Army Officials Defend Decision to Buy Tracked Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle
Despite congressional scrutiny and a plethora of ongoing studies debating whether to procure a mixed fleet of wheeled and tracked armored multi-purpose vehicles, Army acquisition officials are comfortable with their decision to purchase a tracked AMPV, they said March 31.
The Army selected BAE’s Bradley-derived AMPV in December 2014 after a dramatic year that included General Dynamics Land Systems dropping out and protesting the competition. Since its departure, GDLS — as well as lawmakers — have been pushing the Army to purchase a fleet that contains its eight-wheeled Stryker variant.
However, Brig. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for PEO ground combat systems, argued that the armored brigade combat team — which mostly comprises tracked vehicles like the Bradley fighting vehicle and Paladin Integrated Management — would benefit from a tracked AMPV able to traverse the same kinds of terrain that GDLS supporters believe could be filled by a wheeled vehicle.
“We're not saying that the Stryker is not a wonderful vehicle for what it's intended for. The Army has wheeled Stryker ambulances today that we think are wonderful in their intended use as part of Stryker formations,” he said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s global force symposium and exposition. “What we do say, though, is inside an ABCT [armored brigade combat team] where you have soldiers and tanks and Bradleys, you need to be able to get that medical evacuation vehicle to the point of need. And having a vehicle with commensurate mobility in all of these terrain profiles gives us the ability to do exactly that."
The AMPV competition — which aimed to find a replacement for the Army’s fleet o fVietnam War era M113s — originally pitted BAE Systems’ Bradley-derived offering against General Dynamics’ Stryker variant. GDLS withdrew from the competition in 2014, alleging that the Army’s requirements favored a tracked solution. The company’s protest was ultimately rejected. But even though it decided not to pursue legal action, GDLS is still hoping to replace some of the M113 fleet.
Currently, the AMPV program would replace only the armored brigade combat team’s M113s to be used for scenarios such as mission command,mortar carrier, general purpose, medical evacuation and medical treatment. General Dynamics could still win a contract to replace the 1,900 M113s in the echelons above brigade level.
Requirements for that vehicle are still being discussed. An Army study on the subject was delivered to the House Armed Services Committee in February, said Col.Michael Milner, the Army’s AMPV project manager. A separate analysis of alternatives for the echelons above brigade vehicle is due in 2016.
The Pentagon’s cost assessment and program evaluation office is also slated to wrap up a study on whether a wheeled vehicle could fill the AMPV’s medical treatment and evacuation role, he said. That could be yet another potential opportunity for General Dynamics.
There are dramatic differences between the mobility expected from a tracked AMPV and wheeled version, Bassett said. The Army conducted an analysis comparing a tracked AMPV’s performance to that of a Stryker across different terrains and weather conditions in Jordan, South Korea and Germany. The service found a tracked solution was able to go to places a wheeled vehicle could not access.
"For example, in Germany in wet conditions, there's as much of a 40 percent difference in no-go terrain ... between a typical wheeled Stryker type solution and a tracked solution,” he said. In Jordan’s sandy deserts, a tracked vehicle could access 20 percent more terrain than a wheeled version.
That’s pivotal for the medical evacuation variant, which needs to be able to move to the front lines of battle to pick up wounded soldiers at the point of injury and transport them to the medical treatment vehicles located in safer locations, Milner said.
Under the initial $382 million contract for the EMD phase of the program, BAE will deliver 29 AMPVs. The first delivery of prototype vehicles is due in December 2016, Milner said. It will take until the end of the 2020s for the service to completely finish fielding the platform.
Commonality is key to the vehicle’s quick development, Milner said. All five AMPV variants are equipped with a common drive train, Cummins V903 engine, L-3 HMPT 800 transmission, and a power package that is also the same as the Bradley and PIM. The AMPV vehicles also share a similar chassis.
“Because we're using these mature systems, this will allow us to get to production faster for prototypes and get through tests with a greater sense of reliability for the system,” he said.
The AMPV also improves upon the M113 in terms of size and power. It contains 78 percent more space than its predecessor, allowing it to host the service’s newest radios and network technologies such as current iterations of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.
As part of the EMD phase, BAE will develop and build prototypes of all five AMPV variants, including medical treatment and evacuation, Bassett said. However, the service remains flexible and could buy wheeled medical AMPVs if directed.
"In terms of decisions about how many the Army would buy and where they would be fielded, we still have the opportunity to address those decisions in production if we chose to,” he said.
Topics: Land Forces