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The Army has canceled the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) solicitation because the service decided, after an internal and external review, that the current Requests for Proposal (RFP) do not accurately reflect Army requirements and a changing acquisition strategy, sources tell us.

A contract for the new vehicle was very close to being awarded, we’re told. A restart of the GCV competition is expected fairly soon, a new RFP may be out within 60 days, and the Army intends to stay within the original seven year timeline to field a new vehicle.

A contentious debate has taken place among Army officials regarding the new infantry fighting vehicle’s lengthy requirements list, a debate fed by an Army and OSD staffed “Red Team” analysis which scrutinized vehicle proposals and the lethality of modern and future battlefields, as well as disagreement among leadership about the service’s GCV acquisition strategy. The new RFP will reflect the Red Team’s findings as well as the Army’s analysis of alternatives.

The proposed GCV, which is intended to replace the Army’s Bradley fleet, was getting a bit unwieldy, sources say, as builders attempted to meet the many requirements. The Army will issue a formal announcement this afternoon. Lawmakers (the few who are available in late August; more like their secretaries) were notified of the GCV cancellation this morning.

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By Colin Clark
Defense Tech Chief Pentagon Correspondent

It’s wide. It’s not light. It’s learned lessons from MRAPs and is survivable. It manages bandwidth so big fat transmission pipes like the doomed T-Sat satellites aren’t needed. It’s BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman’s offering for the Ground Combat Vehicle (a larger pic can be found here).

The base version is 53 tons. Going into a highly lethal environment? Then commanders may well want their troops to bolt on modular armor and storage pods that bring the weight up to 75 tons. Powering this vehicle that looks an awful lot like a tank, is a hybrid electric drive, technology that worries some in the Army who don’t believe it is sufficiently tried and true yet.

Mark Signorelli, BAE’s vice president and general manager for ground combat vehicles, told reporters that the decision to go with hybrid technology –“key enabling technology for the vehicle” — was one of the most “painful I’ve gone through.” The drive, produced by QintiQ NA, is the same as was proposed for BAE’s FCS offering. Signorelli said he knows the Army is split on the technology’s risk and benefits but argues that the commercial sector has used them for almost a decade in heavy construction equipment. Hybrid technology has “gone from being a radical idea to something we all ride” in on America’s streets, he said.

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Colin Clark, editor of our companion site DOD Buzz, went out to White Sands Missile Range to take a look at the small robots, drones and other bits of technology formerly known as FCS spin-outs and now called some other name that won’t last very long before its changed too. Here is his report:

White Sands Missile Range – Early test results for son of FCS — not yet validated by Army testers — look good, with significant reliability and performance improvements to the group of technologies known as increment 1.

That was the word from several Army officials here, including Col. John Wendel, program manager for what the Army insists on calling Brigade Combat Team Modernization. (The Army and Boeing may hate it but son of FCS is the most accurate name for the agglomeration of stuff they now put under the rubric Brigade Combat Team Modernization.) A second Limited User Test is coming up next month and our trip was designed to give readers a glimpse at what is at stake and how things have changed since last year.

Here’s a summary:

A key component of the entire modernization effort, the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR), is performing at far longer ranges (up to 22 miles); with much improved reliability and it is doing so in combat mode. That means it is operating in anti-jamming mode. As Wendel told three visiting reporters, he was cradling GMRs in an air conditioned rental car last year to cool them down so they would work, and they took a very long time to start up — up to 90 minutes. Over the last few weeks, GMRs have been baked and frozen in environmental testing and they have performed reliably. The GMR is the central part of the Network Integration Kit (NIK) installed on three models of MRAPs for the modernization effort. These MRAPs have been left in the baking White Sands sun and have performed reliably. Now the GMR takes about 30 minutes to turn on all the wave forms, though a SINGCARS wave form can be started up in just over one minute, according to Marine Capt. James Thomas, who works on the system for the joint program office.

