The Army has big plans for its fleets of Strykers, Bradleys, Abrams tanks and aging M113 Armored Personnel Carriers. And even with budget trouble in Washington, the head of the service’s Ground Combat Systems office thinks that the Army can get all of the trucks it says it needs over the upcoming years.
“We don’t view [declining budgets] as radically reshaping our portfolio,” GCS chief Scott Davis said this morning at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) convention in Ft. Lauderdale. So far he’s right, since the fiscal year 2013 Pentagon budget request treated the Army’s reset and new build initiatives pretty kindly. But that doesn’t mean that those lines in the budget won’t go wobbly in coming years, he acknowledged. The Army’s wish list is ambitious. In addition to finishing the buy of over 700 double-V hulled Strykers, continuing the Abrams modernization program through fiscal 2013, finishing the buy of 465 Armored Knight vehicles by ’13, and upgrading its fleet of Bradleys, there are also two big, expensive development programs on the way. First of course is the Ground Combat Vehicle, which is back on track after a protest was resolved in December. Teams led by General Dynamics and BAE have been awarded Technology Development contracts.
Then there’s the trickier one. The Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program is envisioned as the replacement for the 3,800 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers that were first fielded in 1962. Col. Bill Sheehy, project manager for the Heavy Brigade Combat Team office, says that the Army’s first priority will be to replace the 2,900 APC’s in the heavy brigades first, followed by the rest of the fleet as money allows. And it won’t be cheap. In early assessments, the Army identified a per unit cost of $2.4 million, though he added that the number would come way down by time the program began issuing contracts.
Officials said that the Army reached an initial development decision on February 9th for the program, and has been busily evaluating existing systems that might fit the bill. Developers started with 115 different trucks on the list, but have since winnowed it down to about seven. The end result that the service will settle on however, is “probably a system that the Army already owns,” Davis said. Known interested parties are General Dynamics, which wants to pitch its Stryker, and BAE Systems, which is working on a variant of the Bradley to submit to the Army.