Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle Sparks Robust Competition

 In Afghanistan, GDI, Defense, Air, Environment

SAIC-Polaris photo

The Army is trying to fast-track the acqui­si­tion of an all-ter­rain, highly trans­portable vehi­cle intend­ed to pro­vide ground mobil­i­ty capa­bil­i­ties for infantry brigade combat teams.

In February 2019 the ser­vice approved a pro­cure­ment objec­tive to pur­chase 651 infantry squad vehi­cles, or ISVs. The Army select­ed GM Defense, an Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris part­ner­ship last summer to build two pro­to­types each for the ini­tia­tive. They each were award­ed a $1 mil­lion other trans­ac­tion author­i­ty agree­ment to build the vehi­cles. OTA agree­ments enable the Defense Department to cut through some of the bureau­crat­ic red tape asso­ci­at­ed with the Pentagon’s tra­di­tion­al acqui­si­tion system by enabling them to speed up the deliv­ery of new capa­bil­i­ties.

The ser­vice is hold­ing a series of tests to inform its deci­sion and is slated to choose one vehi­cle for pro­duc­tion in fiscal year 2020 based on sol­dier feed­back.

Prototypes were due in November and were assessed at Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland, the Army said in a press release. Following the trials — which ended in December — the vehi­cles were sched­uled to be sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in January for a second round of test­ing.

The vehi­cle must be able to carry nine sol­diers and weigh no more than 5,000 pounds so it can be sling-loaded from a UH-60 Black Hawk heli­copter and fit inside a CH-47 Chinook.

GM Defense’s bid is heav­i­ly based off of its Colorado ZR2 and ZR2 Bison vari­ants — a Chevy-made, mid-sized, off-road truck, Mark Dickens, chief engi­neer at GM Defense, said in an inter­view.

Seventy per­cent of the vehi­cle is made of com­mer­cial prod­ucts, he noted.

“The chas­sis — which is the frame, the sus­pen­sion, dri­v­e­line, engine, trans­mis­sion, trans­fer case, axles, brakes — all of that hard­ware is direct­ly from the Colorado ZR2, with the addi­tion of some of our per­for­mance parts for off-road use,” Dickens said.

The contractor’s parent com­pa­ny, General Motors, builds approx­i­mate­ly 150,000 vehi­cles per year that uti­lize the same chas­sis as its ISV offer­ing, a factor that stream­lined the design process of the vehi­cle, Dickens noted.

“Anything on this chas­sis … some­body could walk into a Chevy deal­er­ship and pur­chase those parts,” he said.

The rest of the com­po­nents were either unique­ly made for the vehi­cle, or built from mod­i­fied exist­ing com­mer­cial prod­ucts.

The com­pa­ny lever­aged com­put­er analy­sis from General Motors to ensure spe­cif­ic aspects of the vehi­cle, such as rollover pro­tec­tions and off-road racing capa­bil­i­ties, were pre­cise, Dickens said.

The vehi­cle can also accom­mo­date dif­fer­ent cargo and occu­pant con­fig­u­ra­tions and is easily trans­portable via sling attached to a UH-60 Black Hawk or inside a CH-47 Chinook, accord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

Meanwhile, Polaris Defense has designed the DAGOR ISV, which “deliv­ers off-road mobil­i­ty while meet­ing the squad’s pay­load demands, all within the weight and size restric­tions that max­i­mize tac­ti­cal air trans­porta­bil­i­ty,” said Nick Francis, direc­tor of the com­pa­ny.

Polaris’ part­ner­ship with SAIC fur­ther enhances the team’s offer­ing by lever­ag­ing capa­bil­i­ties that have “been tested, cer­ti­fied and field­ed to oper­a­tional units” since 2015, he said.

The vehi­cle has an inte­grat­ed turret, is heavy-weapons capa­ble and has an oscil­lat­ing arm avail­able for addi­tion­al lethal­i­ty, he said via email.

The bid is based on Polaris’ DAGOR vehi­cle, which is a plat­form already in use by the Army. The new ISV vari­ant offers warfight­ers more mobil­i­ty and maneu­ver­abil­i­ty, said Mike Gray, a vice pres­i­dent at SAIC. The com­pa­ny is pro­vid­ing the sys­tems engi­neer­ing to inte­grate new tools to meet the service’s require­ments.

The vehi­cle also has casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion capa­bil­i­ties.

“If any squad member is injured, only a single seat needs to be stowed on the side of the DAGOR ISV for full [casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion] capa­bil­i­ty, making our solu­tion the only light tac­ti­cal vehi­cle that keeps the squad uni­fied and moves sol­diers safely from one objec­tive to the next,” he said.

Left to right: SAIC-Polaris DAGOR, Oshkosh Defense and Flyer Defense’s Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1, GM Defense ISV con­cept

By part­ner­ing with Polaris, SAIC is lever­ag­ing the com­mer­cial exper­tise and off-road vehi­cle capa­bil­i­ties of the com­pa­ny with its proven per­for­mance defense vehi­cles, Gray said.

The plat­form meets the Army’s require­ments for the tac­ti­cal envi­ron­ment, Francis said. It is under 5,000 pounds, able to carry nine sol­diers and is air-trans­portable.

Additionally, train­ing and field sup­port for the company’s ISV sub­mis­sion are avail­able through already estab­lished net­works within SAIC and Polaris that cur­rent­ly pro­vide sup­port to the mil­i­tary, Francis noted.

