The U.S. Army has suffered another setback in its drive to produce
a new generation of light armored vehicles as part of the service’s
effort to transform itself into a more agile, deployable force.
In November, the Army awarded a $4 billion, six-year contract to
produce its planned Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV) to a team of contractors
headed by the GM GDLS Defense Group–a joint venture between
General Motors Defense, of London, Ontario, and General Dynamics
Land Systems, of Sterling Heights, Mich. The platform selected was
GM’s Light Armored Vehicle, Generation III (LAV III).
Almost immediately after the contract was awarded, however, one
of the companies that lost the bid–United Defense LP, of Arlington,
Va.–filed a formal protest.
In the complaint, United Defense representatives said that they
had offered to provide a less expensive vehicle, more quickly and
that the Army had ignored the requirements that it set out for contractors.
"We offered a solution that did everything the Army said it
wanted done, and at half of the price that they agreed to pay,"
said Douglas Coffey, vice president for communications at United
After the protest, the Army did what is required under the Competition
in Contracting Act of 1984: It suspended the contract, pending a
review by the General Accounting Office (GAO).
GAO, an investigative arm of Congress, must consider whether the
Army had complied with the law in making the award, according to
John Melody, assistant general counsel for procurement law. The
review could take 100 days or slightly longer to complete, he said.
During that process, "several different things can happen,"
Melody said. Among them:
"We can continue to plan," said Peter Keating, a spokesman
for General Dynamics. "But no direct work on the contract can
take place until the protest is resolved."
The protest is merely the latest in a series of delays to hound
development of the IAV. In the 2001 Defense Authorization Act, Congress
required the Army to conduct "side-by-side" comparison
tests between the platform selected as the IAV and the medium-weight
combat vehicles currently in use by the service.
An estimated 46 percent of the U.S. combat-vehicle fleet consists
of the four-decade-old M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier, made by
The comparison tests will be conducted by the Army, but monitored
by the Defense Department’s director of test and evaluation,
Philip E. Coyle III. They "will take years" to complete,
Coyle told National Defense. But the details of how they would be
conducted "have not yet been determined," according to
a spokesman from his office. "The director of test and evaluation
is working with the Army to establish the scope and nature of the
IAV cost-effectiveness comparison."
United Defense officials are optimistic about the tests, Coffey
said. "I think our vehicles will do very well," he said.
"The M-113 has more cross-country mobility. It has more internal
capacity. It can carry more weight and more people than a LAV III.
"You can get four M-113s on a C-17," Coffey said. "The
latest briefing from the Army showed only two fully combat-loaded
LAVs fitting on a C-17."
When the contract award was announced in November, Lt. Gen. Paul
J. Kern–the service’s top uniformed acquisition official–admitted
that the project already had fallen seriously behind schedule. The
first IAVs wouldn’t begin reaching the troops until fiscal
2002 at the earliest, he said. And some variants of the new vehicle
require further development, which could take two years or longer
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki "is not happy with
the schedule that we are bringing in," Kern said. "He
would like it to be much sooner than it is."
Shinseki had wanted to have the first of the medium-weight brigades
now being organized at Fort Lewis, Wash., fully equipped with the
IAVs by December 2001. That date now has slipped about 16 months
and could slip further, Kern indicated.
Shinseki wants the new units, known as Initial Brigade Combat Teams
(IBCTs), to get the IAVs as the first major step of his effort to
transform the Army into a lighter, faster-moving force in order
to be able to respond more quickly to international crises, such
as Kosovo. His oft-stated goal is to be able to deploy a brigade
anywhere in the world within 96 hours of notification, a division
within 120 hours and five divisions within 30 days.
Shinseki intended the transformation process to be well along by
the time that the new administration took office, and he wanted
the first of the IBCTs to be fully equipped before his term as Army
chief of staff ends in the summer of 2003. But the delays mean that
the first brigade may not receive all of its IAVs before the spring
of that year–and possibly later.
Some Army officials privately worry that the delays may encourage
new leadership in the White House and the Pentagon to lose patience
with the transformation process. Kern said that he believes the
incoming leaders–whoever they are–will support transformation.
He added, however, that he is concerned about keeping the momentum
"Clearly, we do believe that changing the Army, changing the
culture and the organization, is something that does take momentum,"
Kern said. "It’s difficult to do."
The LAV III is an eight-wheeled platform that weighs about 19 tons–less
than a third of the Abrams M1A2 main battle tank that took so long
to get to Kosovo. The contract calls for GM GDLS to provide 2,131
of such vehicles through 2008.
Unlike the Army’s earlier combat vehicles, the LAV III is
wheeled, not tracked. But Kern cautioned that "the debate of
track versus wheels [for armored vehicles] is still open."
The LAV III is just a temporary solution to the Army’s needs,
he said. It "is not the final answer, by a long shot."
Research continues, Kern noted, on the next generation of armored
vehicles, known as the Future Combat System (FCS), planned for deployment
12 to 15 years from now. In that research, he said, no conclusion
has been reached on wheels versus tracks.
