Army Looks to Build Air-Droppable Armored Vehicle

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The U.S. Army's Ground Combat Vehicle isn't officially dead, but maneuver officials are already searching for a new, air-droppable combat vehicle to support light infantry units.

The Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., recently released a Sources Sought document to see if industry is capable of building the Ultra Light Combat Vehicle – an armored chariot that could be carried by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, or airdropped by C-130 aircraft.

The release of the Jan. 22 document occurred just one week after lawmakers cut most of the funding for the GCV -- a move that has all but killed the Army's top-priority vehicle modernization effort. Congress voted to cut GCV funding by $492 million, or 83 percent. That leaves the Army with $100 million instead of the $592 million it had requested to continue developing the planned replacement for the Bradley fighting vehicle in fiscal 2014.

The Sources Sought is designed to gather information that "will examine the benefit" of a ULCV to support mobility for Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers, according to the document released on www.fedbizopps.gov.

Unlike the heavily-armored GCV, the priority for the proposed ULCV would be transportability.

Here are some of the initial requirements that Maneuver officials are searching for:

-- Internally transportable by CH-47 Chinook helicopter in combat configuration under high/hot conditions.

-- Sling-load transportable by UH-60 in combat configuration under high/hot conditions.

-- Air-droppable from C-130 and C-17 aircraft in combat configuration.

The ULCV would have to carry up to 3,200 pounds, or a nine-man infantry squad, with equipment. It would have a range of up to 300 miles on internal fuel and would need to be able to travel across country and on trails as well as over rubble in an urban combat environment, the document states.

Maneuver officials are also interested in the vehicle performing on high-altitude terrain such as ridges and summits.

The ULCV would provide a base level of protection through high-mobility to avoid enemy contact and soldier personal protection equipment since the vehicle supports dismounted soldiers, according to the document.

For now, Maneuver officials want to arm the ULCV with crew-served weapons already found in IBCTs. The goal is to "incorporate a medium-caliber weapon into squad operations," the document states.

But the ULCV is far from replacing GCV on the Army's priority list since it "does not currently have an approved requirement," the document states.

"The information solicitation and subsequent vendor demonstration and product display are conducted for the sole purpose of demonstrating product capabilities."

The defense industry has until Feb. 21 to respond to the ULCV Sources Sought.

Meanwhile, Army officials continue to work with the Marine Corps to deliver the Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Leaders from both services were forced to pare down expectations for this truck as costs spiraled out of control as officials wanted to increase armor while lightening the overall weight.

It's unclear if the Army will face a similar challenge with this new vehicle as the program is at its very beginning stages.

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Combat Vehicles Army Matthew Cox
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