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.
Among the benefits of hybrid drive: enormous torque; huge power supply for the vehicle and to power other equipment; 50 percent fewer parts so maintenance costs are lower; 10 percent fuel savings over comparable vehicles; added protection because the hybrid drive allows them to add some 4 tons of armor compared to a traditional engine. Will Army leadership buy BAE’s arguments and will testing bear out their claims? Wait and see time.
The GCV also uses something that Signorelli called a “hit avoidance system.” It is a combination of “hard kill protection” — something like what the FCS program called “active protection” — along with “soft kill” protection, a combination of jammers and decoys. Readers will remember that the active protection system was one of the failed promises of FCS. This will be an area to watch closely as the program develops.
Among the other attributes of the BAE’s GCV offering are a crew compartment designed for today’s larger soldiers who also carry larger and heavier loads. Signorelli said the new vehicle was designed to keep troops as rested as possible so they could go into action with minimal fatigue incurred by the miseries of riding in a cramped and bouncy ride.