U.S. Army leaders and industry experts on Wednesday discussed what a next-generation armored vehicle might look like and protection was not a top priority.
It's been three years since budget caps known as sequestration forced the Army to kill the Ground Combat Vehicle, the service's effort to replace the Cold-War era Bradley fighting vehicle.
The GCV was slated to weigh at least 60 tons and designed to carry a nine-man infantry squad, the most basic element in Army maneuver.
In a discussion of strategies for modernizing the maneuver force, Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commander of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, said, "What you are going to see come out of Fort Benning soon is a request for a charter for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle."
"It will be an [integrated capabilities development team] that empowers us to pull together the requirements folks, the resourcing folks the acquisition community, the labs and even industry in a collaborative effort to get after NGCV," he told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama.
While the discussion was very broad, Wesley cautioned that the Army should avoid using the last 15 years of experience with improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq as a reason for making soldier protection more of a priority than speed and maneuverability.
"Not to say that the maneuver center is cavalier toward the protection of our soldiers, but if we want to optimize everything toward protection than we can do that very easily without deploying," Wesley said. "In the end, we have to achieve strategic objectives which requires maneuver, which requires killing, which requires agility and speed."
David Johnson, a senior fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington, D.C., said that if the enemy is using IEDs, then the Army has 8,000 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in storage to deal with this type of threat.
"IEDs are not going to be a problem in Eastern Europe," Johnson said. "That is not the problem we need to design the future force against."
An IED is "merely a mine and mines have been around for decades," Wesley said.
"And how did we reconcile the problem with mines? We maneuvered. The reason you had to raise protection is because maneuver was taken off the plate" in a counterinsurgency environment, Wesley said.
Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, commander of Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, service leaders should not constrain its thinking so it limits options in developing a new armored vehicle.
"In some of the discussions I have heard with regard to Mobile Protected Firepower or the Next Generation Combat Vehicle or the next platform -- in those discussions when we start talking about the key features that we need in a platform to be able to have it be more lethal, more mobile, more protected -- we often rule out certain features," he said.
Wins said the topic of reducing the size or the number of soldiers that can fit in a combat platform often leads to debates that lead nowhere.
Instead, consider the possibility of saying ‘hey, you could split the squad and have two vehicles; what's the tradeoffs of doing that,'" Wins said.
"Now that probably affects your ability to be expeditionary, but you've got to think about things in those terms," Wins said.