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The Next Army Procurement Disaster Pt 2

March 15, 2010

Two CV90/30 of the Swiss Army, sporting 30mm gun, Auxiliary armament 7.5 mm MG, Smoke grenade launcher 7.6cm, Crew 3. Author Kecko via Flickr

Why, Oh Why

We are still discussing the new Army plans for a ground combat vehicle (GCV), following analysis by Andrew Oh-Willeke, the Washington Park Prophet. Earlier we posted on this potential disaster in the making that sounds so much like numerous other Pentagon pork projects, which try to do too much on a single platform, inevitably heading for costs overruns, delays in entering service, and countless mechanical defects when they finally do reach the troops.

Andrew also posted on specific “swiss army knife” weapons that promise much but  produce little, other than monolithic cost. Instead he offers a less ambitious approach, and I’ve posted a few of my own further down:

Why not use four vehicles per squadron of infantry deployed instead of one? Three vehicles could carry three soldiers as passengers each. One could carry the heavy offensive weapon that the DOD wants, which wouldn’t be restricted to a canon.

It doesn’t necessarily make sense to have a light version of a heavy offensive weapon vehicle at all; situations that require heavy firepower rarely call for light armor. It has been forty years since the U.S. military has made use of a medium weight tank that is not expected to carry an infantry squadron, and perhaps the time has come to add that kind of vehicle to our arsenal.

Rather than insisting that every vehicle have off-road capability, the Army should consider buying a small number of slower, off-road capable tracked vehicles, and a large number of faster, more fuel efficient wheeled vehicles, not necessarily with shared designs.

Perhaps the modular armor feature doesn’t even make sense. The Army is simultaneously commissioning a more lightly armored, mined resistant vehicle to replace interim solutions like the armored Humvee and the MRAP. Perhaps the Army should simply stick to the less ambitious project a creating a vehicle that is always heavily armored, rather than a modular design. The integrated non-lethal weapons capability could be made a version of the already in the works lighter vehicle proposal.

Yes, that means more (perhaps four) smaller, less versatile programs: a thirty-five ton or less three soldier carrying heavy infantry fighting vehicle with off road capability with heavy armor; a thirty five ton or less three soldier carrying heavy infantry fighting urban vehicle with heavy armor; a thirty five ton or less medium tracked tank; a thirty five ton or less medium wheeled tank.

So, instead of multipurpose programs which last a decade or more and that historically have ended in disaster, how about single purpose weapons, that inevitably end up doing more jobs than was originally expected! Personally, I see much potential in off the shelf vehicles.


The Stryker

I know regular readers saw this coming but bear with me. After the lessons of the recent Iraq Surge, and the ongoing Afghan conflict, the Interim Combat Vehicle is getting a makeover. Here is Kate Brannen at Defense News on a “double-hull” version:

After several Strykers were damaged in Afghanistan, vehicle maker General Dynamics proposed a plan in January that would allow the company to introduce the new hull design before the next Stryker brigade deployed in July 2011.

For producing a brigade combat team’s worth of Stryker vehicles with the double V hull, including support vehicles, the Army estimates it will cost $800 million, according to the memo. The Army anticipates purchasing approximately 450 vehicles to support Afghanistan theater needs. This represents a change to vehicles already on order [according to a March 2 memo sent to Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter.]…

A double V hull test in October 2009 successfully tested survivability equivalent to the MRAP 2 variant, which is about twice that of the original MRAPs, said an industry source. The double V allows improved protection without raising the height of the Stryker, while a single V configuration would raise the vehicle height significantly, said the source.

The V shape hull has been a proven anti-IED deterrent, fashioned by South Africa in its wars against Marxist forces in Africa. It would be significant improvement to the well liked but obviously dated Stryker design that has been around since early the last decade. It would keep an easy to manufacture, off the shelf platform in production for quite a while, dramatically easing the Army’s procurement process. But if its tracks you want, you will have to look elsewhere.


