The US Army has started looking for a new IFV to replace the Bradley. Again. They’ve requested a couple demonstrator prototypes to play with. Right now, this is a very early assessment, but the US Army has a few requests.
Things that the Army is looking for in the design include a crew of two, capacity for six dismounts, and a 50mm gun. It will be interesting to see what the design team comes up with.
We’ve been here before. Twice. And we failed both times. The Future Combat System and the Ground Combat Vehicle were both failures. Both programs were hugely ambitious. Future Combat System was supposed to be a massive family of vehicles with lots of commonality and lots of advanced fire control and propulsion systems. Ground Combat Vehicle was supposed to be a big IFV with a number of significant improvements, including a variety of high-end electronics, an advanced propulsion system, and a full squad’s worth of dismounts, i.e. 9 men. Both had huge, unsurprising cost overruns, and both times Congress scored dreaded budget kills on the projects.
Six dismounts keeps the size down, which will keep the weight down, which should help keep the cost down. The GCV had an increasing weight spiral as protection requirements and systems kept changing. A crew of two probably indicates an interest in a remote turret system. Unfortunately, this might also indicate some advanced fire control system needs, which would drive cost up. I’m still impressed that Big Army compromised on something like dismount numbers out of the gate.
Overall, we have something that looks very similar to the German Puma. While it’s an expensive IFV, it has excellent protection. And, the General Accountability Office rated it as cheaper for the Army than either the notional GCV or a Namer APC with appropriate US Army electronics. And that didn’t have the desired firepower.1
Speaking of firepower, that might also strike you as something that stands out. A 50mm autocannon would pack some serious punch, both as far as HE Capacity and armor piercing capability. I would expect something like a modernized 50mm Supershot to be the gun of choice, and the US Army is testing something similar.
Going back to the Puma connection for a moment, SAIC is the prime contractor for the prototypes, and they were also the prime contractor in the GCV evaluation with a design that was a substantially reworked Puma. Perhaps the US Army is also a fan of the Puma.
What do I think, keeping in mind that this is a rough sketch? I really like the sketch. Something like the Puma as far as protection and capacity but with a proper gun would be awesome. I’d prefer it with nine dismounts. But I’d prefer a lot of things. I like that they’re starting with something which seems semi-reasonable on the face of it. I want a high standard of protection and survivability, and if I have to accept six dismounts to keep cost reasonable and avoid the total budget kill, so be it.
- I can’t really verify GAO’s work on cost estimates, because the GCV and alternatives comparison report doesn’t go through their methodology. However, their Puma cost estimates match up pretty well with the Puma’s price in the Czech IFV competition, once we account for inflation and currency conversions. In light of anything better2, I’ll stick with GAO’s estimates. ↩
- Primary sources or documented estimates, please. Ideally I’d have budget statements, but I haven’t been able to find those for the IDF or the Bundeswehr. As a side note, I have been able to find them for the US Armed Forces as well as the French Armed Forces. Thanks, Lafayette. ↩