Gen. George Casey said he thinks the future replacement for the BradleyFighting Vehicle needs to be much lighter than the estimated 70 tonsprogram officials are projecting that the new GCV will weigh.
"I keep saying, 'Look, man, an MRAP [mine-resistant ambush-protected]is about 23 tons, and you're telling me this is going to be 70 tons,which is the same as an [M1] Abrams. Surely we can get a level ofprotection between that, that is closer to the MRAP than it is the M1,'" Casey said June 7. "It's not going to be a superheavyweight vehicle."
Casey's comments come less than a month after Army Vice Chief ofStaff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said at the Armor Conference at Fort Knox,Ky., that the GCV would weigh 50 to 70 tons.
Critics point outthat a 70-ton GCV would be the world's heaviest infantry fightingvehicle. By contrast, the heaviest vehicle for the Marine Corps is theExpeditionary Fighting Vehicle, an amphibious armored personnelcarrier. Still in development, it is expected to weigh 38 tons.
The Bradley can weigh up to 36 tons.
Defensefirms submitted their proposals for the first phase of the GCV in lateMay. Program officials expect to award up to three contracts for thetechnology development phase in September.
The Army launchedthe GCV program in April 2009 as part of a larger Army Brigade CombatTeam Modernization program, formerly known as Future Combat Systems.
Theeffort stood up quickly after a decision by Defense Secretary RobertGates to kill the Manned Ground Vehicles portion of the Army's FCSprogram in the fiscal 2010 defense budget. Gates spared the high-techcommunications network and the spin-out technologies slated forfielding in 2011, but canceled the program's family of 27-ton MGVs,criticizing the design as ill-suited to survive current battlefieldthreats.
The Army wants the GCV to have the underbelly armor ofthe MRAP, better side protection than the Bradley, some type ofautomatic cannon and an anti-tank missile system.
The V-shapedhull on the MRAP allows the vehicle to withstand blasts from roadsidebombs and protect soldiers inside. The Bradley has side armor that canstop 20mm and other potent calibers. Newer Stryker vehicles can stop14.5mm projectiles.
Officials want the GCV to perform well in open country, on roads and in urban areas.
Armyofficials stress the importance of the GCV since the service continuesto rely on its fleet of 16,000 combat vehicles on a battlefielddominated by powerful improvised explosive devices.
"The GroundCombat Vehicle is going to be the first vehicle designed to operate inthe environments that we're operating in today, particularly in IEDenvironments," Casey said. "None of the vehicles that we have now,except possibly the MRAPs, are designed for that. ... With the Bradleyand the tank, they started back in the late 60s and early 70s, and theyhave been great, but as we built out the Bradley, it's at the limits ofsize, weight and power."
The Bradley can carry up to seven infantrymen in addition to a commander, gunner and driver.
TheGCV is being designed to carry a complete nine-man infantry squad and athree-man crew and provide them with MRAP-like protection - that's atleast 50 tons using today's technology, Chiarelli said at the ArmorConference.
But Casey said that soldiers who have served in Iraqand Afghanistan have told him that big, heavy vehicles just aren'tpractical in urban combat.
"They'll tell you, we stopped usingtanks and Bradleys on the streets of Baghdad just because of the size,"Casey said. "We have to work the tradeoffs between protection and size."
Asfor wheels or tracks, the Army did not specify in its request forproposals, but Chiarelli and other senior Army officials have said theGCV would likely have to be tracked based on the current weightprojection.
For now, the plan is to ensure that the new vehiclecan be transported by C-17 aircraft, rail and ship. An Army "analysisof alternatives" will attempt to provide some type of recommendationsometime this summer.
It is unusual for an analysis ofalternatives to be done in parallel with the request for proposalsprocess, but Army officials have said it's being done that way to savetime.
Army officials have said the five- to seven-yeardevelopment timeline is in place to follow Pentagon acquisition-reformguidelines that call for more testing and competitive prototypes. Thedecision to build a new vehicle or buy a current design will be up tothe Defense Department.
Casey said the Army has the time towork through these issues. The service aims to have a prototype in handby 2015, and field the new infantry fighting vehicle in 2017.
"We're at the beginning of the process," Casey said. "This thing is going to take about seven years to get on the street."