One of the two proposed replacements for the U.S. military’s iconic Bradley Fighting Vehicle is a gas-electric hybrid that can go into fully electric mode so it can surprise enemies silently at night.
In just a few years, the United States Army is expected to retire their iconic Bradley troop carrier. The Bradley’s replacement, the proposed GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle, is a massive, highly modifiable ground combat vehicle that grew out of years of military and defense contractor studies. There’s also a very good chance it could be a gas-electric hybrid.
Building the Army’s next-gen GVC Fighting Infantry Vehicle with a hybrid gas and electric system is a matter of saving valuable budget dollars during an era of fiscal belt-tightening (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Pentagon has a keen interest in hybrid gas-electric vehicles, solar power, and other clean energy sources. For the Defense Department, building the Army’s next-generation fighting vehicle with a hybrid gas and electric system isn’t a matter of saving the world; it’s a matter of saving valuable budget dollars during an era of fiscal belt-tightening.
The GVC Fighting Infantry Vehicle can also switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time. This would eliminate significant heat traces from the battlefield and lets the tank operate much more quietly at night (Click Image To Enlarge)
When the next generation of GCVs begin construction--the exact date depends on an elaborate political horse-trading process between Congress, the Pentagon, and defense contractors--they will include parts from a variety of vendors. One of the proposals the Pentagon is considering uses a hybrid propulsion system. BAE Systems, which is partnering with several other firms to create the proposed hybrid system, is adapting civilian hybrid power systems from buses and automobiles to the tank. BAE has worked on various other hybrid systems in the past.
BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli told Co.Exist.
“The change from switching over to hybrid GCVs is like when the Air Force purchased their first jet fighters.”
If BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department will save approximately 20% in fuel costs compared to an alternate GCV vehicle with traditional propulsion. The electric motor will also provide faster acceleration than Bradleys, and the tanks can switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time. This would eliminate significant heat traces from the battlefield and lets the tank operate much more quietly at night.
Because of the on-board electricity source, the GVC Fighting Infantry Vehicle can also be equipped with electric armor, jammers, or the experimental energy weapons that the Army is currently researching (Click Image To Enlarge)
“There are several advantages in using a hybrid propulsion system for a military vehicle over a conventional engine. A hybrid electric drive system would use up to 20% less fuel, significantly reducing fuel costs and the number of vulnerable convoys for resupply. […] There are also 40% fewer moving parts with higher reliability, requiring less maintenance and decreasing vehicle lifetime cost. Vehicle acceleration, handling and dash speed are improved even over fuel hungry turbine systems. Finally, the system’s ability to provide large amounts of electrical power accommodates the integration of future communications and weapons technology for the next 30 to 40 years.”
According to BAE, the team behind the vehicle will include several other defense contractors. Northrop Grumman, Qinetiq, MTU, Saft, L3, and Tognum are all contributing parts to the proposed project. If the military adopts the proposed hybrid vehicle--there is a competing proposal with non-hybrid propulsion, they could roll onto the battlefield in the next decade. BAE representatives claim that the first vehicle could be delivered in 2020 and fielded in 2022 if the Defense Department chooses their proposal.
BAE claims the GCVs will have a 40-year lifespan and can effectively transport troops to the battlefield while providing support fire. Once in action, the GCVs will be powered by a hybrid electric drive that generates almost 1,100 kilowatts of electricity. The hybrid electric drive also means the tank burns half as much energy while idling; this is a significant cost savings for the Pentagon, and can also let troops charge their electronics off the vehicle’s batteries.
Signorelli also stressed the GCV’s “growth and modularity”--the vehicle works as a tank once a few basic accessories are added; the vehicle can also be augmented with accessories including electric armor, jammers, and experimental energy weapons thanks to the in-vehicle electric power source. Some of these experimental energy weapons are being researched by the military for use in the medium future.
However, there has been criticism of BAE’s proposal for a hybrid fighting vehicle. All of BAE’s innovation comes at a price--the hybrid vehicle is significantly heavier than one with a conventional power system. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a critical report in March, which claims both BAE’s proposal and rival General Dynamics proposal would waste government funds. Instead, the CBO recommended purchasing a German troop carrier called the Puma (Developed for the German Army) or a similar Israeli product.
