According to service officials in charge of the effort, the US Army will approach industry for prototype designs for its Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle successor when it issues a final call for bids in June.
Much of what the Army is looking for in the upcoming detailed design phase for the optionally manned fighting vehicle, or OMFV, has not been made public on the United States government’s contracting website sam.gov, with documents marked as “controlled unclassified information” in previous draft RFPs.
According to Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat vehicles, these “restricted unclassified information” papers include performance parameters that will define the vehicle. He stated that the requirements contain the Army’s integrated architecture, entitled Modular Open Systems Approach, which would serve as the foundation for designs.
Industry and the Army collaborated on the open architecture, while five teams competed in the current round to develop design concepts rather than real designs. Point Blank Enterprises, Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, and American Rheinmetall Vehicles were among the five teams chosen to compete for the OMFV program.
The Army received only one actual bid sample — from GDLS — before an October 2019 deadline in its initial effort to organize a competition to replace the Bradley. Instead of proceeding, the Army canceled the competition and devised a new strategy aimed at generating vigorous competition and giving industry an opportunity to show the military what is feasible. The proposal included a five-phase endeavor.
The first phase, which is now underway, is for an initial design. Following that, there will be a complete and open competition for a thorough design phase, which will take place between fiscal years 2023 and 2024. Contracts for up to three contractors are likely to be awarded in the second quarter of FY23.
The prototyping phase will commence in FY25, and the Army is scheduled to pick one business to produce low-rate production vehicles in the fourth quarter of FY27. Full-rate manufacturing is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 30.
When completed, the RFP should provide the industry with “a decent understanding of what scope to bid to, how to begin to further alter criteria, and then where do we need to focus on the next iteration,” Dean added.
“What’s really different about the RFP is the way the scope is written,” he added. “We’re heavily focused on this use of model-based systems engineering, digital engineering. So it’s built a little more flexibly than our traditional development programs would be.”
The digital engineering utilized in the program has “never been done before in ground combat vehicles,” according to Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, who is in charge of combat vehicle modernization.
“You don’t set a requirement upfront until you have to, [that’s] never been done,” he added. “The modular, open-system architecture [we] have come up with, [it’s never been done. … We’ve had standards in the past … but this is revolutionary and transformational, and the effect it will have long term as we upgrade vehicles in the future — it’s going to save taxpayers a ton of money.”
Because of the nature of the system, some criteria must be established at the outset. Coffman, for example, argued that every product must be a vehicle. However, for other specifications, the Army allowed industry to “fill in the blank,” according to Coffman. “You tell us what your design can do.”
Coffman stated that as the Army talks with industry, it would likely release one more draft RFP before the RFP is released in June. “We’re iterating as quickly as possible on this so that we can inform the final needs and acquire a decision on the requirements and timetable from the Army’s chief of staff and the secretary.”
Dean stated that the Army may have a clear grasp of what separate requirements are viable right now, but when designers contemplate methods to integrate the service’s objectives, the issue is: “Do they stay doable?”
The Army will issue RFPs for both the detailed design and prototype phases at the same time.
“That’s principally a schedule concern,” Dean said. If we were to pause in between and compete, you’re going to lose some time. You can do some of that work in parallel.”
The technique of moving on with the prototype phase RFP avoids such halt while also assisting contractors with long-lead products. For example, if a contractor agreed on a certain engine early in the design process, the strategy would provide the team time to buy engines for prototypes while still finishing the full design, saving time at the end.
“There’s some advantages to having that separation, but given the current schedule, it’s better to put those two activities together when it’s kind of natural,” Dean said.