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The Times (the British one) has a story about the continuing debate over the 7.62mm round versus the 5.56mm as employed in the long range firefights in Afghanistan. The story asserts that the 5.56mm round used in the M4 rifle “lacks sufficient velocity and killing power in long-range firefights.” As Defense Tech readers know, we’ve covered this issue before.

As for the stopping power of the 5.56mm round, that very topic came up at a roundtable discussion I attended with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier last month at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. It led to an interesting discussion about wound dynamics, the “wound channel” and the “bleed out effect.”

Responding to claims that high-velocity 5.56mm rounds pass straight through the body without killing, Brig. Gen. Pete Fuller, the commander of PEO Soldier, said a new 5.56mm round that will be shipped to troops beginning in June, the M855A1 lead free slug, will get rid of what he called “yaw dependency.”

“The current M855 (5.56mm) ball round is yaw dependent. The closer you are to something you’re shooting at, the less yaw it has and it’s going to go right straight through,” said Fuller. Also, the M4 carbine has a 14 ½ inch barrel compared to the 20-inch barrel on the standard M16. “That shorter barrel cut out 5 ½ inches for that round to get to full muzzle velocity,” he said.

Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for Soldier weapons with the PEO Soldier, discounted the reports of multiple 5.56mm rifle rounds penetrating straight through enemy bodies, “If you look at the bone mass of the human body, there is a lot of bone, if you hit a bone, [the bullet] is not going through the body, its putting an individual down.”

Knockdown is actually a misnomer, said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, program manager for individual Soldier weapons at PEO-Soldier. “You generally don’t knock anyone down, unless you have a very, very large round and you hit bone.” What typically brings down a human being when hit with a bullet is the “bleed-out effect”: massive blood loss that causes the body to shut down, the person staggers and then collapses.

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has nominated Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno to be the next commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command. An interesting choice; a very coalition building position. So, now where does Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis go? Commandant of the Marine Corps?

Here you can find further speculation on generals and admirals, and one really important civilian appointee, moving about. This Politico story suggesting Hilary Clinton is in the running to replace Gates I find a bit hard to believe.

– Greg Grant

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The Army announced today that it has begun the process of selecting from industry proposals for its Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program. The Army will award up to three contracts for preliminary designs of the new infantry fighting vehicle that will then enter the technology development phase by late fourth quarter FY 2010, according to a press release.

The delivery date for the first prototype GCV is scheduled for 2015. “The Army is approaching the GCV’s development in an incremental fashion – designing it for adaptability, modularity and scalability to adjust to and incorporate technological change,” the release says. The infantry fighting vehicle variant will carry a three man crew and a 9 man rifle squad.

The Army hopes to build on the six years of development work it paid for on the FCS manned ground vehicle program, GCV program manager Col. Bryan McVeigh told me back in March. The GCV will be significantly heavier than the planned for FCS vehicles, likely weighing in at 50-tons, plus add-on armor packages. The base level armor package will combine Bradley equivalent protection against auto-cannon and high-explosive fragments and MRAP level protection against IEDs.

I asked McVeigh how the GCV would match up against the current Bradley, which it is intended to replace:

“It will have significantly better mine and IED protection, it will have greater lethality, it will have a bigger cannon. It will allow us to carry more men… a complete squad. It will have about the same mobility of the Bradley but the ability to carry significantly enhanced communications and electronics so I don’t have to divert power from the propulsion system for cooling. It will have significantly improved reliability than the Bradley. It will have integrated non-lethal capabilities, which none of our vehicles have today.”

– Greg Grant

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Here’s a story I wrote up for DOD Buzz today:

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said earlier this month at the Eisenhower Luncheon, “it’s a simple matter of math.” While it would be the prudent way to go to keep the force structure at current levels, being that we are a nation in a pair of wars, he said, there is the problem of budgetary realities. “It is highly unlikely that we will achieve the real growth rates necessary to sustain the current force structure.”

To pay troops and buy new weapons, savings must be found inside the defense budget, Gates said, proposing a version of the McKinsey consultants approach: cutting overhead costs, which typically means redundant management; to convert unneeded “tail” to “tooth.”

