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Competitors compete for Army Arctic vehicle contract


Competitors vie for arctic army vehicle contract


BAE Photo Systems

The Army prepares for the harsh conditions of the harsh Arctic as it pursues a new cold-weather vehicle. The service is ramping up testing as it strives to select the manufacturer for its next-generation platform.

The Army Small Unit Support Vehicle, or SUSV, was last purchased in 1983 to help soldiers navigate difficult terrain such as snow, mud, and swamps. The platform, which is amphibious and tracked, has a footprint that exerts less pressure than a human foot, allowing it to traverse deep snow smoothly.

A year after the competition for the system replacement began, two manufacturers – BAE Systems and Oshkosh Defense – are competing in hopes of winning a contract for the cold weather all-terrain vehicle program. Each contractor was expected to produce two prototypes by June, with testing and evaluation ongoing until the end of the year.

BAE Systems – the incumbent – was selected in April by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium to provide prototypes for military review. Its offering, the Beowulf, is an unarmoured version of its BvS10 platform, an amphibious vehicle that has already been manufactured for the military in five countries: Sweden, Norway, UK, Austria and France.

The Swedish military recently ordered 127 additional vehicles, adding to the nearly 10,000 vehicles already in service internationally.

The Beowulf would be a proven choice for the military, said Mark Signorelli, vice president of business development for BAE’s platforms and services division.

“This is a vehicle that has literally millions of miles of history in its legacy vehicles, in its sister vehicles in arctic conditions, and I can’t imagine there is better for the needs of the world. army than what Beowulf can provide, ”he said. said on a call with reporters.

According to the Pentagon’s budget documents, future CATV platforms would have the capacity to traverse “a wide range of otherwise impassable terrain” all year round. This includes frozen ice and extremely cold weather conditions to support training. The military announced earlier this year that the service will build a combat training center in Alaska to bolster its defense in the arctic.

BAE Systems has tested the BvS10 in the Arctic, in hot-weather peatlands and other difficult conditions such as upwelling rivers in Afghanistan, Signorelli said.

According to the program requirements, the next-generation vehicle should be able to float with “sufficient freeboard to operate with one foot waves”. It must also be able to swim at a minimum speed of two knots with “little or no” change in vehicle configuration.

“Because of this flotation ability, even in the worst bogs, mud and swamps, you can move around without getting stuck,” Signorelli said of the Beowulf’s capabilities.

Sharing common parts with the BvS10, such as the suspension and drivetrain, would allow the service to keep routine maintenance and maintenance costs low, he added. Signorelli noted that the Beowulf production site in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, is roughly the same distance from the North Pole as the test site in Yellowknife, Alaska. Moving production to the United States would not be profitable given the rapidly approaching delivery schedule, he added.

Signorelli declined to give the value of the other transaction authorization agreement the company received for the prototyping phase.

He noted that because testing was delayed by a winter cycle due to a delay in funding the military, the Örnsköldsvik facility had more time to anticipate production hurdles.

“The team has been preparing for some time to move into production of this product,… so we believe these challenges have been identified and mitigated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oshkosh and its partner Singapore Technologies Engineering are also preparing their bid for the program, said Pat Williams, vice president of Oshkosh Defense and general manager of U.S. Army and Marine Corps programs.

The system is based on ST Engineering’s Bronco 3 platform, which is part of its Bronco family of vehicles that have undergone more than 1,860 miles of performance testing in arctic conditions as well as over 200,000 miles in terrain. difficult desert, according to Oshkosh.

After the vehicle is delivered, competitors will have to go through the military’s rigorous testing process until a selection to a company is made in 2022, a test for which Williams says Oshkosh is ready.

“The big ‘aha’ that happened in the middle of it all was the launch of the Army’s ‘Regaining Arctic Dominance’ strategy,” Williams said.

The strategy – the service’s first to focus on the region – was released in March. He presented plans to establish a two-star headquarters with specially trained and equipped combat brigades; improving the readiness of materiel for extended operations; better train regional forces; and improve the quality of life for military personnel.