The CV90

New Wars has written on this Swedish designed light tank, and infantry vehicle previously, where we reported that Canada Wishes for CV90 Vehicles (it being one of our Top Posts of all time!). Dare we suggest this fine Swedish product, now being used by the Danes in the Helmand Province, for American service? Here are some background details on the CV90 from Army-Technology:

The development of the CV90 began in 1984 in response to the requirements outlined by the Swedish Army for a family of armoured combat vehicles with high tactical and strategic mobility, air defence and anti-tank capability, high survivability and protection. Production began in 1993 and over 1,170 vehicles have been ordered. The 1,000th vehicle was delivered in January 2009. The CV90 is in service with the armies of Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The 23 ton tracked vehicle, along with about 10 crew plus troops comes equipped with a 40mm or 30mm Bushmaster cannon. Along with all the infantry variants, there is a light tank version with a 120mm high-pressure smoothbore gun, AA versions, command vehicles, recovery vehicles, ect, all you would expect from a family of APCs, without the frills, and no decade’s-long procurement headaches involved. Andrew further proposes:

Rather than insisting that every vehicle have off-road capability, the Army should consider buying a small number of slower, off-road capable tracked vehicles, and a large number of faster, more fuel efficient wheeled vehicles, not necessarily with shared designs.


So a team of Strykers, CV90s, and some upgraded M-1 tanks, the latter for the “just in case” scenarios should suffice the Army, without busting the defense budget on unnecessary technology that won’t work any better than what is already in production, but certainly will cost more. The past lessons from FCS, and the current problems of the do-it-all-nothing well Joint Strike Fighter should be clear proof for the Pentagon on the road it shouldn’t take in a new weapon.

We would suggest then, the Army flee as fast as it can from this boondoggle in the making, for a 50-70 ton GCV, logistical technical, and procurement nightmare. You don’t have to be an Old Testament Prophet to see where these plans are headed, just a Washington Park Prophet will do, as we’ve seen!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. William permalink
    March 17, 2010 7:20 am

    The General Dynamics ASCOD2 proposed for the UK FRES tracked Rece requirement will be 34 – 40 tons in its maximum configuration.

    Leaks are suggesting that this will be selected instead of the CV90 for the Rece role.

  2. B.Smitty permalink
    March 17, 2010 7:05 am


    The Puma is also 43 tonnes, up-armored, and only has room for 6 dismounts even with a remote turret. So it is the exception rather than the rule with regards to IFV protection.

  3. Hudson permalink
    March 16, 2010 11:58 pm


    Out of curiosity, I looked up this wunderful German Puma in Wiki, which devotes quite a paragraph to vehicle protection, containing this impressive sentence: “The whole vehicle is protected against heavy blast mines (up to 10kg) and projectile charges from below while still retaining 450mm ground clearance. ” If that includes the tread, then hat’s off to German engineering!

    Somehow, though, I doubt it. I’m guessing that a charge sufficient to blow two wheels off a Stryker would pop one of those wunder treads. With six wheels remaining, the Stryker could leave the scene. Whereas the Puma…

    The Israeli Namer (leopard) weighs 60 tons and is based on the Merkava hull, and is also a tracked vehicle. You could say it’s about the last word in IFV design, because you can’t add much more weight to a fighting vehicle. It has both the advantages and vulnerabilities of tracks, which overall I think are superior to monster tires.

    But please, namers, stop calling these metal behemoths swift cats! How about T-Rex or something like that?

  4. March 16, 2010 5:43 pm


    the vulnerability of tracked vehicles to ied’s has been overblown. the new German Puma has been shown to have the same level of protection as an MRAP….as has the EFV. the future is tracks not wheels.

  5. B.Smitty permalink
    March 16, 2010 11:40 am


    You could use an a M230LF 30mm cannon on a similarly-sized RWS. The higher MV would make it easier to hit moving targets and targets at greater distances. There was a program to develop an airburst round M230, but I don’t know where it stands. Clearly penetration of the 30x113mm HEDP isn’t comparable to 25mm APFSDS, but there have been reports of 30mm rounds penetrating the rear of a T-72 turret.

    An RWS with a 30x113mm cannon and MG might provide 80% of the capability of a larger manned turret, with far less weight and interior space used.