The CBO was especially worried about the size of BAE’s hybrid GCV. With armor, the finished vehicle will weigh 70 to 84 tons, AOL Defense’s Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. reports. There is speculation that the vehicle’s large size would put it at a disadvantage when used in dense urban environments abroad.
Signorelli says that there is a need for increased capacity in the next generation of military vehicles. In the meantime, despite the military’s ambivalence about moving on from the Bradley, they will face an unavoidable choice in the future. As it stands right now, there are good odds that choice might just be a hybrid--and Prius owners will get new bragging rights.
COMMENTARY: I like the idea of a hybrid armored infantry vehicle like the GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle, because of the 20% savings in fuel costs, armaments and 40-year life span, but the weight of a finished GCV, at 70 to 84 tons, is just too much when you need speed and manuverability in the battlefield.
I am a patriotic American, but the PUMA Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle is an excellent vehicle and it's in production now. What swooned me is what BreakingDefense.com reported in an article dated April 2, 2013 about what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had to say about the GCV and PUMA.
"The Army’s proposed Ground Combat Vehicle would offer less combat power, at a higher cost, than buying the German-made Puma already in production or even just upgrading the Army’s existing M2 Bradley, according to the Congressional Budget Office. CBO issued a report today assessing different alternatives to upgrade Army heavy brigades‘ infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), tank-like war machines with tracks and turrets designed to carry troops into combat."
"The non-partisan CBO, Capitol Hill’s in-house thinktank, has slammed the Ground Combat Vehicle program before, but never this hard. The office’s analysts took the Army’s own criteria and created a grading system that scored different combat vehicles for effectiveness. Using a scoring scheme that prioritized protection above all, followed by firepower, mobility, and passenger capacity, in that order, the CBO rated the Puma highest, followed by a notional upgrade to the Bradley, followed in distant third place by the GCV. (The Israeli-built Namer came in fourth). Even under an alternative grading scheme that weighted all four criteria equally — putting much more emphasis on the capacity to carry troops — the 6-passenger Puma still edged out the 9-passenger GCV, largely because of its superior firepower."
"Add in the cost and risk of developing a new vehicle, and the analysis swings even farther in favor of the Puma. Since the Germans already have the Puma in production — the vehicle entered Bundeswehr service in 2011 — there’s no untested technology to cause problems. And even after buying 25 percent more Pumas to make up for its smaller carrying capacity, the Army would spend half as much as to develop, test, and build the GCV, according to CBO’s estimate: $14.5 billion for 2,048 Pumas as opposed to $28.8 billion for 1,748 GCVs."
"[Updated: But, as one alert reader pointed out, CBO isn't counting the cost to add three more vehicle crewmen to every mechanized infantry platoon to drive the extra Pumas -- at least 900 personnel Army-wide -- nor the extra maintenance personnel to support five vehicles per platoon instead of four, nor the ripple effects of rejiggering facilities built to accommodate four vehicles to take five instead.]"
"There is room to argue with CBO’s scoring system. To start with, since the GCV does not yet exist, CBO grades the vehicle based on the Army’s 2010 “Design Concept After Trades”; the actual GCV might be better or worse. For example, CBO assumes the GCV will have only a 25 millimeter cannon, rather than the Puma’s 30 mm, but Army officials I spoke to were still hoping for the larger caliber."
"Indeed, in the CBO’s scoring overall, the Puma’s big advantage over the other candidates is its firepower. (CBO scored Puma as slightly better protected than GCV but slightly less mobile). In particular, Puma scored high for its ability to kill tanks and other armored vehicles."
"But the Army deliberately chose not to install an anti-tank missile launcher on the GCV: The US military already has far more ways to destroy enemy tanks — from the M1 Abrams’s 120 millimeter gun to the A-10′s 30 mm Gatling, from the shoulder-launched Javelin missile to the air-launched Hellfire — than there are enemy tanks left to destroy. In the post-Cold War world, the nightmare scenario isn’t a long-range battle with hordes of Soviet tanks on the plains of Germany, it’s a close-quarters slugfest with irregular fighters hiding in crowded cities, where anti-tank missiles are largely irrelevant. So the Army decided it could better spend its money on other things — although the GCV is being designed to be upgraded with a missile launcher if the Army changes its mind."
