Wars shape plans for new US combat vehicles

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  1. Wars shape plans for new combat vehicles

    By Kris Osborn - Staff writer
    Posted : Saturday Aug 22, 2009 8:19:19 EDT

    The Army’s next armored vehicles may have V-hulls and tracks, and should be better protected than the canceled Future Combat Systems vehicles, according to a draft paper that will shape the formal requirements for the Ground Combat Vehicle.

    The service plans to buy hundreds of GCVs over the next 10 to 20 years for use throughout the force. The first models are slated to be ready within five to seven years.

    The paper, which details lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, codifies the decade-long shift away from a vehicle mix focused on all-out war, said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, part of Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.

    “We need to look closer at the lessons of close-quarter combat and [improvised explosive devices] — the ability to attack our vehicles horizontally and from the top,” Vane said. Unlike the FCS vehicles, the new GCVs will likely not share a common chassis.

    “Rather than [sharing the] same chassis, they may need different levels of force protection lethality; some may need a different set of sensors,” Vane said.

    The paper is the work of Fort Monroe-based Task Force 120, which was established to draft new vehicle requirements after FCS was canceled earlier this year. The group drew on input from soldiers, Marines, program engineers and allies such as Britain, Germany and other NATO countries.

    It was slated to be presented to Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey the week of Aug. 10.

    The requirements should be finished by Sept. 7, and then go to Army and Pentagon decision-makers for approval before Army developers begin sketching vehicle designs.

    The GCV might have a V-shaped hull, even if it rolls on tracks.

    “We have to be concerned about deployability, transportability and reliability. All of those will become important factors in determining whether they should be a V-shaped vehicle,” Vane said.
    Heavy weapons

    Army officials also are thinking about putting on the GCVs offensive weapons that once would have been reserved for heavier vehicles. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and more mobile 12-ton vehicles have created new possibilities, and one of the canceled 20-ton FCS vehicles was to carry a 120mm gun of the sort carried only on 50-ton Abrams tanks.

    “We’ve seen some tremendous advances ... wheeled vehicles that can be more mobile than they were five or six years ago with a lot of weight,” Vane said.

    The Army may configure more MRAPs as ambulances and command-and-control vehicles, allowing commanders to tailor forces to specific missions, Vane said.

    One analyst said the Army is working hard to keep the money once slated for FCS secure for the new program. It totals $100 million for 2010, as a starting point.

    “A lot of that shows after what they went through with FCS, they are open to anything right now,” said Dean Lockwood, a policy analyst with Forecast International, a Connecticut-based think tank. “They don’t want to make the same mistakes they made with FCS. They will do this incrementally and move through the next generation one thing at a time, because trying to do it all or nothing at once fell flat on its face.

    “They will try to phase in new technologies as they become available,” he said.

    Lockwood said the Army may seek to emulate the rapid development approach of the MRAP.

    “They may be thinking in terms of a quick-turnaround program.” he said. “They went from proposal to contract in a matter of weeks — rather than years, the way it used to be.”