  6. Heretic permalink
    March 16, 2010 11:37 am

    Israel also fights in places with lots of roads and infrastructure. Not quite the same in *-stan …

  7. Hudson permalink
    March 16, 2010 11:22 am

    As long as IEDs are the main enemy of armor, there is not much point in over-developing tracked vehicles–the hull is too close to the road surface. Great for pulling wheelies from the mud, but… Remember ‘sticky bombs’ from “Saving Private Ryan?” It requires little force to break a tread.

    Why build a new tank when thousands of M1A1s sit in tank parks slowly being crushed by gravity? Wm. Langewiesche wrote movingly about this in The Atlantic. You could say that because this is happening we should improve on the wheel and build a new monster that, in turn, will crush itself to death. I say wait and see how the model changes.

    The nifty CV-90 is designed to hide and shoot in northern forests. It would fare little better than the Bradley or UK Warrior in Afghanistan. According to the Taliban, a $3.50 IED can cripple a Bradley IFV costing a million times more. Thus technology, the great force multiplier since the Spaniards marched through Mexico, has, in this instance, become a negative force multiplier at one to a million!

    It’s not all fun and games for the Talibs. According the Gen. David Petraeus, in a recent interview, the Taliban are causing many more civilian casualties than Coalition forces. We just don’t hear about them in our media. But the locals know who takes a walk and doesn’t come back.

    The Israeli model of heavy tanks traveling with heavy APCs, as mentioned by Jed, plus infantry on foot, and heavy air support is a good one. It worked in Gaza. However, the Israelis are not as squeamish as NATO & Co. about causing civilian casualties. They still maintain a positive force multiplier despite the negative political consequences.

  8. Jed permalink
    March 16, 2010 10:21 am

    Solomon I am with you on loosing the turret. It is quite disappointing that the very conservative British Army has stayed with a manned turret for the Warrior upgrade.

    Note that when the Israeli’s build a very big, quite heavy and very well protected “super-APC” like the Namer, they equip it with Remote Weapons Stations with machine guns.

    Loosing the turret turns a AIFV back into a simple APC – or does it ? What if your RWS has a 40mm grenade launcher with air-bursting grenades, capable of accurate fire on the move ? Also it does not mean that you could not have x amount of turreted “fire support’ vehicles per company or battalion.

    oh and ‘x’ old chap, do I detect some ancient English animosity against the frogs ? The 40mm Case Telescoped Ammunition gun is not French – it is a full Anglo-French development, and although only time will tell, it looks like a good design.

  9. March 15, 2010 9:43 pm

    Let Xbradt fight his recon Bradley…

    Dump the 30mm gun and give the grunts an additional dismount or two that will be lost with that turret.

    Remember, just like a carrier has planes that does its fighting, in a track its the grunts that are carried that fight …once you get the vehicles into the fire support role, you’re going to lose your ride.

    Why doesn’t anyone like the idea of losing the turret from what we have. The Bradley could carry 12 men if it didn’t lose all the space required for that 2 man turret!

  10. Norman permalink
    March 15, 2010 9:42 pm

    The Cv90 has a underbelly kit thatgives it a wery good anti mine protection. Its on the swedish cv90 in afghanistan now. The model is called CV90C for Ceasar. Its got plenty of add on armour on the body to. The Highest protected version in the swedish army. Its a big differance of the basic swedish model A then the model C, then the export wagons is i think better protected.

    You have recovery, dubbel mortar amos system, backloaded 12cm mortar x2, i think atleast 9 different types. Extremly agile and a beast in deep snow. Danish meks has the rekord of changing engine and transmission in 17 minutes. Flip and you have disconnected the engine then its to lift it out and in with another. Its made for conscrip mekaniks to fix it, no nead for specialist and full workshop. Easy to fix.

  11. March 15, 2010 5:44 pm

    “Oh and how can anyone call the Bradley too heavy? 33 tons versus the revamped Stryker at 30 tons?????”

    I like LAVs not Strykers!!! :)

  12. xbradtc permalink
    March 15, 2010 5:44 pm

    How is the Bradley a logistical nightmare, Mike?