Williams said his team had spent “a lot of time” going through the 54-page document to better understand how the service will approach its competitors close to the region.

“[We’re] making sure that what we offer really meets those goals, ”he said.

For example, the strategy highlighted the obstacles the Army faces in achieving greater mobility in its operations.

“Summer poses significant challenges for many wheeled vehicles, while the most difficult period is the spring thaw, when ground movement becomes impossible over large areas of land,” according to the document.

The Bronco 3 variant offers additional payload capacity and long range for maximum efficiency, Williams said.

The vehicle is also designed to have low ground pressure, which increases mobility in swampy areas.

Oshkosh also looked at how to better accommodate soldiers, Williams noted.

The vehicle, which is built with a roomy, temperature-controlled interior for the troops, will help set the prototype apart from the competition, he said. Because the designers didn’t want soldiers to be exposed to the elements for long periods of time, the Bronco 3 is able to transform into different variants without decoupling the front from the rear of the vehicle, saving time.

“Anyone who’s lived up north and had to get gas in the winter knows it’s no fun stopping for gas when it’s freezing,” he said.

The platform will be transformed into four variants for different missions: general troop transport, freight, emergency transport and command and control, according to the budget documents. The command and control arrangement will provide the space, weight and power to accommodate standard joint communications and common image exploitation platforms.

“We really focused on the soldier in terms of vehicle capacity, but also in terms of space inside the vehicle and where your gear is stored,” Williams said.

The prototype will be tested in summer conditions in the coming months to measure performance in conditions where snow is not the predominant feature of the landscape. When the weather is cold enough in Alaska, assessments of winter conditions will begin.

Williams said the assessment will assess payload mobility, swimming ability and vehicle dynamics, among other requirements-based capabilities.

Tests of the platform over the past year have proven that it can handle military missions, he said. Although the Bronco family of vehicles have primarily been used in desert conditions, this is not a concern for him, he said.

“The soldiers took this thing into combat, they lived there, they worked there, they operated in austere environments,” he said.

Oshkosh incorporated their comments into his new design.

Meanwhile, the need for new capabilities for the Arctic region has increased.

Liselotte Odgaard, visiting principal researcher at the Hudson Institute, said almost all countries, at the last Arctic Council ministerial meeting in May, expressed interest in keeping the region in an area of ​​”low tension. “.

Although many developed countries have neglected military operations in the Arctic, most leaders can no longer ignore the advantages that Russia is trying to develop, she said. For example, it has developed a base where it can maintain missiles and accommodate bombers.

“They have all the equipment they need to dominate the region,” she said.

The fact that the military purchases vehicles for the basic function of mobility and movement of troops shows how far behind the United States in the arctic warfare is, she said.

“It’s just about being able to move personnel and equipment,” she said. “It just tells you that we’re starting from a pretty low baseline because it’s fundamental.”

She acknowledged that it is difficult for the United States to strengthen its power in the Arctic when the Indo-Pacific region receives so much attention, but said that Russia is emphasizing its geographic advantage.

“Communication between the Arctic countries is really full of huge, big holes,” she said. “The Russians know this. That is why they are constantly in the [gap] test how we react.

However, the military wants to put its money where its mouth is by prioritizing funding related to the Arctic. Although many programs have seen cuts in purchases in the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal for the military, funding for the new platform has increased by more than $ 7 million. The request asks for $ 16 million to finance the purchase of 10 vehicles, up from $ 9.25 million adopted in fiscal 2021.

Acquiring equipment like the cold weather all-terrain vehicle will allow the military to train troops more effectively, Odgaard said.

The new vehicles are also sending a long-awaited signal to Russia, which has become accustomed to being the dominant force in the region, she noted.

“It is absolutely necessary to show Russia that the other Arctic nations are out there and that they are ready to defend themselves,” she said.

The subjects: Wheeled Tactical Vehicles, Army News