Lawmakers Want Army To Speed Armored Vehicle, Helicopter Upgrades

Recognizing the Army’s need to upgrade or replace its ground vehicles and aircraft for future combat, House lawmakers will ask for plans to accelerate both the modernization of its armored brigade combat teams (ABCT) and the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) effort to develop a next-generation helicopter.

In its mark of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee applauds the Army’s efforts to incrementally upgrade its ground vehicles and helicopters to keep them technologically relevant. It also wants to weigh speeding modernization and fielding new and improved systems faster.

Armor Brigades

The subcommittee’s mark directs the Army to study whether using multi-year procurement contracts would generate better cost savings and stabilize the industrial base as it modernizes its ABCTs.

The Army currently modernizes a full ABCT every two years at quickest, the committee notes in the mark released April 25. In the fiscal 2018 NDAA, the Army was granted additional funding necessary to upgrade a complete brigade.

“The committee is encouraged by the Army’s increased investment for ABCT modernization in the budget request,” the 2019 mark reads. “Given this increased investment for ABCT modernization, the committee believes the Army should examine the cost benefits of using multiyear procurement contracts for combat vehicle platforms comprising ABCTs.”

Army officials have avoided multi-year contracts when purchasing upgraded equipment for vehicles like the Abrams tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle to avoid being locked into one deal or chained to one vendor when the future of those vehicles and the threats they will face is uncertain. 

Short of a mandate, the committee is requiring a cost-benefit analysis comparing a traditional five-year multiyear contract for armored vehicles with a three-year contract with two successive single-year options. