We’ve had some recent news on the OMFV program, with Rheinmetall being disqualified for not showing up for the Engineering & Manufacturing Design (EMD) phase, so let’s dig in.
First, let’s laugh a bit at the “competition” now with a single entrant. Even though, technically, someone else could enter a bid in 2023. If the program stays around that long. Those competitors wouldn’t get US Army funding and feedback from the EMD portion of the program, so they’d be at a significant financial disadvantage.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten our snark out of the way, let’s get serious. Yet again, we’re trying to replace the Bradley. What are the problems with the Bradley? So far, I’ve found the following three commonly cited (in no particular order):
1) Insufficient protection against current and near future threats, even with existing up-armor kits installed.
2) Insufficient power capacity for all current systems, let alone future upgrades.
3) Insufficient dismount capacity.
That said, OMFV only seems to worry about (1) and (2), since it does not require entrants to carry a full, nine-man dismount squad. And the one entrant from General Dynamics (which I believe is called Griffin IV), has capacity for the minimum required dismounts only. I think we’re still waiting on the DTIC or RAND corp. study on “Why Six Dismounts is Sufficient”, after they so kindly wrote a bit on why it’s so important for the GCV to carry nine dismounts.1
Anyway, the current requirements are tough enough. The following three are probably going to be extremely tough to meet:
- Entrants must provide excellent protection (details are sparse, but presumably superior to that of the Bradley)
- Entrants must have a 20% growth capacity
- Two (2) entrants must be transportable in a C-17
I’m not entirely sure that this is doable. BAE didn’t think so, which is why they didn’t bother to enter anything into this phase. But GDLS seems to think they can do it.
I would have liked to have seen the Puma entered into the EMD to compete with the Griffin, but since its made by a collaboration between Rheinmetall and KMW, there’s little reason for Rheinmetall to enter it when they had their (now disqualified) KF41.
Of course, Puma was a GCV alternative that the GAO looked at, and was recommended over developing the higher-risk GCV prototype vehicles, despite holding fewer dismounts. Two can fit in a C-17 in the stripped-down configuration that is used to get it into an A400m. And the protection is pretty fantastic.
Obvious problems include that it’s very expensive, I have no idea how much growth capacity is in the design right now, the turret would have to be redone to carry the US-Army preferred 50mm XM913 autocannon, it’s expensive, there’s no provision at present for a hard-kill active protection system, the coax gun is still 5.56mm, the MELLS ATGM launcher isn’t done and did I mention it’s expensive? At a minimum, competitors are required to demonstrate an upgrade path to the 50mm gun. Oh, and the US Army would have to be okay with having to transport and install the rest of the armor before they used their air-transported Pumas.
As it is, we’ll see how the program goes. I’m not going to hold my breath.