Army combat vehicle plan criticized

March 17, 2011 at 4:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- A leading U.S. congressman has questioned why the U.S. Army will require seven years to build a ground combat vehicle.

The question was raised by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee who pushed the Army to roll out the vehicle ahead of the set timeline.

"I think five years is more than enough time to get this done," Dicks said. He asked Army Secretary John McHugh to reconsider the current seven-year schedule.

He said the Army could speed up the vehicle's construction by pursuing "less ambitious requirements and incremental improvements."

"There are systems around the world that we could probably modify and utilize as we have in other areas," Dicks said. "I think seven years is just fraught with danger."

The Army launched the so called GCV program in April 2009 as part of a larger Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization program, formerly known as Future Combat Systems. The modernization plan opts to use mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles while upgrading those currently in use, particularly the Stryker.

Military experts anticipate the first ground combat vehicle to be used in infantry fighting, providing what they call a "highly survivable platform" for transferring infantry squads in field operations.

It is the first vehicle that will be designed from the ground up to operate in an improvised explosive device environment.

In recent months, senior U.S. Army officials have indicated their desire to trim combat vehicles in size and weight.

Defense News reported that the Government Accountability Office had warned that a seven-year development plan for the vehicle could, in fact, prove too little.

"A four-year engineering and manufacturing phase for an entirely new combat vehicle appears to be ambitious," Defense News reported citing a report by the Government Accountability Office earlier this month.

McHugh has said that the Army would do its best to complete the project as quickly as it could.

"I fully recognize that time is money and to the extent that we can speed up that timeline, we will do what we can," he said.

The Army was aiming to award contracts up to three teams in April but the decision has been moved back to May because of budget concerns.

"Under the Continuing Resolution funding levels, the Army does not have enough money to award contracts for GCV, which could cause the first production vehicle to slip," Defense News reported.

The three teams that have submitted bids are an SAIC-led team that includes Boeing, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall; a BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman-led effort; and a group led by General Dynamics Land Systems, which includes Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

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