WASHINGTON — The deadline is approaching to submit bids to build the U.S. Army’s Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.
This summer, the service issued a request for proposals to industry to design and build prototypes for the optionally crewed combat vehicle program. Offers are expected in early November, Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, the Army’s program manager for ground-based combat systems, told Defense News in a recent interview.
Last year, the Army awarded contracts to develop preliminary designs over a 12-month period. He called on five companies: Oshkosh Defense, BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, American Rheinmetall Vehicles and Point Blank Enterprises.
“Some vehicle vendors that didn’t participate in the first phase could theoretically compete,” Dean said. “We believe that the five [current] competitors will bid. We won’t know until the offers are received. Each of them must make their own business decision as to their likelihood of success in the next phase.
The Army amended its request for proposals several times based on industry feedback, Dean said.
In September, the Army issued an amendment asking each candidate team to complete “a task” on the open systems modular architecture, he said. “It’s basically an engineering test.”
What the military really wants to understand is “the depth of expertise and understanding,” Dean added. “We will give [them] an architecture…that has flaws,” and contractors are required to identify the problems and state how they would rearrange or modify the design to solve the problem.
The service is also trying to figure out how to move the program forward faster. Dean said one change between the draft RFP and the final version included reducing the number of prototypes required.
The original concept called for 12, but the army decided to require seven vehicles with the possibility of delivering four more. The change allows the service to manage the high cost of prototypes.
The optionally crewed combat vehicle program team is working with the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command to test digital systems, which could allow earlier and faster testing with fewer prototypes, according to Dean.
The military is also allowing industry teams to propose when they’re ready for design reviews rather than asking the department to set hard and fast deadlines.
“It’s possible that one or more bidders will arrive faster and then walk through the doors faster,” Dean said. “The flip side is that depending on how aggressive the ability they come up with, it might take them longer to get there.”
Other factors could lead to uncertainty in the schedule, particularly the availability of component supply as industry teams begin building prototypes. “We may see longer delivery times than expected,” Dean said.
The Army plans to award a contract to proceed with three teams around April 2023, he added. The detailed design phase will take place in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and the prototyping phase will begin in fiscal year 2025.
The Army plans to select a company in the fourth quarter of FY27 to build low-rate production vehicles. The first equipped unit is scheduled for FY29 with full production expected to begin in FY30.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.