Oshkosh Defense and Flyer Defense designed a plat­form that is based on two Flyer-designed vehi­cles. These include the Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1, which is in use by Special Operations Command, and anoth­er ver­sion of the vehi­cle employed by the Army for ground mobil­i­ty in the inter­im of acquir­ing a new capa­bil­i­ty, Flyer Defense said in a press release.

The ISV require­ments shared 95 per­cent com­mon­al­i­ty with two of Flyer’s pre­vi­ous­ly field­ed vehi­cles, the com­pa­ny said.

Oshkosh declined to be inter­viewed, citing com­pet­i­tive rea­sons.

Though the Army has nar­rowed down the com­pe­ti­tion, the ISV solic­i­ta­tion drew heavy inter­est and sub­mis­sions from mem­bers of indus­try, said Andrew Hunter, direc­tor of the defense-indus­tri­al ini­tia­tives group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It is notable that the Army often has numer­ous bid­ders for its acqui­si­tion pro­grams despite the lim­it­ed number of sup­pli­ers in the defense indus­tri­al base writ large, Hunter said.

“There [are] not that many com­peti­tors,” he noted. “Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics — they’re the big indus­try play­ers and, in a lot of cases, they have dom­i­nant posi­tions within their key mar­kets.”

Nevertheless, the Army has been able to attract a number of bid­ders for its projects, Hunter said.

“They tend to have a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place that they par­tic­i­pate in, and in par­tic­u­lar when it comes to tac­ti­cal vehi­cles, they have had a real his­to­ry of being able to gen­er­ate a lot of com­pe­ti­tion,” he said. “Those are all really encour­ag­ing signs. It’s an indi­ca­tion that this is a really healthy part of the indus­tri­al base.”

Competitive pres­sures can yield new inno­va­tions and options that the ser­vice might not have had with a more static part of the indus­tri­al base, he said.

The Army’s plan to pro­cure the ISV to meet its ground mobil­i­ty require­ment comes fol­low­ing a sig­nif­i­cant­ly delayed effort.

The 2016 plan to hold a com­pe­ti­tion was delayed while pro­cure­ment of the ini­tial ground mobil­i­ty vehi­cle was lever­aged through an exist­ing con­tract with Special Operations Command.

The ser­vice pre­vi­ous­ly pur­chased the command’s vehi­cles for a number of air­borne infantry brigade combat teams. However, in the fiscal year 2018 defense spend­ing bill, Congress direct­ed the Army hold a com­pe­ti­tion for the pro­gram.

The pro­gram exec­u­tive office for combat sup­port and combat ser­vice sup­port posted on its web­site last year that the ser­vice planned to pursue a com­pe­ti­tion for a ground mobil­i­ty vehi­cle, now known as the infantry squad vehi­cle.

As the Army is work­ing to fast-track the acqui­si­tion of the ISV, its use of rapid pro­to­typ­ing for the design phase of the pro­gram is sig­nif­i­cant, Hunter noted.

“Rather than start­ing with a set of infi­nite­ly detailed mil­i­tary spec­i­fi­ca­tions and trying to find … [a] vendor will­ing to tackle and do the engi­neer­ing to pro­vide all that, they are going out to indus­try and saying: ‘Here are some gen­er­al require­ments that we have, show us what you can do,’” Hunter said.

If the ser­vice can find a capa­bil­i­ty that meets its require­ments, it could poten­tial­ly field it quick­ly, he added.

The same acqui­si­tion model was used for the M‑ATV pro­gram, which was a ver­sion of the mine-resis­tant ambush pro­tect­ed vehi­cles. Over the course of the five-year pro­gram, the mil­i­tary quick­ly deployed approx­i­mate­ly 12,000 MRAPs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This ISV com­pe­ti­tion really seems to have absorbed that her­itage — that prac­tice of suc­cess that the Army has used for tac­ti­cal vehi­cles and are apply­ing it to this require­ment,” he said.

Another notable aspect of the ISV com­pe­ti­tion is the par­tic­i­pa­tion of GM Defense, Hunter noted.

There has been a lack of inter­est from the com­mer­cial auto­mo­tive indus­try in the defense sector, even though it is a nat­ur­al fit for man­u­fac­tur­ing vehi­cles, he said.

“Even in recent years when the auto­mo­tive indus­try start­ed to take an inter­est in pro­duc­ing vehi­cles for the Army, it has been hard for them to break through,” Hunter added.

“The fact that GM Defense is one of the final three com­peti­tors offer­ing a ver­sion of the Chevy Colorado — that is intrigu­ing.”

Hunter believes the ser­vice could poten­tial­ly ben­e­fit from lever­ag­ing com­mer­cial supply chains.

The ISV is a “test case, or really proof of prin­ci­ple, that the Army can really rapid­ly acquire some­thing from scratch that fills a mil­i­tary need,” he said. “Beyond just this rel­a­tive­ly small require­ment here, it has the pos­si­bil­i­ty to con­di­tion the larger acqui­si­tion space.”

The mil­i­tary could also ben­e­fit from uti­liz­ing com­mer­cial com­po­nents, he noted.

If the ser­vice can prove with this com­pe­ti­tion that it can deliv­er a well-made capa­bil­i­ty quick­ly, it could enhance and poten­tial­ly fur­ther shape its future acqui­si­tion ini­tia­tives, he noted. 

Topics: Tactical Wheeled Vehicles, Land Forces

Source: NDIA

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