A New Generation of Force Protection

From Armor & Mobility, October 2019 Issue

The Army has big plans for its Next Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV, in support of force modernization within a Multi-Domain Operations combat construct.

By COL Warren Sponsler, Chief of Staff, NGCV-CFT

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle, Cross-Functional Team (NGCV-CFT) portfolio includes several systems supporting modernization of the ground maneuver force including the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV), Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), and the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF). These platforms will support effective combined arms maneuver in the Army’s forward combat formations within the construct of the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept.

Development of requirements for systems in the NGCV portfolio starts with an assessment of our adversaries’ capabilities and vulnerabilities as a collaborative process, combining the perspectives of the NGCV-CFT, the traditional requirements community, acquisition program managers, science and technology subject matter experts, and our industry partners. The goal is to develop realistic, achievable requirements that bridge capability gaps and maintain our units’ overmatch against the adversaries of tomorrow. Our combat formations today are equipped with some of the best equipment in the world, and we are laser-focused on developing requirements that will ensure the success of future formations against future adversaries.

To remain stable in the future, all our requirements have been developed to fully support the Army’s Modernization Strategy under the personal guidance of our Army Senior Leaders. Additionally, the Army is empowered through section 804 Mid-Tier Acquisition (MTA) authorities to develop prototypes, mature technologies, and refine requirements on a much faster pace, significantly reducing the overall time to begin material development efforts. Dedicated Soldier experimentation exercises with fully-functioning prototypes allow the Army to get equipment into operational units for testing and maneuvers, thereby providing the opportunity for immediate feedback on what works and what doesn’t. The operational Soldier, the eventual user of these systems, remains central to the process to make certain that we are acquiring the right equipment with the right capabilities.

Tailoring Capability to Meet Requirement

The OMFV will undoubtedly be the best system in the world of its class. The MDO concept in combination with an assessment of the threat remains the base from which we define system requirements from the start. The OMFV will integrate new mature technologies providing advanced capabilities to further enable battlefield effectiveness. For example, the ability for the system to be operated either with a manned crew or without, as the tactical situation develops, will provide commanders with options they did not previously have, thereby supporting maneuver in the highly lethal and complex future operating environment. Commanders will be able to use this capability to reduce risk, expand operating space, and enable faster decision making to mitigate some of the challenges of the future multi-domain battlefield. Further, the OMFV is being optimized to operate in multiple combat environments with the necessary lethality and survivability characteristics. It will be capable of quickly transitioning from open combat against near-peer adversaries to fighting in the tight confines of city streets.

The NGCV-CFT is continuing a campaign of learning through an experimental prototyping and demonstration effort to enable a better understanding of how the OMFV, RCV, and other platforms with these advanced capabilities will fit into the MDO-capable force. These prototyping and demonstration efforts will also inform how the Army will adjust its doctrine, organization, training, sustainment, manpower, and other structures to better support our Nation’s warfighters. Ultimately, the OMFV must be able to effectively maneuver Soldiers on the battlefield, bringing decisive lethality and unmatched survivability, no matter the environment, to achieve operational objectives against our adversaries. We are confident that the requirements and the ability of our partners in government and industry to develop the OMFV platform will achieve these goals.

Overcoming SWaP HURDLES

Development of a combat vehicle to achieve capabilities in size, weight, and performance (SWaP) is a challenging proposition, especially as it relates to protection and mobility. The characteristics of lethality, protection, survivability, mobility, and capacity, often work against each other when developing system requirements, forcing developers to make hard tradeoffs. Working with our partners both in government and industry, the team has sought to develop realistic system parameters based on feasible solutions, specifically with respect to the weight and performance challenge.

We are confident that the survivability of the OMFV will be much better than the Bradley, while still meeting critical mobility and transportability requirements. Additionally, the U.S. Army has demonstrated over the past several decades that once it commits to a combat platform, that platform will be in our units for a long time and must have the capacity to grow as technology develops and new opportunities to increase capability arise. For this reason, the OMFV and other future platforms will retain margin for growth in size, weight, power, architecture, and computing capability as a base design principle.

Targeting Systems Integration

Each platform within the NGCV-CFT portfolio has its own set of requirements and desired capabilities depending on the system’s role on the battlefield within MDO. Future growth has been a foundational consideration of all of our requirements development and designs, acknowledging that the mature technologies today will likely be insufficient for the battlefield of tomorrow. Technological advances are happening at an ever-increasing pace. If our forces are to outmatch our adversaries, the room to grow with technological advances becomes more and more important. The systems we are developing for the future must retain the characteristics that make our combat platforms today the most lethal in the world, and decisive lethality remains a central principle in the design of systems that will be on the forefront of the battlefield. Additionally, any system being developed today must be able to fight and win on the future battlefield that continues to incorporate more diverse and lethal threats in all domains – air, electronic warfare, and cyber – among others. Lastly, future systems must reduce logistic and sustainment burdens, taking advantage of new efficiencies in vehicle power, prognostic logistics, and intelligent sustainment, to increase operational reach and enable flexibility for commanders.

Looking Ahead

The goal of the NGCV program is to get the best equipment to our ground combat formations as quickly as possible, all with the requirement that we retain overmatch against our adversaries on tomorrow’s battlefield. While some of the systems are evolutionary in nature, others will provide tomorrow’s commanders with capabilities that will fundamentally change how our units fight. The addition of the RCV – built from the ground up, to increase lethality of the unit, expand the battlefield geometry and enable decision space for commanders while reducing risk to Soldiers – will make our Army even more capable and effective than it is today. As technology for advanced weapon systems, autonomous ground mobility, target recognition and detection, and AI-enabled decision making matures, the NGCV-CFT will incorporate these capabilities onto future platforms to continue to outpace our adversaries.

Keeping up with technological advancements will continue to be a challenge for large-scale modernization programs like those systems within the NGCV-CFT portfolio. Prioritizing growth characteristics is a good start, however, we must also continue to improve how the U.S. Army modernizes to enable our ability to find the best technology and integrate it as quickly as possible to retain our edge on the future battlefield. How the U.S. Army modernizes combat systems in the current environment necessitates a cultural adjustment in how our requirements, research and development, and acquisition processes work and ensuring that stable and predictable resources are available to enable a faster turn on upgrades into our existing systems. Our adversaries will continue to evolve both before and during conflict – we must have the flexibility in our processes to do so as well.

The NGCV-CFT is absolutely committed to modernizing the U.S. Army’s ground combat vehicles and adding new capabilities that our Soldiers require to fight and win on tomorrow’s battlefield. The systems currently being developed in the NGCV-CFT portfolio will ensure that our mounted ground forces will be the best in the world, no matter the environment and against any adversary.