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A variant of BAE System’s  tracked M2 Bradley, shown here, is the odds-on favorite to beat General Dynamics’ wheeled Stryker for the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle contract.

This morning, a House Armed Services subcommittee passed its markup of its part of the annual defense bill that would — among many other things — freeze some funding for the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle Program. AMPV is the service’s biggest weapons program left standing after sequestration’s budget cuts, and contractor General Dynamics had protested the competition was unfair and pledged to take its case to Congress. So the company hailed the legislative language in a public statement as soon as it was made public yesterday. But, on closer examination, while, the subcommittee threw GD a bone, it’s not one with much meat on it.

“It means nothing,” one Hill staffer said. “Only a 20 percent fence and a cupcake report for the Army to write.” The language that the HASC tactical air and land forces subcommittee passed today would allow the Army to spend 80 percent of the funding allocated for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. To get the last 20 percent, the Army just has to submit a report on the program by March 1st, 2015.

The report requirement does have two interesting wrinkles — but they mainly illustrate how limited General Dynamics’ ambitions have become. First, while the current AMPV program will replace vulnerable Vietnam-vintage M113 armored vehicles now serving with tank brigades, the subcommittee also tells the Army to study replacing M113s in other units, especially higher echelon formations more removed from frontline fighting. Second, when it comes to the Armored Brigade Combat Teams themselves, the subcommittee only asks specifically about one of the AMPV’s five missions, the “medical evacuation” variant, a kind of armored ambulance. Specifically, the subcommittee wants to see if this one mission could be performed by a wheeled vehicle.

Why do wheels matter? At one point, General Dynamics was trying to build a tracked candidate for AMPV, but that never materialized. So GD is stuck offering its eight-wheel-drive Stryker, which generally costs less to operate than tracked vehicles but can’t cross certain terrain as well, especially soft ground. A big part of General Dynamics’ protest — predictably rejected by the Army — was the argument that the mobility requirements for AMPV effectively ruled out any wheeled vehicle, which would mean an automatic win for BAE System’s tracked Bradley. (Both Strykers and Bradleys have solid combat records in Iraq).

“This language demonstrates that the subcommittee recognizes the AMPV acquisition strategy needs to be improved,” General Dynamics declared yesterday. Maybe so, but what it also declares is that General Dynamics and its backers in Congress may be giving up on ever getting the whole AMPV contract and have started focusing on splitting the buy. Under such a “mixed fleet” plan, the Army would buy tracked BAE Bradleys for the roles that require the most mobility but buy Strykers for less demanding missions, like the armored ambulance and support vehicles not assigned to combat brigades.

BAE’s statement on the matter says “the House’s language clearly dismisses the notion of a split buy.” But as I read the bill, it’s silent on the question, one way or another.

So would the Army consider a split buy? Perhaps. But it’s very unlikely to want a mix of tracked and wheeled armored vehicles within the armored brigade combat team: The mobility differences would hinder cross-country maneuver, the mechanical differences would increase maintenance demands.

That said, commanders might be content with lower-mobility vehicles serving in rear-echelon units outside the armored brigades. But given the Army’s budgetary agonies, the service is not going to start buying new vehicles for those lower-priority units any time soon.

Comments

  • Hawkstrike

    Medical evacuation isn’t the role for Stryker in an ABCT. A medical evacuation vehicle needs to be able to get to the point of injury — which means, potentially, to a disabled tank or Bradley — so tracked mobility is required. MEVs evac to an aid station or ambulance exchange point for air or further ground evac. That further ground evac can be wheeled — but is already filled by “crackerbox” HMMWV ambulances.

    A wheeled vehicle could fill the Medical Treatment Vehicle AMPV role, since those don’t need high protection or mobility, and will often locate where they are accessible to wheeled ambulances (or be in a combat trains with HEMTTs). But then, Stryker doesn’t have a Medical Treatment variant (need a tall interior for surgery), and if you’re thinking of modifying a wheeled vehicle it would probably be cheaper to modify a truck into an MTV than a Stryker.

    The other potential AMPV mission role well-suited for a wheeled platform is the Mission Command vehicles in the BCT TOC, since the BCT headquarters is a fleet of wheeled vehicles anyway (the BCT TAC and BN TOC/TAC need similar mobility to combat vehicles since they are supposed to be forward). But again, Stryker is a poor choice here, because if you go wheeled at the BCT TOC, you save far more money repurposing MRAPs into that role. Also, FT Benning will probably not be a fan of wheeled vehicles at the BCT TOC, because that means two different types of command post vehicles to train and maintain. If you go all wheeled for the MC role, you now have TAC vehicles that can’t maneuver with the maneuver force, FDCs with different mobility than the howitzers they support, and (assuming a tracked mortar vehicle) different mobility than the mortar platoon for which a MC FDC is integral.

