Forced by Budget Cuts, US Army is Likely to End GCV Program

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The Ground Combat Vehicle variant developed by BAE Systems would have used a new hybrid-electric propulsion system that would rely on a diesel engine running a generator and electrical drive motors to power the vehicle and feed its many electronic systems. Photo: BAE Systems
The Ground Combat Vehicle variant developed by BAE Systems would have used a new hybrid-electric propulsion system that would rely on a diesel engine running a generator and electrical drive motors to power the vehicle and feed its many electronic systems. Photo: BAE Systems
The Ground Combat Vehicle variant developed by BAE Systems would have used a new hybrid-electric propulsion system that would rely on a diesel engine running a generator and electrical drive motors to power the vehicle and feed its many electronic systems. Photo: BAE Systems

If the US omnibus budget bill that President Obama signed earlier this month didn’t already make it clear, the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle program is all but dead. Paul McLeary reported on Defense News today, quoting U.S. Army Chief of Staff of the General Raymond T. Odierno talking on a breakfast speech earlier today. A week after Congress slashed $492 million of the program’s funding for 2014, leaving merely $100 million that will suffice to keep some technology development, Odierno has made it clear where this program stands: “Do we need a new infantry fighting vehicle? Yes. Can we afford a new infantry fighting vehicle now? No.” Odierno stated.

Odierno said he hopes that the remaining funding will allow the Army to continue to develop technology so that “three to four years from now” the service can get back to building a new infantry fighting vehicle to replace the aging Bradley.

Parallel development has been underway at BAE Systems and General Dynamics since 2011. However, the program came under pressure, as the costs of buying the 1,748 vehicles at about $17 million a piece, and sustaining them in service would cost the Pentagon $29 billion in the next 16 years.

Not less concerning was the vehicle’s growing weight. At a combat weight comparable to an M-1 tank, the GCV could not be rapidly transported by air, and would be too heavy for the type of small intervention missions the Pentagon foresees for the near future. The funding cut essentially killed the GCV acquisition program, as there isn’t enough money for the Army to move forward by awarding a production contract to one of the two companies. The move could affect BAE systems, which has already announced it will close one of its armored vehicles manufacturing lines at Sealy TX in June 2014. The company still operates the second line in York, PA. where BAE is hopeful to remanufacture Bradley armored vehicles into AMPVs. Nevertheless, the prospects are likely for part of the GCV remaining funds spent on BAE Systems’ hybrid electric propulsion, given its potential to introduce new capabilities that would be relevant for the Army for years to come.

The news are even more alarming to General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) operating the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, also known as the Lima Army Tank Plant (LATP) in Ohio, where the modernization and remanufacturing of M-1 tanks continues at a slow pace through 2015. The future here isn’t bright, with the planned cut in production of Namer armored vehicles, and uncertainty of continued supplies of M-1A1 kits to Egypt. The hope to get substantial orders for GCV after 2017 would provide some incentive to retain part of the workforce at Lima.

“We have to be expeditionary” Odierno said, “We have to be prepared to deploy very quickly. We have to get there in small packages. We have to get there with the least amount of support necessary. We have to be able to go to remote areas.” “We’re going to build new when its absolutely essential,” Odierno said, calling out the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) as programs that will live on. “We have to have these systems” to replace the ancient M113 infantry carrier and the Humvee.

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