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.