    So there is a reasonable way to do a mixed fleet in AMPV (training and logistics aside) — but with that split Stryker is a poor solution.

    I’m a fan of Stryker, but it’s a better candidate for the non-ABCT M113 replacements, if the Army ever gets there.

  • Gary Church

    There is only one solution and not a word about it is mentioned: the modified M-1 tank chassis as a Heavy Armored Personnel Carrier like the Namer.

    This is pathetic. There is no cheap after the IED experience. There is no mobility without tracks. This is going to bite someone just like it ended Rummy and I will cheering whoever’s career it buries. No excuse for this. I am not going to stop writing my representative about it and I hope other people do also.

    • http://defense.aol.com/ Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

      I agree a heavy APC is increasingly important, especially for urban warfare, and that’s what the Ground Combat Vehicle was evolving into before it was cancelled. But either Stryker or Bradley would be a marked improvement over the M113.

      • Gary Church

        Stryker with tracks maybe. Got to have tracks Sydney. The people calling for wheels are idiots. Believe me. There is no substitute. Wheels mean you have to stay on the road and that is one reason we lost so many people to IEDs. The tracks are a huge problem for people wanting to cut costs or make a buck; they complicate everything. Which is why there is so much resistance to tracked vehicles. But…..there is no substitute. Much like a helicopter compared to a fixed wing. I have experience in all of these.

        • Wizzco

          I have to agree with you. I served in both British Armoured MBT and Recce Regiments, and the mix of Tracked and Wheeled vehicles was always a major problem. There was also a difficulty with speed, and off-road performance, so we spent Millions on new fast MBTs, but the other tracked and wheeled vehicles in the BG could not keep up with them going cross-country.

          • Gary Church

            Infantry and armor are the real military and the sheer brutal back breaking misery of these two worlds is beyond the understanding of the civilian. The infantry squad and tank crew are what win wars. Take the turret off and add a doghouse and you have a Heavy Armored Personell Carrier (HAPC). That the U.S. does not have these vehicles and a tiny country like Israel does is a lesson that needs to be understood.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpJdkoLw5B0

          • Uniform223

            Me again.

            ” the U.S. does not have these vehicles and a tiny country like Israel does is a lesson that needs to be understood. ”

            Israel has the unfortunate position that their frontline IS their borders. They have the option ( albeit unfortunate ) to have a heavily armored APC ready to go at a moments notice. Lets face it, the IDF do no have to go far to fight a battle.
            The US does not have that issue with our enemies at our door step. I don’t believe Mexico or Canada will want to attack the US ANY time soon or ever. Unlike the IDF the US military operations are global rather than local. This is where the concept of the Stryker came to mind. It was never really intended for long combat operations. Iraq of course was an evolving cluster fuck that forced the Stryker to take on a role it was never really intended. Though we work with what we got. The Stryker ( from my understanding ) was designed for quick deployable global operations to hold ground with infantry long enough for the bigger heavier Army to come along.

            A C-17 struggles just to lift 1 Abrams tank. The bigger C-5 struggles if you’re ( bold enough ) to fit two in there. Not exactly a large force that you can bring to bare quickly in a hot spot. So from a logistical stand point an APC that weighs very close to or more than an MBT for the US military isn’t really ideal in my opinion.

          • Gary Church

            That is why they load heavy armor on ships. None of it is transported by aircraft in reality so your opinion of it not being
            “ideal” in this case makes no sense at all.

          • Uniform223
        • madskills

          You got my vote on tracked vehicles but let’s not forget abut weight. These are armored units, not military police units. We always used helicopters to get the wounded, they just needed skeds. Nothing scares the enemy as much as a tracked vehicle chasing the enemy in tall brush, we can see over and they can’t.

      • PolicyWonk

        The GCV, as proposed, was estimated to hit the scales at ~80 tons: more than an M1A2.

        An improved Bradley, or tracked Stryker would be far less nasty from a logistical standpoint.

