Science

How will U.S. Army combat vehicles look like in the future?

Developed in the 1980s, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been the mainstay of the U.S. Army over 35 years. It is a combat proven platform that still provides necessary survivability, mobility, and lethality and is an integral part of the U.S. Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), but the Bradley is at its end of its service life.

The Bradley ability to overmatch peer capabilities in close combat is starting to wane, fighting vehicle no longer has decisive overmatch in lethality and protection and has reached the limits of its growth capacity.

As the Army prepares for future combat operations, it needs new platforms, with future growth margins, to maintain the ability to dominate the battlefield. To this end, a long-term programme has been launched in the U.S. Army that was designated as Next Generation of Combat Vehicle, or NGCV.

The Next-Generation Combat Vehicle must exceed current capabilities while overmatching similar threat class systems. It must be optimized for dense urban areas while also defeating pacing threats on rural (open, semi-restricted and restricted) terrain and be characterized by the ability to spiral in advanced technologies as they mature.

NGCV is expected to provide ABCTs a mobile, purpose-built platform that will increase overall lethality, tactical mobility, strategic deployability and protection for Soldiers. It is also expected to reduce logistical demands on the Army.

NGCV is a hot topic in the industry right now and almost every major defense manufacturer is showing its interest. According to the current information, the Army’s future combat vehicles will feature the latest digitized electronics, network connectivity, and communication within the ABCT.

Sources familiar with the matter say NGCV will receive 360-degree panoramic vision system, that enables tank and infantry crewmen to “see-through” their vehicle’s armor in real-time, creating a clear and complete visualization of the battlefield when the hatches are down in order to provide better protection for the crew. The system includes an array of forward-facing stereo camera pairs whose imagery is projected for the crew. This system allows you to place the crew behind the engine and reduce the number of weak zones in the armor as a whole.

NGCV would operate with no more than two crewmen and possess sufficient volume under armor to carry at least six Soldiers. A key feature of future combat vehicle will be the ability to conduct remotely controlled operations while the crew is off the platform.

The development of technology allows you to control the war machine remotely and connected to combat battle groups of other unmanned NGCV. The one of the manned variant would controlling the other two or four unmanned combat vehicles or Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (NGCV-OMFV).

The term “unmanned” implies varying levels of autonomy. At the lowest level, for instance, a vehicle might have no personnel inside but would be controlled by Soldiers through a tethered radio link. At the highest level, a vehicle might be fully autonomous, requiring artificial intelligence and neural networking – something not yet achievable, but clearly on the horizon.

Unmanned NGCV variants will contain sensors that can detect smoke and chemicals and be tied into the network. They will also be armed, with the decision to fire is made by humans in the loop, he added. Unmanned NGCV variants will play an important part on the future battlefields.

Unmanned vehicles will afford force protection and increased standoff distance.

As to protection, NGCV will receive agile layered protection for evolving vehicle protection needs.

In particular, NGCV will be eqquiped with new modern Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) kits which works on a completely different principle than conventional protection system. The new modern armor kits designed to be installed on armor-capable vehicles such as medium and main battle tanks or infantry combat vehicles.

The kit includes special layered ERA modules in combination with V cross-section cassette installed at an angle to the main module. The reactive tiles prevent penetration of various weapon systems, such as RPG (rocket-propelled grenades).

New modules are specifically designed to eliminate or minimize damage to adjacent modules, thus allowing increased effectiveness and services throughout the ground domain lifecycle.

Also, NGCV will possess sufficient size, weight, architecture, power, and cooling for automotive and electrical purposes to meet all platform needs and allow for pre-planned product improvements.

Iis expected that NGCV will have 37 tonnes gross weight and two combat vehicles s should be transportable by one C-17 transport plane and be ready for combat within 15 minutes.

As to lethality, NGCV it would apply immediate, precise and decisively lethal extended range medium caliber, directed energy, and missile fires in day/night all-weather conditions, while moving and/or stationary against moving and/or stationary targets. The platform would allow for mounted, dismount, and unmanned system target handover.

Firepower from their 50-millimeter cannon to bring a longer-range, more-lethal measure of firepower to medium caliber armored vehicle attack.

The 50mm cannon can blend a variety of emerging, high-tech armored vehicle attack technologies into a single system — to include advanced fire-control, automated targeting sensors, next-gen ammunition, new computer processing speed and longer-range medium caliber attack options.

According to Northrop information, the new 50mm cannon, referred to as the experimental XM913, can hit ranges more than twice as far as the roughly 2-kilometer range of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s existing M242 25mm cannon.

As the Army drives toward a Next-Generation Combat Vehicle capability, leaders have outlined plans to test key features that could one day allow a Soldier to control several robotic fighting vehicles at once.

An initial set of six experimental prototypes for the NGCV — two manned and four robotic combat vehicles — is slated to be delivered by the end of fiscal year 2019. That delivery will kick off hands-on testing with Soldiers in early fiscal 2020.

Manned-unmanned teaming will be the major theme in the experiments, according to Col. Gerald Boston, deputy director of the Cross-Functional Team in charge of developing the vehicle.

“We believe, in the future operating environment, manned/unmanned teaming at the tactical level is how we are going to retain overmatch and deliver decisive lethality as part of combined arms maneuver. Making contact with the smallest element possible allows the maneuver commander to maintain freedom of action,” he said.

Two more sets of experimental prototypes will then be delivered two years apart and build on previous findings. The process, leaders say, could accelerate the Army’s fielding of a new combat vehicle in fiscal year 2028. That’s something the NGCV CFT’s director, Brig. Gen. David Lesperance, said can’t happen soon enough.

The general said that the vision of combat in the future, against well-equipped peer and near-peer adversaries, will require the U.S. Army to have better systems, with greater capabilities that what is available now.

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