    As others have pointed out, you aren’t going to get a useful number of vehicles into theater by airlift without incurring some real opportunity costs.

    Brads are reasonably tough, and more reliable than a lot of people give them credit for.

  13. Marcase permalink
    March 15, 2010 5:10 pm

    Just FYI, the CV9035NL carries EIGHT dismounts plus three crew, plus reasonable stowage for personal gear.

    A US CV9030 could be equipped with the EFVs 30mm gun, which like all current 35mm and the Swedish 40mm, has airburst capability.

  14. Chuck Hill permalink
    March 15, 2010 5:10 pm

    The GCV sounds suspiciously like a battle cruiser–battleship (tank) sized with a battleship’s gun but light armor and an emphasis on speed.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 15, 2010 4:53 pm

    I’m still sold on the idea of a mostly wheeled force, they are so practical for current threats. But I do see the need for some tracks. I love the Abrams, and the Bradley isn’t bad, just a logistical nightmare for most occasions.

  16. Daniel permalink
    March 15, 2010 4:46 pm

    Perhaps the German PUMA is what we re really after? It may turn out better for the roles it will be put in than the cv 90. One must remember that asymmetrical conflicts are often preceded by a conventional phase and to be wary of falling into the “one mindedness” that left us unprepared for an asymmetrical conflict abiet in reversed roles. A vehicle that must be able to do both or risk becoming a niche weapon.

  17. March 15, 2010 3:54 pm

    Oh and how can anyone call the Bradley too heavy? 33 tons versus the revamped Stryker at 30 tons?????

  18. March 15, 2010 3:53 pm

    The CV90 would be an ideal solution.

    To be quite honest it can fill every role you stated. It has a 120mm gunned version for direct fire, a personnel version and an IFV version.

    Dump the Stryker and switch to that marvel and I’m sold! As a matter of fact, it is the FCS reborn except for having superior armor, mobility and firepower.

    This is one vehicle that was done right.

  19. March 15, 2010 3:40 pm

    That is why I would recommend a longer vehicle and bigger engine for more armour. The CV90 is as you say quit light, just as the the Bradley is too heavy (and too high)!

  20. March 15, 2010 3:23 pm

    Just remembered. We are supposed to buying CV90. But we can’t buy it off the shelf. No we are building a model with a custom turret to fit an untried French weapon.

  21. B.Smitty permalink
    March 15, 2010 2:46 pm

    Three 35 ton vehicles to carry six dismounts? How is that an improvement? Each of those three vehicles will have at least two crew, so you’ll have six vehicle crew to carry 2/3rds of a squad. Three vehicles are also going to triple the fuel, maintenance and support. Three vehicles will be 1/3rd as operationally mobile.

    IIRC, the CV90 is even less well protected (esp underbelly) than the Bradley. How is that an upgrade?

  22. March 15, 2010 2:44 pm

    For US needs I think it would need to be strectched by a road wheel or two. Bigger engine. A stabilised 40mm Bofors.

  23. Matthew S. permalink
    March 15, 2010 2:44 pm

    I think a US CV90 would be an interesting but proven choice. However, I am sure it will not happen and the actual vehicle will be some overpriced, underarmed stealthy vehicle whose production run will be cut in half.

    If there were a US version, Im thinking it would have a 30mm cannon as that seems to be the cannon type that is gaining ground with the EFV, aboard the LPD-17, LCS.

  24. Marcase permalink
    March 15, 2010 2:12 pm

    There’s much to be said for a US CV90, especially in the latest CV9035 model, which sports a 35mm (US) Bushmaster cannon which has the potential for future upgrades to 50mm. It’s equipped with a modern digital battlefield management system, which means there’s enough room and electrical power aboard for a US variant.

    BAE would be leading in US production, and that would earn some votes for congress. Scania currently produces the 16-liter V8 engine and there’s no reason a US variant could be used alternatively.

    The US army really needs that ‘golf bag’ approach, with the right vehicle available for the right mission. Strykers, MRAPs, M-ATVs, M-1s or even ‘old school’ soft-top Humvees should be available for the American warrior, period.


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