The Army is getting ready to roll out its vision of the new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), the system intended to serve the role once planned for the manned ground vehicles of the defunct Future Combat System (FCS). The GCV will exploit the technologies developed for the FCS program in order to be ready for prime time in five to seven years. According to the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, General Chiarelli, the GCV is intended primarily as a replacement for the M113 personnel carriers and the Bradley fighting vehicle.
While the official GCV specifications have not been made public, Army sources have identified a general set of characteristics. Key among them are a high degree of survivability, the ability to operate in complex environments (particularly in an urban setting) and a capability to generate internal power sufficient to support an enhanced computing/communications network and a host of advanced sensors. The original FCS concept envisioned a manned ground vehicle weighing no more than 18 tons, probably wheeled and able to be transported in a C-130. The GCV will probably weigh in at around 40 tons and could be tracked.
What the Army has revealed so far about its thinking regarding the GCV leaves this observer confused. If the Army intends the GCV to be designed with an urban combat environment in mind then it would seem to be too heavy. Moreover, wheels are generally considered better for urban environments. If the Army’s current plan is to retain the 30-40 ton MRAPs in the force, this would seem to meet the armored, urban, wheeled combat vehicle requirement. Moreover, if the GCV is a replacement for the M113s and the Bradleys, these are primarily found in the Heavy Brigade Combat Teams which are not the best suited to urban warfare.
What is particularly puzzling is the Army’s assertion that a new vehicle is needed because of the requirement to generate sufficient power to support the new network. This would make a lot more sense if the Army were able to articulate a vision for the network. There is enormous potential in the network and supporting software originally built for the FCS program. But what the Army intends to do with this capability is unclear. If the Army does not plan to go forward with the network and its software backbone then it may not need all that power generation in its vehicles. A reduced need for power generation would undercut a principle rationale for the GCV. The Army needs a better story about the network, before it finalizes its requirements for the GCV.
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