"The Puma also mounts its massive firepower in an unmanned turret, remotely controlled from inside the vehicle. The Army considered such a design for GCV but ultimately decided it needed the gunner and vehicle commander riding inside the turret, as they do in the current Bradley and M1, able to look through the gunsights directly and clear jammed weapons if the automatic systems break down. A manned turret weighs and costs more than an unmanned one."
"The Army has also insisted, over and over, that it needs the capability to carry nine foot soldiers in addition to the crew: Bradley can manage four to six — seven if they squeeze — and Puma can take six. But more passengers means a bigger vehicle, which means more cost, especially if you have to armor the whole thing to a high standard against everything from anti-tank rockets hitting the top to roadside bombs hitting from below. The Army still thinks it’s worth the price to deliver a full nine-man squad to the same place at the same time, instead of scattering teams over multiple vehicles; but at the prices CBO is quoting, just buying a larger number of Pumas to carry the same number of troops looks awfully attractive."
"One major omission: CBO did not assign a numerical score to one of the Army’s most important considerations, the alternative vehicles’ ability to power new digital radios, command-and-control computers, and other military network hardware. The report does say 'the Puma’s communications and networking capability would be less than that of the GCV or the upgraded Bradley IFV.'"
"On the other hand, there is at least one other factor CBO didn’t include in its scoring that actually would have hurt GCV more to include. The Ground Combat Vehicle, fully armored, would weigh 65 tons, says CBO. (CBO earlier estimated 64 to 70 tons). The Puma, with all its add-on armor, would weigh 47. Strategically, that lower weight, and the reduced gas consumption that comes with it, would make Puma much easier to deploy abroad and then keep supplied with fuel — crucial considerations as the Army pulls out of Afghanistan and tries to revive its capability to deploy rapidly to distant crises."
Clearly, the CBO did not think very kindly of the GCV, ranking it third behind the PUMA and upgraded version of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. For me the higher weight of the GCV, loss of battlefield speed and manuverability and higher costs are the real bugaboo.
The German-made Puma provides full protection against mines and anti-tank weapons, at a level previously unavailable to similar systems (such as the Marder it will replacing in service). To maintain high protection levels and air mobility with the future Airbus A-400M European transport, Puma will be produced in a basic "Level A" protection featuring a total gross weight of 31.45 tons. Additional armor protection called "Level C" could be applied after the vehicles are deployed at their destination area, providing increased protection against shaped charge threats, medium caliber guns and heavier mines. Further protection is applied to the vehicle's roof, protecting from top attacks by AP bomblets.
I like the German-made PUMA because of its lower cost, overall design, armor, horsepower, light-weight, manuverability and armaments. Here are some of the key Puma specifications:
- New MTU 10V 892 HPD 800 kW high power density turbo diesel engine.
- Renk HSWL 256 hydrostatic/hydrodynamic shifting, reversing and steering transmission.
- A decoupled drive assembly comprising hydro-pneumatic suspension, improving the smooth cross country traveling.
- Eliminating the need for torsion bars allows the space under the floor to be cleared for better countermine protection.
- Lightweight tracks further reduces weight.
- Unmanned fully stabilized turret, mounting an automatic 30mm Mk30-2 ABM Mauser gun firing standard AP or airburst munitions (ABM).
- MG4 5.56mm machine gun.
- The turret is also installed with a gunner's thermal sight, a commander's independent panoramic sight, 400 ready to fire rounds of ammunition and smoke dischargers.
The PUMA is clearly a nimble, fast, manuverable and well-armed armored fighting vehicle, and the GCV, when fully armored and armed will outweigh today's Abrams A-1 tank. Does this make any sense?
In several past blog posts, I warned readers about the U.S. Defense Department's history of budget cost overruns when it comes to military hardware. We are quickly approaching a Defense Department budget of $1 trillion dollars per year.