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12 Oct 17. US Army plans light vehicle RFP in 2018 as industry offerings line up. As the U.S. Army plans a competition in 2018 to buy a light ground mobility vehicle that would speed infantry troops off-road across future battlefields, companies showed their wares this week.
Potential competitors — the General Dynamics’ Flyer 72, Polaris Defense’s Dagor and AM General’s Humvee, altered to carry a nine-man squad — appeared at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, or GD-OTS, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is in final negotiations with the Army and poised to deliver the first of 300 vehicles for five airborne infantry brigade combat teams. The Army preempted the competition with a directed requirement from its equipping directorate to use the Flyer 72, already on contract with U.S. Special Operations Command, for its GMV 1.1 program.
The other main contender, Polaris Defense, of Medina, Minnesota, recently began a partnership with Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, of Reston, Virginia, on the Dagor. The partnership was borne of some wariness the Army may steer away from an acquisition strategy that might have advantaged a commercial off-the-shelf vehicle.
“At its core, it’s partnering to mutually pursue the GMV competition,” said Polaris Defense Business Development Director Mark McCormick. “We are awaiting RFP, to really see how closely they will stay to a very traditional Detroit-type procurement, with a lot of additional requirements beyond performance criteria.”
“We obviously bring a very flat, high-energy commercial business model, and SAIC brings a long history of how to provide the capabilities and intricacies that go with a traditional defense contract with a lot of specifics that sometimes that community demands,” he said. “We’re not structured for it.”
AM General, of South Bend, Indiana, is finding ways to cut the weight of its ubiquitous Humvee in preparation to compete. At AUSA, it displayed a 6,300-pound Humvee variant that could carry a nine-man squad — meeting one very likely requirement for the Army vehicle.
Army Joint Light Tactical Vehicles Program Manager Col. Shane Fullmer told reporters there will be a full and open competition, with a request for proposals, “some time next year.” Though requirements are not set, he said, the Army wants a vehicle that can be sling-loaded under a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flying “high-hot,” adding that cost would be a factor.
The intent is to find the best value for the requirements, and the incumbent, GD-OTS, does not necessarily have a competitive advantage, Fullmer said. “In combination with cost, I think it will make for a very aggressive competition. If you look out on the [AUSA expo] floor, there’s lots of people in that market space,” he said.
Some lawmakers have even pressed for a full and open competition. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose home state of Minnesota is that of Polaris, proposed in recent months a failed amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill to direct the Army to hold a competition for a “commercially available off-the-shelf Ground Mobility Vehicle” in 2018.
Since Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, then the chief of Army futures and now the White House national security adviser, introduced the idea of fast-tracking a family of light, fast and lethal vehicles in 2014, plans for a formal competition —then for the ultralight combat vehicle, now the GMV — have since lagged amid budget instability and leadership changes.
The idea then as it is now is for airborne infantry brigade combat teams to use the vehicles to speed from drop zones to objectives while maintaining initiative against a future foe. The Army has since tried and bought various vehicles in limited