        • Gary Church

          The GCV did not need to weigh 80 tons- only the same weight as the MBT. That was the natural complement to a diesel engined Abrams on the battlefield. That this did not happen in 1980 and has still not happened in 2014 is a disgrace. Absolutely no excuse. This is a fundamental flaw in the U.S. armed forces; the funding of super expensive and nearly useless weapons while the most important weapon of all is fed to simple improvised explosive devices by the thousand. It is a scandal that the public has been completely uniformed of. The “less nasty form a logistical standpoint” is an excuse that was always meaningless considering the vast resources expended on such toys as the RAH-66 Comanche, where almost 7 billion dollars disappeared without a thing to show for it. Literally billions have gone unaccounted for in the DOD black hole yet we have soldiers riding around in unarmored wheeled vehicles. It is CRIMINAL. One day the truth is going to come out. Sadly, the people responsible will of course never be called to account.

          • madskills

            We couldn’t use M-60s in Vietnam because of weight and we still had problems with M113s(we got M113s stuck in rice patties because of the thickness of the soup). People need to realize all battlefields don’t come in one size, no matter what generals and politicians want or say. I served with the 11th ACR.

          • Gary Church

            Weight is not the problem in the desert or on most of the surface of this planet. Rice paddies, swamps, and vertical mountains are of course off limits to 60 ton vehicles but desert and flatland actually make up most of the Earth. That is the battlefield that the majority of our forces should be sized to fight. I have seen M113′ get stuck in rice paddies in Korea and have to be pulled over the berms by a recovery vehicle. But the M113 is probably the ultimate off-road recreation vehicle as you well know. There are not many places it cannot go. Once you have experience negotiating difficult terrain in one you realize wheels are completely worthless in comparison. That said a heavy machine gun can eat a 113 up. There is no substitute for heavy armor. I have seen tanks go most places a 113 could go if the mud is not too deep and the mountain not too vertical; but they are of course bigger and several times heavier. Track width can make up for this to some degree in deep snow but yes, they will sink out of sight if the mud is deep enough. I have seen them freeze to the ground also and this is very difficult to break them free from:(

          • madskills

            Gary,
            When you have armor on your side, it’s a whole different type of battle. They are spooky good.

          • Gary Church

            I was always impressed by that 7000 round machine gun belt for the co-ax in the tray along the turret wall. I mean, my God, how many people could the gunner really kill?

          • madskills

            LOL! You always want to make sure you have enough…..

      • 2IDSGT

        Why the hell are you feeding it?

        • Gary Church

          Why the hell do you care?

      • Mike

        Sydney, With all do respect, the guys making these comments supporting tracked vehicles are combat veterans… The vast majority of combat does not happen in Urban areas, but rather in the bush… You need to be able to take the fight to the enemy, no matter where he is and that generally is away from any roads….

        I will add to Gary’s comment by saying those pushing for wheels have more than likely NEVER served in combat, because, in my opinion, if they had they wouldn’t be pushing such nonsense!,,, :(

  • Horn

    Any word on why the tracked Stryker didn’t work?

    • 2IDSGT

      That’s a good question. My guess is that GD just didn’t want to front the development-cash themselves.

      • Horn

        What development cost? They already built one. It had close to 60% commonality with the wheeled version and weighed close to 35 tons. I’m curious why they aren’t pursuing that avenue.

        • 2IDSGT

          Perhaps I’m out of date; but IIRC, GD never actually tested a working prototype. I saw pictures of something they put together for display purposes, but I never saw any video of it actually working. Dunno, maybe someone else can tell us what happened.

  • Gary Mosque

    Ukraine has been giving away BMP-2s, maybe the Army can get a deal.

  • Russ

    How about not getting involved in nation building insurgencies and fight with a viscous war-winning fury the next time we need to fight. Then we can keep using the M113 indefinitely because it will not be exposed to IEDs because we killed all of the enemy. QED.

  • Gary Church

    Indian Tarmour Heavy Armored Personell Carrier. Converted MBT chassis. Israeli design influence. India is building a GCV and we are not.

    • Gary Church

      Instead of a gun and turret it mounts a seriously heavily armored doghouse. No better protection is possible for an infantry squad. We should have had one of these based on the M-1 Chassis from the start. It’s not rocket science.

  • Gary Church

    It was actually the Canadians who started using tank Chassis for APC’s. It fell out of favor because all those tank chassis were being used as…..tanks. Now that the mother of all tank battles with the warsaw pact is not in the crystal ball……..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_%28armoured_personnel_carrier%29