Yet, Pentagon sources tell DOD Buzz that planners aren’t just looking at cutting tail, serious cuts in tooth are also being considered. Specifically, cutting Army and Marine force levels back to where they were before Gates boosted the land forces in early 2007 by 92,000; 65,000 additional soldiers and 27,000 more Marines.

The plan would be to slowly ramp down the boots starting by fiscal year 2014, eventually getting the Marines back to 180,000 total and the Army to 482,000. That plan is, of course, contingent on the continued withdrawal of troops from Iraq and at least some reduction in Afghanistan troop levels.

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Here’s a clip from a new Frontline documentary, “The Wounded Platoon,” airing tonight, that details the very human cost of war. It follows a group of young soldiers who brought the Iraq war home with them, struggling mightily to transition from the battlefield to some semblance of normalcy. From the Frontline promo:

On November 30, 2007, 24-year-old Kevin Shields went out drinking with three Army buddies from Fort Carson, a base on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, Colo. A few hours later, he was dead—shot twice in the head at close range and left by the side of the road by his fellow soldiers. Shields’ murder punctuated a string of violent attacks committed by the three, who are now serving time in prison for this and other crimes, and it contributed to a startling statistic: Since the Iraq war began, a total of 17 soldiers from Fort Carson have been charged with or convicted of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder committed at home in the United States, and 36 have committed suicide.

In The Wounded Platoon, airing Tuesday, May 18, 2010, from 9 to 10:30 P.M. ET (check local listings), FRONTLINE investigates a single Fort Carson platoon of infantrymen—the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry—and finds a group of young men changed by war and battling a range of psychiatric disorders that many blame for their violent and self-destructive behavior. Since returning from Iraq, three members of the 3rd Platoon have been convicted on murder or attempted murder charges; one has been jailed for drunk driving and another for assaulting his wife; and one has attempted suicide.

– Greg Grant

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Defense Tech was at a question and answer with the Army’s top buyer, Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for programs, a couple of weeks back, when he said something that stuck out as counterintuitive. Speaking of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said: “The amount of expenditure of precision indirect fire weapons has not been through the roof, it’s been less than we expected… We were surprised to find that there wasn’t more precision being fired.”

Surprised me too, what with all the talk of the importance of precision indirect fires in urban areas and in irregular fights amongst the people. Non-precision indirect fire rounds have been doing just fine, Lennox said, within the overall need for indirect fires. In other words, close is close enough.

In a late night announcement on the Pentagon web site, we find out that DOD not only approved the Army’s cancellation of the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), but the Army is also reducing the buys of both the Excalibur 155mm precision round and the Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative (120mm) rounds, following an examination of “the balance of high-end precision munitions and lower-end near precision munitions.”

Lennox told us his shop has been doing a cost benefit analysis of existing and future weapons, Capability Portfolio Reviews, to determine what value they bring to soldiers in today’s fights; weapons systems that are redundant, outdated or unnecessary will be curtailed.

– Greg Grant

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Eight years ago the Army launched its most ambitious modernization program ever, the Future Combat Systems, a collection of 18 vehicles, aerial drones, robots, missiles and sensors all tied together by a robust communications network. The multi-billion dollar program was beset by shifting requirements, cost overruns, delays and what Army leaders now admit was a shining example of technological overreach.

Various restructurings over the years trimmed the bits of gear from the program, yet costs continued to climb; by 2010, the Army had spent nearly $23 billion on FCS. Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates finally stepped in and cancelled FCS, directing the Army to salvage what it could, at an affordable cost.

The Army changed the program’s name to Brigade Combat Team Modernization and sought to speed modest technological upgrades to troops in the field, including unattended munitions, the Non-Line-Of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), sensors, a small hovering drone, a small robot, new radios and software.

Later today, lawmakers will express their continued displeasure with the program’s performance and will chop $891 million from the Army’s 2011 budget request for modernization, Defense News’ Kate Brannen reports. The Army had requested $1.6 billion for research and development and $682.7 million to buy two brigades sets of gear.

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