- The Washington Times
Friday, December 18, 2020

The Army is moving closer to ground combat vehicles that can function without a human operator inside.

The Pentagon on Friday released its final request for proposals for the “optionally manned fighting vehicle,” a next-generation platform that Army leaders hope will eventually replace the storied Bradley Fighting Vehicle. As the name suggests, the vehicle is expected to function with or without a human inside, making it in many ways the ground equivalent of the combat drones that have become commonplace in the U.S. military over the past two decades.

Friday’s solicitation for bids in the “concept design” phase of the vehicle sets a firm timetable for the project, Army officials said, with final proposals from defense contractors due within 120 days.

“During the concept design phase, innovative thinking from industry remains key,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat systems. “We are looking forward to receiving proposals from industry that demonstrate the realm of the possible as we continue to develop this truly transformational vehicle for our soldiers.”

Despite its ability to operate as an unmanned platform, a key characteristic will be the vehicle’s survivability and an ability to ensure that soldiers inside are kept safe. The Pentagon also will consider mobility, growth, lethality, weight, logistics, transportability, manning, and training when picking a winning design, Army officials said.

The Army hopes to field the vehicles by 2028.

“Some of the changes reflect a reduction in scope and deliverables in order to adequately match the maturity of requirements in this phase of the program,” Gen. Dean said. “We really do not want to box industry into a solution — we want them to think creatively to bring innovative technologies and solutions forward to achieve our vision for this program.” 

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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