Tracks or Wheels? Armored Vehicle Program Pits Bradley Against Stryker
The nation's top combat vehicle manufacturers are proposing two dramatically different options to replace the Army's aging M113 armored personnel carrier.
General Dynamics Land Systems and BAE Systems will be competing for a contract award for the Army’s new armored multi-purpose vehicle, which the service hopes to field by 2017.
The Army in 2007 stopped buying M-113s, which were first fielded in Vietnam in 1962. About 6,000 of the tracked vehicles remain in the Army’s inventory. Replacements must fill the roles of five M-113 variants that are currently fielded – an ambulance, command post, general purpose carrier, mortar carrier and medical treatment vehicles.
General Dynamics is offering the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, which is already in service with many Army units. “The Stryker brigade family has each of those variants,” Michael Peck, director of ground combat systems business development for General Dynamics, said during an interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. “We’ve got a hot assembly line and we’re ready right now. We can just keep right on producing.”
The company has built almost 4,000 Strykers for the Army, which have collectively logged more than 30 million combat miles, Peck said. Troops know how to use them and fix them, he said, and spare parts and tools are on hand.
“All of our variants are proven in combat,” Peck said. “We don’t have to do any testing.”
The Stryker didn’t always have such a good reputation with soldiers. The first brigade to ride them into combat in Iraq in 2003 learned quickly the vehicle was not designed to withstand improvised explosive devices. An urgent call was put out for greater blast resistance, which led the company to begin installing double-v hulls on the vehicles.
About 180 Strykers with the new blast-resistant hull are on the battlefield now, Peck said. Twelve of those have been hit by IEDs and “everybody walked away,” Peck said. He likened the vehicle’s survivability to that of the heavily armored MRAP trucks, and would even “stack it up against an Abrams tank.”
Rolling on eight wheels, the Stryker gets better gas mileage than a tracked vehicle, is more maneuverable and less expensive to maintain, he said.
General Dynamics officials, however, will have to convince Army buyers that wheels are better than tracks. Its competitor, BAE Systems, has pitched refurbished Bradleys as its solution for the AMPV program.
BAE, which builds Bradleys for the Army, also is trumpeting its ability to begin production immediately. Its existing assembly line can be used to produce all the required AMPV variants, said Roy Perkins, BAE’s director of business development for heavy brigade combat teams.
BAE plans to take the body of a Bradley, add a V-shaped blast-resistant hull and preserve the expensive engine and transmission components of the original vehicle. At the end of the assembly line, different roof sections with varying heights and equipment would be added. The modular equipment and roof would define the vehicle’s role.
BAE’s design could be modified to any of the five variants within a day, given the proper equipment, said Rick Burtnett, BAE’s AMPV program director.
Regardless of the outcome of the AMPV competition, GD and BAE will get a rematch as they enter the next phase of the Army's new Ground Combat Vehicle program. Under the GCV program, both firms are competing to design a new infantry combat vehicle that would replace the Bradley by 2017. The acquisition process for that vehicle currently is on hold pending the resolution of protest filed by losing bidder SAIC.
“We’ll have to see how that irons out,” said Peck.