On August 26, the Army temporarily put the brakes on its $40 billion Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, which by 2017 will start churning out a planned 1,450 infantry vehicles big enough to fit nine soldiers, tough enough to survive IED and RPG attacks, and maneuverable enough to fight in tight urban centers or in austere terrain. The vehicle fills the gap left by last year’s cancellation of the Manned Ground Vehicle portion of the Future Combat Systems program.
The Army said at the time that the program would probably be put on hold for about six months before it awarded the development phase contracts, but the overall schedule for the program would remain unchanged, with plans calling for the first production vehicle to be delivered seven years after the initial contract award. The Army also said that it expected to issue a new Request for Proposal in about 60 days, which means that we should expect that to drop any day now.
The fact of the suspended RFP made trying to report the GCV story at this year’s AUSA convention tough, to say the least. All three contractors heading up teams to win the contract— BAE, General Dynamics and SAIC—were at the show, but new information was hard to come by. Well, that’s not exactly true. In one case information was simply not available. SAIC smiled politely and took my card both times I stopped by, with a promise to get back to me.
I’m still waiting for the call.
Still, I feel comfortable reporting—going solely by having seen the big “GCV” banner hanging at their booth—that the company is indeed still interested in submitting a proposal. SAIC actually announced back in May that it was submitting a modified Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicle, originally built for the German army by Rheinmetall, to the GCV competition. This means that we can be pretty certain about at least one thing: the vehicle will be tracked.
BAE on the other hand, has been talking about its GCV concept for some time, enough that we know that their proposed vehicle is a tracked, hybrid electric drive model, all of which was confirmed by a spokesman on the AUSA floor. The engine that the company is using for its bid is derived from its proposal for the cancelled FCS Manned Ground Vehicle program, and the traction drive system for the hybrid electric drive is also an upgrade from the MGV. General Dynamics wouldn’t divulge much about their design, including whether it is a tracked or wheeled concept, but the company’s Stephen Schultz, vice president of advanced programs did say that before the Army put a hold on the program in August, GD and its partners had a fully compliant design, and have “paid a lot attention” to human accommodations like protection in the seats and the floors.
Now, to get back to waiting for that RFP….