LWI - Land Warfare

AUSA 2018: Options open for NGCV, but smaller may be better

9th October 2018 - 17:12 GMT | by Grant Turnbull in Washington DC

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The US Army is accelerating the timelines for its Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) programme to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and initial requirements seem to point in the direction of smaller, more protected vehicles over larger platforms.

An initial briefing to industry in August suggests that the US Army was eyeing a platform that would only seat five soldiers, a decrease from the six currently carried by the M2 Bradley.

A desire for a platform with a smaller footprint appears to come from operational experience in Europe and Asia, with senior officers pointing to problems with large vehicles and available infrastructure, as well as difficulties in urban terrain.

‘Having just left a Poland for six months and travelled to Korea and elsewhere, the infrastructure doesn't support a heavy vehicle,’ said the head of the US Army’s NGCV cross functional team, Brig Gen Ross Coffman. 

‘If you have nine people in the back of a vehicle, it gets really big and heavy.’

Army documents suggest that the NGCV would have five dismounts and two crew, while the number of vehicles per platoon would increase to six, from the current four. The squad number would remain at nine people and the vehicle would have to be sized so that two could be transported on a C-17.

Reducing the number of dismounts would go against the recently unveiled Rheinmetall KF41 Lynx, which was on prominent display at this year’s AUSA with US prime Raytheon announcing a partnership with the German company for the NGCV programme. That vehicle can seat up to nine soldiers in the back and has a significantly beefed up armour suite, which has required an increase in size.

Coffman said that did not automatically disqualify the Lynx, especially before the RFP was written. ‘We’re looking at everything as options… [but] the idea is we have smaller vehicle that is lighter but survivable,’ he explained to reporters.

‘Paramount in all of this is that it's upgradeable,’ said Coffman. ‘If we do decide as an army to add applique armour onto it, it has the power to do that.’

The NGCV is now expected to be fielded by 2026, with a draft RFP released in the next month and a finalised RFP by the end of the year.

Initial timelines from the army suggest that two manufacturers will be downselected for a three-year EMD phase around the first quarter of FY20. An LRIP for the programme could be awarded around Q3 in FY23.  

The vehicle is expected to incorporate ‘drive-by-wire’ functionalities to enable unmanned operation, and is likely to feature some kind of small UAS capability that enables off-board surveillance and detection of targets. It will also integrate the 'Victory' standard vehicle architecture as well as the Modular Active Protection System standard currently in development.

Coffman noted that the CFT was also working with international partners, including Australia and the UK that are both upgrading or replacing their legacy IFVs. 

‘We're working with all of our allies and partners, as much as a common ground can be found,’ he explained to Shephard.

‘We'll see how that works out in the future,’ he added, noting that Australia and the UK has made decisions on IFV renewal ahead of the US Army. ‘Obviously that's fine but we want to learn from everything that they've done and we wanted to provide them the lessons that we have as well.’

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