The U.S. Army wants to know which defense firms are capable of producing a lightweight Infantry Squad Vehicle that can be carried into battle by helicopter.
"The Product Lead, Ground Mobility Vehicles ... is conducting a market survey for new production of the Infantry Squad Vehicle," according to a Sept. 24 sources sought solicitation posted on the government contracting website FedBizOpps.
The solicitation states that the Army wants to buy new vehicles along with hardware and services, at a total quantity of around 2,065.
The infantry squad vehicle should have the capability to transport a nine-man infantry squad "with associated equipment to move around the close battle area" and "shall be transportable by all means including vertical lift via [CH-47 Chinook] and [UH-60 Black Hawk]," the solicitation states.
Army officials have long emphasized the need to equip light infantry units with a lightweight vehicle to increase their speed of movement around the battlefield.
This is a separate effort from the joint Army-Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program. The Army plans to field more than 49,000 JLTVs, made by Oshkosh Corp., to replace a large portion of its outdated Humvee fleet.
In mid-September 2015, Army officials at the Maneuver Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia stressed that Army stressed the importance of an ultra-light combat vehicle that highly-deployable infantry units can take into a forced-entry operation.
The Army requested $47 million in the fiscal 2019 budget to procure 133 Ground Mobility Vehicles by means of an existing Special Operations Command contract as an interim solution to equip airborne brigades with more mobility.
More long-term plans call for a full and open competition to equip 30 infantry brigade combat teams with the GMV or something similar, Army officials have said.
Such a vehicle would also help overloaded combat units to carry battlefield necessities into the fight such as ammo, munitions, water and food.
The Army and the Marine Corps continue to struggle to find ways to lighten the load of infantry soldiers, a problem that the Defense Department's newly-formed Close Combat Lethality Task Force has made a priority to address.
"It is unconscionable that we have gotten to the point where the assault load of an assistant machine-gunner is 169 pounds," Joe L'Etoile, director of the task force, said Wednesday at the Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Virginia. "We have got to do something to reduce the combat load or we are going to be like knighted knights in armor walking around the battlefield with very little mobility."
Defense firms interested in participating in the market survey for the Infantry Squad Vehicle have until Oct. 26 to respond.
The ISV "should be capable of "traversing longitudinal grades up to 60 percent," but will offer no armor protection for soldiers, according to the solicitation.
"Survivability will be achieved through high mobility, a roll cage and occupant restraints," the document states.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.