by James Hasik
Future Canadian Forces Armoured Vehicles –
Future Combat Systems – January 2010
Following the Foundering of the US Future Combat Systems Project:
James Hasik reviews US Armoured
Vehicle Modernization After FCS
Edited excerpts of a detailed analysis
prepared by James Hasik 
Editor: Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, brought
the US Army's Future Combat Systems Project to an abrupt halt when it became apparent that none of the 'Manned
Combat Vehicles' for FCS could survive the current IED threats. In the interim, wheeled armoured vehicles fill
in for the now-cancelled MCVs – MRAPs in support roles and Strykers for US heavy brigades. But
the wheeled armoured vehicles have limitations too and the US must hit the re-set button.
Some MRAPs are now lighter ( the M-ATVs or MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles ) and more nimble, but still well-protected,
vehicles are promised for the future – the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. While JLTV might be some way off,
moves are already underway to enhance JTLV's off-road performance and protection levels to the levels of the
8x8 Strykers. That will be a challenge.
In Armoured Vehicle Modernization After FCS, Part One, James Hasik
reviews the future military vehicle options now available for the US Army and US Marine Corps. Mr. Hasik has
identified ten possible directions that the US Army may take in replacing its existing vehicles, upgrading
older hulls, buying new vehicles based on existing designs, as well as commissioning
completely new armoured vehicle designs.
Here, in Part Two, Mr. Hasik examines the implications for industry of
all this vehicle activity. Jim Hasik also offers some suggestions for Canadian Forces vehicle modernization based
on DND's existing plans for upgrades and new procurement. Such recommendations spring from a detailed analysis
of the opportunities presented and hurdles now faced by the US military in its future armoured vehicle procurement
– both MRAP/M-ATV and Ground Combat Vehicles.
Failure of FCS, Ground Combat Vehicles, M-ATV, JLTV, and the Implications for Industry
At the first level, there is an overall theme to observe in the Army's emerging plans as regards their relation to
buy new vehicles from Oshkosh,
upgrade the vehicles from General Dynamics,
maintain a modest but steady strain of orders from Force Protection,
mostly replace the vehicles from BAE Systems,
mostly ignore everyone else, but dangle a big prize with the GCV.
Oshkosh is the obvious big winner here. The surge into Afghanistan puts the company that designed
and is now building the M-ATV armoured truck in line for a rough doubling of its sales of
armoured vehicles. Assuming that Oshkosh's contract to build the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTVs) survives
the protest with the Government Accountability Office, Oshkosh Corporation would appear to be the dominate the military market in the US.
With the contracts for the HEMTT, HETS, PLS, CBT, MTVR, and LMSR programs from the US Army and for the Marines
already, Oshkosh is basically the Pentagon's truck-builder of choice.
General Dynamics clearly wins with a long (and relatively safe) plan for upgrades of the well- liked
Stryker and Abrams vehicles. Renewed commitment by the US Army to the Abrams tank, however,
shouldn't quite lead shareholders in General Dynamics to rejoice with abandon. The whole requirement for heavy
tanks has dropped precipitously in most allied countries, with the armies of some smaller powers like Australia,
the Czech Republic, and Denmark opting to keep but a single battalion.
With this further drop in the number of heavy brigades, by the end of 2011 the Regular Army
will have a pure fleet of M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) tanks, with only National Guard units
retaining the old M1A1 AIM (Abrams Integrated Management) package tanks. While this will still leave the US
Army with a force of over 1,100 heavy tanks – and the Marine Corps has its own fleet of around 400 M1A1
Abrams tanks – it is considerably fewer tanks than the US military had just a
few years ago.
Force Protection retains what seemingly will be a long-term relationship with the
Army for the heaviest of its MRAPs, and as such, probably a secure position in that niche –
a multi-hundred million dollar market can be called a niche. The Marine Corps appears to have
made a similar implicit choice with Force Protection's Cougar MRAPs (enhanced with TAK-4 suspension system
from Oshkosh) as its interim wheeled transport for the infantry – at least until its
planned Marine Personnel Carriers (MPCs) arrive in the next few years.
BAE Systems has an immediate bright spot in the RG33, which is clearly the Army's preferred heavy
blast-protected vehicle. As we note below, however, there is more to this story.
