What to know about the Army’s quest for a new Bradley


On July 1, the U.S. Army announced it was opening competition to design a replacement for its venerable Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. The Bradley is a small troop transport disguised as a tank, and it’s built for combat. Replacing the Bradley with a new vehicle means repeating what has worked, while embracing new technologies and tools to fight battles deep into the 21st century.

To find its new Bradley, the Army is looking for an Optionally Piloted Fighting Vehicle (OMFV). The RFP states that the new vehicle (like the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle it replaces) will be “task to maneuver through the enemy’s security area as part of a combined arms team for the purpose of to create an advantageous position, relative to the enemy, and provide protection and direct lethality by fire while being manned or remotely controlled.

In other words, the OMFV will drive through breaks in enemy positions, move alongside other vehicles and soldiers, and then attack the enemy where their defenses are weak. What’s new about the OMFV, compared to the Bradley and all the other large ground vehicles the military has deployed before, is that it will have the capability to fight off this type of attack while being remotely controlled.

“In close combat,” the request continues, “the OMFV enables dismounted elements to maneuver by detecting and destroying targets at a distance beyond the capabilities of the enemy.” By “dismounted elements”, the RFP means “infantry”, or soldiers fighting on foot.

To understand what the OMFV will do differently, it helps to understand the vehicle it is meant to replace.

The Bradley

The existing Bradley is not a tank, although it is easy to mistake it for one at first sight. With sloped armor, tracks and a turret with a big gun, the Bradley certainly looks like a tank, although its 25mm gun is much smaller than the 120mm gun carried by an Abrams tank. The Bradley is also nearly two feet longer than an Abrams, a concession to the 6 or 7 passengers it must hold inside.

The design of the Bradley dates back to the mid-Cold War, when the military sought to move beyond the armored personnel carrier that carried soldiers into battle. As expected, the Bradley was both a form of transport and a threat in its own right, with its main gun and anti-tank missiles enabling the vehicle to take out enemy vehicles and support dismounted soldiers in combat. Although the Bradley was never used in the massive European ground battles against the USSR, as its Cold War designers had intended, it still saw three decades of combat. The Bradley has been a mainstay of American interventions from the Gulf War to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Failed overrides

The Army has already made two attempts to develop a replacement for the Bradley, while continuing to upgrade and maintain existing vehicles. These two programs were known as the Future Combat System, canceled in 2009, and the Ground Combat Vehicle, canceled in 2014. The Future Combat System was designed to be a family of lethal, lightweight vehicles that could use advanced sensors to see enemies first, then move out of the way of return fire, allowing for lighter armor and faster speeds. It was canceled for cost overrun before production had even started.

The Ground Combat Vehicle program was also canceled for attempting to have one vehicle handle too many roles at once, while incorporating technology that was not yet ready for the field. As the Congressional Research Service notes, the ground combat vehicle “relyed on too much immature technology, had too many performance requirements, and was held by Army leaders to be too capable to make it affordable”.

The optional manned combat vehicle

Army hopes the Bradley’s third time replacement will be the one that sticks. The OMFV program started off in turmoil in 2019. The first attempt failed in January 2020 after one contractor designing a prototype pulled out and another failed to deliver a working prototype, and the Army did not want to be stuck with only the third design remaining. by default. The Army launched the latest iteration of the OMFV program in February 2020, and the latest proposal opens up this existing program to more companies, with the goal of bringing in new teams and new ideas.

While previous Bradley replacement attempts have failed because the vehicle itself was built around too much undeveloped technology, the OMFV is designed for modularity, allowing it to integrate new technology as it comes along. as it is put into service. It is also designed to operate in a sensor-rich environment, with the proposal stating that the vehicle will “rapidly generate, receive and transmit information to disassembled items, other vehicles and command nodes”, like the TITAN.

This information sharing will help vehicle commanders find suitable targets for their weapons, with the OMFV “providing target acquisition data, shared situational awareness, and the lethal effects needed to protect” and guide soldiers. walk. Piloted remotely, the OMFV could provide covering fire after moving into position, with its crew, on the battlefield on foot, taking cover out of enemy line of sight.


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