THE U.S. ARMY’S GROUND COMBAT VEHICLE PROGRAM AND ALTERNATIVES
02 Apr 13. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office issued a report on the Ground Combat Vehicle Program and alternatives. The U.S. Army is planning to develop and purchase a new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) that will serve the dual purposes of operating as a combat vehicle and transporting soldiers to, from, and around the battlefield. The GCV is intended to replace the current fleet of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), which operate with the service’s armored combat brigades. CBO estimates that implementing the GCV program on the most recent schedule would cost $29 billion (in 2013 dollars) over the 2014–2030 period.
This report compares the Army’s plan for the GCV with four other options the service could pursue instead. Although none of those alternatives would meet all of the Army’s goals for the GCV program, all are likely to be less costly and less risky (in terms of unanticipated cost increases and schedule delays) than CBO anticipates will be the case under the Army’s plan. Some of the options also would offer advantages relative to the GCV in meeting the Army’s mission.
What Are the Program’s Objectives?
The search for a new GCV has forced the Army to find a balance among several objectives. While staying within prescribed costs per vehicle, the service hopes to field a fleet that will offer improvements over the current Bradley IFVs in several areas:
Protection against threats coming from all directions and ability to operate after an attack,
Effectiveness as a weapon against enemy forces,
Mobility on- and off-road, and
Capacity for a full nine-member infantry squad along with a vehicle crew of three.
Seating capacity for nine passengers is among the Army’s highest priorities for the vehicle. If a squad is dispersed among several vehicles, as is the practice for units equipped with the current Bradley IFV (which accommodates only seven soldiers), it can be difficult for leaders to organize and direct the soldiers immediately after they exit the vehicle, especially if the forces are under fire.
What Are the Program’s Challenges?
The trade-off for providing better protection and the ability to accommodate more passengers typically is a larger and heavier vehicle. Other objectives for the vehicle, such as reduced cost and better maneuverability in urban settings, are more easily met with smaller and lighter vehicles. Although the Army’s program allows contractors some flexibility in meeting various goals, initial designs indicate that the GCV is likely to be much larger and heavier than the current Bradley IFV.
Whether the GCV that results from the design process will be well suited to a range of potential future operations is not known. The vehicle as envisioned should provide improved protection against mines and improvised explosive devices—the most prevalent threat in operations such as those recently undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, several Army officials have said that vehicles that are as large and as heavy as the GCV is likely to be are not well suited to operate in situations that were common in Iraq and Afghanistan and that are likely to be faced in the future.
What Alternatives Did CBO Analyze?
CBO analyzed four alternatives to the GCV program. For comparison with those alternatives, the agency used the characteristics of the Army’s notional model (known as the GCV Design Concept After Trades vehicle).
Option 1: Purchase the Namer APC
If the Army replaced its current IFV with the Israeli Namer armored personnel carrier (APC), soldiers and vehicles would probably survive combat at slightly higher rates than would be the case for the GCV. Moreover, the Namer, like the GCV, could carry a nine-member squad, although it would be less lethal (that is, have less capability to destroy enemy forces) and less mobile than the GCV. The Namer probably would be produced, at least in part, in