This past week, Bettina Chavanne and I had the chance to sit down with Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, (ARCIC) at the AUSA convention in Washington to talk about Army modernization efforts in general, and the Army’s tactical ground vehicle strategy in particular. Bettina pressed the general on the feasibility of getting the Ground Combat Vehicle—the Army’s second shot at designing the tactical vehicle of its future, after the FCS version was scrapped by Secretary Gates earlier this year—up to prototype level by 2015 and in production by 2017, given that the Army doesn’t even know if its going to be wheeled or tracked yet.
Vane pointed to the rapid acquisition of the MRAP, saying that “we did MRAP faster than five years, we did Stryker faster than five years, we’re doing MATV faster than five years. Can we do GCV faster than five years? We can. Will we? That’ll be the 100 million question of the day.”
Of course, it deserves pointing out that the MRAP and MATV are essentially heavily armored shells that don’t have anything close to the communications network needs or the power generation needs that the Ground Combat Vehicle is slated to have. So the comparison on that level is a little strained. But there’s more. Gen. Vane mentioned that no decision has been made as to whether or not to make the GCV a wheeled or tracked vehicle—or both, given the different variants it is slated to have—which brings up the issue of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (ECV) as a model for the GCV. As we wrote earlier this week,
The U.S. Army will not rule out any option for its new ground combat vehicle (GCV) program, including wheeled and tracked variants, which could possibly lead to the service examining the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).
The Marines have been an integral part of the Army task force on ground vehicles since the beginning, said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, or ARCIC. “We are very close in talking about capabilities and [which of those] are necessary for the GCV,” he said.
On Oct. 5, the Army submitted its Initial Capabilities Document to the joint staff, with five primary requirements for its new vehicle program: force protection, mobility, lethality, survivability and the network. The mobility piece could point to the possibility of using EFV as an Army combat vehicle.
Above a certain weight, mobility is hampered, no matter how nimble the wheeled vehicle is, Vane said. “There will be a weight inflection point that will then require a tracked vehicle.” The Army is looking at multiple variants of a GCV, he added. “Some could be tracked, some could be wheeled.”
“If the EFV can compete, bring it on,” he said. The EFV has had its share of problems, and seems to surprise budget watchers each time it makes it through the budgetary process unscathed. It’s no surprise that the Army is publicly keeping its options open, but with five years to go before a fleet of prototype vehicles that currently exist only in the imaginations of Pentagons planners are set to hit the test track, answers are going to have to start coming sooner rather than later.