Still, the LAV III "is a brand-new acquisition for the United
States Army," Kern said, "and it sets us on a path to
change the organization and the culture of the Army."
It is the Army’s first new ground-combat platform since the
Bradley family of fighting vehicles was acquired in 1980, he explained.
The LAV III is similar to vehicles already in use by the Marine
Corps, National Guard and military services of Canada, Australia,
Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and other nations.
It comes in several different versions. The basic infantry carrier
vehicle (ICV) has armor that protects a two-man crew and nine on-board
soldiers from machine-gun bullets, and mortar and artillery fragments.
A mobile gun system (MGS) is outfitted with a 105 mm cannon, the
same gun on the original M-1 Abrams. The MGS, however, "is
not a tank replacement," said Kern. "The Abrams tanks
are the world’s best armor," he said. The Army, he added,
has 5,000 of them currently in its inventory and plans to update
them, as part of its heavy force.
The MGS "gives us direct-fire capability to support the infantry
elements," Kern said. Other LAV III variants are configured
An important trait offered by the LAV III is speed, Kern explained.
"And that speed is in two senses," he said. "One,
it’s the strategic mobility, getting to the battlefield ...
and secondly, it’s the tactical mobility on the battlefield
Unlike the 70-ton Abrams tank, Kern noted, the LAV III can be transported
on C-130 aircraft, the backbone of the U.S. military air transport
system. The Abrams can only be flown on C-5s and C-17s, which are
much larger, but fewer in number and require larger, better-built
Once on the ground, the LAV III can attain speeds of 62 miles per
hour on the highway. "That allows you to move at much higher
speeds than we are currently," Kern said.
"Most military operations today that convoy from point A to
point B have limitations of about 25 mph, with a catch-up speed
of five mph faster than that," he explained. "This vehicle
will allow us to move at convoy speeds very safely at 40 mph, with
higher catch-up speeds.
"And since all of the vehicles possess the same characteristics,
whether it’s cross country or on highway, they move as a fighting
unit–a brigade combat team–and are able to arrive together
at whatever mission they are assigned and retain that cohesiveness."
Another important factor, Kern said, is fuel economy. The ICV,
for example, has a 406-mile cruising range, with a 43-gallon fuel
"This vehicle has very superior fuel economy, [compared] to
anything that we have today," he said. "So the operating
and support costs are going to be driven lower and give us an edge,
then, in our ability to continue training."
Plans are to build the vehicle at GM’s plant in London, Ontario,
and General Dynamics facilities in Anniston, Ala.; Lima, Ohio, and
Sterling, Mich. Subcontractors include Caterpillar Inc., of Mossville,
Ill., for the engine; CACI, also of Arlington, for the NBC reconnaissance
system; New York’s Watervliet Arsenal for the 105 mm cannon;
Rockwell Collins, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the global positioning
system, and Raytheon Company Electronic Systems, in McKinney, Texas,
for the long-range advance scout surveillance system.
Some of the subcontractors are from outside the United States.
The United Kingdom’s Pearson will provide mine rollers for
the engineer support vehicle, Germany’s IBD will supply add-on
armor, and Israel’s Rafael & Soltam will contribute external
Construction of the new vehicles could begin almost immediately,
said Keating. It takes about 11 months to build an LAV, he said.
That means that seven of the 10 variants could "start rolling
off the line" as early as next fall, if the protest is resolved
quickly, he said.
The congressional requirements needn’t slow down the program–at
least initially, Keating said.
"The initial delivery order of the contract is for $61.7 million
in research, development, test and evaluation," he said. "The
second order–for 366 production vehicles–is worth $578.4
million." Those two figures, together, don’t come close
to the limitations imposed by Congress for this year, he said.
Three of the IAV versions–the MGS, the fire-support vehicle
and the NBC reconnaissance platform–still "require development,"
said Kern. All three incorporate technology that currently is too
bulky to fit on a C-130, officials said.
For example, "the MGS turret has to be lowered," said
Of the three, the MGS is "closest to full development,"
Kern said. That, he said, should occur "in about two years."
Despite the delays, Kern expressed confidence that the LAV III
is the right vehicle for the job.
In making its choice, Kern said, the Army "looked at the kinds
of operations that we are conducting today," including the
deployments to Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the Balkans. All of those
operations, he asserted, involved urban terrain where wheels usually
worked better than tracks.
Also, he noted, during the Persian Gulf War, LAVs operated by the
Marines and Saudis demonstrated their "cross-country mobility
across desert sand."
Furthermore, Kern said, the LAV III has a central tire-inflation
system. From inside the vehicle, he explained, the crew can change
the tire pressure to accommodate different road conditions, "whether
you’re running on a hard-surfaced road, soft sand or mud."
The LAV III can’t do "everything that a track vehicle
can do in the worst conditions," Kern admitted, "but it
can do some other things much better than a track vehicle can do
in other conditions."