Textron is the biggest question mark amongst current armoured vehicle suppliers in the US. The US Army
has purchased about 1,800 Textron M1117 Armoured Security
Vehicles (ASVs) for the Military Police, and has been
sufficiently enthused about the vehicle's role in convoy security to send several hundred ASVs to Afghanistan for
service with the infantry. What is unclear is whether an inflow of 10,000 M-ATVs – vehicles with demonstrably
better blast-pro- tection and off-road mobility – will crowd out interest in retaining the ASV over the long
The big winner of the next decade will be whoever lands the Ground Combat Vehicle contract
What is unclear today is which potential contractor holds the advantage. Since the US Army is already committed to a
developmental upgrade program for its (at least) seven brigades of wheeled Strykers, a tracked GCV
may seem more likely. If the particulars of the GCV Request for Proposals do lean toward tracks, BAE Systems
and General Dynamics may hold greatest advantage. Through the predecessor firms FMC and United Defense, BAE
Systems has long experience with tracked troop carriers in the US with the M113 and M2/M3 Bradley
More significantly, both companies have recent experience through their
European operations with the the CV90 (at Hägglunds in Sweden ) and the ASCOD ( at
GDLS-E's Santa Bárbara in Spain and Steyr in Austria). Whoever lands that GCV contract
is quite likely the big winner of the next decade.
At risk of repetition, the trouble with the tracked approach – to paraphrase Marko Ramius – is that the
flat bottoms and sides of all the tracked vehicle designs on the market don't react well to blast energy. One
option, like IMI's aforementioned Namer and earlier Achzarit programs, and Omsk
Transmash's BTR-T, is to create a tracked infantry carrier from the hull of a heavy tank. Granted,
even Abrams tanks have been destroyed by roadside bombs, and at least one was famously taken hors
de combat by a dual-warhead rocket-propelled grenade. That said, the vulnerability of vehicles
like these heavy IFVs is clearly less than that of tracked vehicles of half their weight or less. Even if
the tanks' hull bottoms and sides are flat, there is a lot of armour there to absorb the blast or weather
the super-hot extruding metal of a shaped charge.
Should the requirements call for an extremely well-protected vehicle, it is just conceivable that General Dynamics
could bid an M1 heavy infantry fighting vehicle, and assume the mantle of commonality with other Abrams in
the heavy brigades. However, all heavier vehicles
– and in particular the Abrams – are necessarily more expensive, and of limited
suitability in a counter-
insurgency. Buying into such a program could very well mean buying fewer
– possibly only as many as were needed to match every tank battalion with a battalion of tank-borne
infantry. Other than in the mortar and assault engineering roles, very heavy IFVs may prove too costly and
unsupportable as a replacement for the large number of smaller and much lighter M113s in support roles
throughout the heavy brigades and other supporting formations.
Thus, suppliers of wheeled armoured vehicles could be advantaged in the US market over the long haul if the
particulars lean towards a wheeled solution, or towards a very heavy tracked solution. The first logical
winner would be General Dynamics, which would find an opening for pitching many more
Strykers (or "Super Strykers"?) to make up the gap in motorization of the mechanized infantry. The
second relative winner would be BAE Systems, the US Army's apparently preferred provider of
MRAP transporters, which could very well take up all utility roles from the old M113s. The third could
be Oshkosh, which would probably subsequently sell a good many TAK-4 suspension kits to improve
the off-road mobility of those MRAPs.
One dark horse candidate worth mentioning for GCV is the Puma from the PSM consortium of Krauss-Maffei
Wegmann and Rheinmetall. At 43 tons, Puma has enough steel underneath to withstand fairly impressive
mine blasts. The Puma features a remote turret armed with a 30mm cannon with an option for air-bursting
rounds that can bracket soft targets with shrapnel from both sides, as well as integrated antitank missiles [Eurospike
Spike using the MELLS system].
At 43 tons, the Puma has a big footprint, but the level of protection afforded in a military-off- the-shelf
package is impressive. Separately, General Dynamics' ASCOD (Pizarro in Spain and
Uhlan in Austria ) are considered impress- ive options, and BAE Systems Hägglunds are almost a
European standard, with fleets in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. All
of this could lead one to question why the US Army needs yet
another developmental program to meet broadly the same requirement, so soon
after its last one went so poorly.
< Part 1 – Emerging US Army Armoured
Vehicle Modernization Plans After the FCS
 James Hasik is a founder and principal of
Hasik Analytic LLC. He is also a member of
the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs. Jim
Hasik can be reached at +1-512-299-1269.