across country … you need 20 pounds per square inch or less,” he said, describing how the surface pressure is distributed. “The best wheeled vehicles are easily double that; your tracked vehicles, most of them are under that, anywhere from 15 to 18 pounds per square inch.”
The GCV also has a requirement for a main gun that’s larger than the Bradley’s 25mm cannon.
“There’s a requirement for a larger-than 25mm, most likely a 30mm gun or above weapon that’s based not only on our ability to reach out and engage enemy armor … but that caliber of ammunition also allows you to go to an airburst round,” Kmiecik said. “It allows you to have that precision firepower to engage a small dismounted threat with minimal collateral damage and a minimal use of rounds.”
Currently, analysis of alternatives for the GCV is expected to be sent to the Defense Department for review in late March, Kmiecik said. The proposed GCV requirements document, which is still under review by the Army Requirements Oversight Council, is scheduled to go to the Joint Staff for review next month.
Right now, it’s still unclear how the pending budget cuts under sequestration will affect the GCV program. The Army issued a memorandum Jan. 16 announcing the addition of a six-month extension of the program’s technology development phase and subtracting two of the proposed three engineering and manufacturing development contracts. Army leaders don’t plan to make a Milestone C decision for the program until 2019.