Here’s a quick quiz to determine how much you know about technology trends in armored fighting vehicles. Which U.S. military service is developing a new tracked fighting vehicle that will set the global standard for mobility, survivability and situational awareness? Is it the Army or the Marine Corps?
Actually, that’s a trick question: neither service is. The two U.S. ground services have largely abandoned development of next-generation tracked vehicles due to budget constraints. The military service that is setting the pace for everybody else is the British Army, with its development of the Scout SV family of tracked recon, repair, recovery and command vehicles. The U.S. military has nothing like it, and probably won’t for a long time to come given what budget caps are doing to the domestic armored-vehicle tech base.
Scout SV — SV stands for Specialist Vehicle — is a fully digitized family of highly mobile, robustly protected fighting vehicles that the Brits awarded to General Dynamics in 2010. Assembled in Wales and sporting a specially-designed Lockheed Martin turret, Scout SV can legitimately be called the future of armored fighting vehicles in Europe, if not the world. It was announced this week that the flagship recon variant has successfully completed its critical design review, en route to production of nearly 600 vehicles in six variants.
This isn’t just some warmed-over modification of a legacy combat system. Scout SV will deliver best-in-class protection and survivability, best-in-class mobility, and best-in-class lethality (thanks in part to a 40 mm stabilized cannon). It will offer greatly improved reliability, maintainability and cost of ownership. And most importantly, it will set the global standard for all-weather tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — enabling it to engage distant targets quickly and precisely, while sharing vital information instantaneously with other friendly forces.
These features are enabled by the most advanced electronics architecture ever integrated into a tracked combat vehicle, including state-of-the-art sensors, agile software, and resilient data-links. Thusly equipped, Scout SV can run rings around any vehicle in the Russian Army or the militaries of other prospective adversaries. So British defense minister Philip Dunne got it right recently when he said, “This is an exciting time for the armored vehicles business in the United Kingdom.”
If only the same could be said for its American counterpart. Things may finally be bottoming out in the U.S. armored-vehicle sector after a drastic drop-off in demand. But most of the exciting stuff, like the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, is gone. What remains is mainly upgrades to existing systems. And U.S. vehicle developers seem to spend much of their time arguing with weapons testers rather than working together as a team. If this is the way things are going to be, maybe we should just buy our future fighting vehicles from the Brits.
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