Undeterred By Possible Delays, BAE Continues Ground Combat Vehicle Development

By Valerie Insinna
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — Despite statements from top Army officials alluding to possible delays to the ground combat vehicle program, BAE Systems is chugging along to meet technology development requirements.
The GCV, which is slated for production as early as 2018, is planned to be the service’s replacement for the Bradley fighting vehicle. However, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said in July that the program might be pushed back because of budget cuts. The Army already delayed it in January when the service extended the technology development phase by six months.
"Our focus is getting to preliminary design review and delivery,” said Deepak Bazaz, who is leading GCV design and development for BAE. “As far as what the Army position is, I know there's a lot of things that need to be sorted out from the budget standpoint and the impacts of sequestration and whatnot."
The company this week announced it had completed 2,000 hours of testing of its hybrid-electric system using an automotive test rig that simulates the terrain of Army test tracks. Engineers can vary the speed and incline on the “hotbuck” test rig, and can also control the vehicle in order to introduce driver error.
“It's one thing to just have it spinning on a loop,” Bazaz told reporters at an Aug. 27 media day at its Sterling Heights, Mich.-facility. “It's another thing to do it and actually have the user … make an abrupt left turn and then auto correct. The vehicle actually senses and feels all that and adjusts its steering and its torque to be able to correct for that.”
BAE will continue to use the hotbuck until technology development wraps up in June 2014, he said. The company has also created a system integration lab to simulate how the vehicle’s electronic components will work together.
The technology development phase kicked off in January 2011, when General Dynamics and BAE Systems were awarded $439 million and $449 million contracts, respectively. The Army is expected to downselect to a single vendor by the end of fiscal year 2014, when it awards an engineering and manufacturing contract.
The ground combat vehicle is intended to be more mobile than its predecessor and more survivable against landmines and improvised  explosive devices. Unlike the Bradley, which can hold only seven soldiers, the GCV is designed to hold a nine-member infantry squad.
Critics of the program see the GCV as too expensive and risky for the Army to build during a fiscal downturn. The Congressional Budget Office in April released a report weighing the pros and cons of four other options to the ground combat vehicle, including maintaining the current Bradley fleet, buying new, upgraded Bradleys, or purchasing either Israel’s Namer Armored Personnel Carrier or Germany’s Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
The report found that the Puma was more lethal, survivable and mobile than the ground combat vehicle, but because it carries only six troops, the Army would have to buy five Pumas to replace four Bradleys.
Some in Congress have also said the vehicle should incorporate an active protection system to intercept rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles. The Army, however, is not requiring initial vehicles to have that capability, Bazaz said.
BAE is considering integrating Artis LLC's Iron Curtain active protection system into its ground combat vehicle. It conducted tests using it in April. Such systems use a radar to detect an incoming projectile, then fire an intercepter to destroy it before it reaches the vehicle.
“We demonstrated what we needed to do, we met the requirements, but still the system from an integration standpoint ... is still something that needs to be matured," Bazaz said.  
BAE is also testing the vehicle in low visibility conditions.
The company drove a humvee with blacked-out windows though a smoke-filled mock town in Fort Benning, Ga. Even though troops’ visibility was completely obscured, the prototype system of sensors and cameras on the vehicle allowed them to drive safely, Bazaz said.

Topics: Combat Vehicles

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