The Army is taking another shot at replacing or upgrading the Bradley.
Earlier this month, the service awarded two $28 million design contracts to BAE Systems Land and Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems for what the Army is calling the Future Fighting Vehicle.
The program follows the decision by the Army to end funding to the Ground Combat Vehicle program after service officials have said defense budget cuts forced the service to end it. Army leaders have repeatedly said it’s not because of failures within the program, but the service needed to use their limited budget in other areas.
However, it left the question: What is the future of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle? First introduced in the early 1980s, the Army listed the GCV — the program designed to replace the infantry fighting vehicle — as the Army’s top vehicle acquisition program.
During its development, critics said the Ground Combat Vehicle was too heavy and didn’t offer that significant of an upgrade for the cost it would require.
Army acquisition officials awarded the two contracts on June 2 to BAE and General Dynamics to inform the Army what’s in the realm of the possible when it comes to infantry fighting vehicles. The defense firms have until November 2016 to deliver their designs to the Army.
Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno acknowledged the problems the service has had with past programs to try and replace the Bradley — GCV and Future Combat Systems. He said the Army has tried to “build the perfect vehicle” and allowed requirements to spin out of control in the past.
“The requirements were so high, they were difficult to meet, took a long time, ended up being over budget,” Odierno said.
Defense analysts have said the Army will be hard pressed to make the case for a Bradley replacement until engineers can develop advanced armor technologies to lighten an infantry fighting vehicle and provide more protection to soldiers.
Making the development of a Bradley replacement harder will be the list of modernization programs the Army wants to pursue in coming years. Along with the ground vehicle programs, the Army wants to launch a program called Future Vertical Lift to replace its helicopter fleet.
The Future Fighting Vehicle concepts will be delivered as the service pursues other vehicle modernization programs to include the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armored Multipurpose Vehicle, which are designed to replace the Humvee and M113 infantry carrier.
Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released a video of concepts for ways in which future fighting vehicles could protect soldiers. Those concepts focused less on armor and more on speed and maneuverability. In fact, the video led some to question just how far in the future it will be before those concepts can be realized in combat.
– Michael Hoffman can be reached at Mike.Hoffman@military.com