U.S. ARMY VEHICLES – POST FCS
By Scott R. Gourley
With the projected imminent (approximately 12 February 2010) release of the final request for proposals for the Technology Development phase of the U.S. Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) variant, most eyes are focusing on the Army’s aggressive plans of moving into “up to three” contract awards in 2010 with the longer range goal of producing the first low rate initial production IFV prototype platforms seven years from contract award.
However, even if that aggressive program schedule is able to successfully cross the expected technical and budgetary hurdles, it will still require the Army to continue modernizing other key elements within its existing armored formations in order to optimize their lethality, mobility, power management and system survivability for decades to come.
The Abrams main battle tank continues to play a critical role in US armored vehicle strategies.
Supporting examples of this face can be found in recent programs, like the Tank Urban Survivability Kits (TUSK), which is designed to enhance system performance in ongoing operational scenarios.
In late August 2006, General Dynamics Land Systems announced receipt of a $45 million to produce and install 505 (TUSK) for Abrams main battle tanks supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Continued deployment and world operations have emphasized the priority to update existing tanks with increased capability,” it noted. “To this end, General Dynamics, in partnership with the Army’s project manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Team, created the Abrams TUSK. An add-on kit for M1A1 and M1A2-series tanks to enhance crew survivability in urban environments, TUSK consists of a Loader’s Armor Gun Shield (LAGS), a Tank Infantry Phone (TIP), Abrams Reactive Armor Tiles (ARAT), a Remote Thermal Sight (RTS) and a Power Distribution Box (PDB).”
More recent service recognition of the continuing criticality of Abrams is clearly evident in the recent [2 December 2009] “Market Survey Questionnaire for the Abrams Tank Fleet Modernization Program” released by the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS).
Within PEO GCS, the Program Management Office Heavy Brigade Combat Team (PM HBCT) announced that it was conducting a Request for Information (RFI) Market Survey “to collect written information from industry to help determine current market capability to design, develop, and integrate technologies to upgrade and modernize the Abrams tank. The Abrams tank is anticipated to remain in the military system to the year 2050. The modernization program seeks to continue the evolutionary development of the vehicle.”
Noting, “The modernized Abrams configuration will provide a system that will provide overmatch for many years,” the RFI described the modernized future system as “a full-tracked, low profile, land combat assault weapon system in the 69.5 to 73.1 ton weight class. This vehicle will possess a significant increase in survivability, shoot-on-the-move fire power, joint interoperability (for the exchange of tactical and support information) and a high degree of maneuverability and tactical agility. The crew will have the capability to engage the full spectrum of enemy ground targets with a variety of accurate point and area fire weapons in urban and open terrain, as well as, defend against helicopter threats.”
In addressing system lethality, for example, the notice stated, “The Abrams tank will maintain lethal over-match against current and potential future adversaries through rapid, precision engagements in adverse and hostile conditions. To maintain this overmatch capability the modernized tank will include improvements to the fire control system, primary and secondary weapon accuracy, situational awareness, and ammunition. Additional capabilities will include improved combat identification, aided target recognition, laser designation, auto-target trackin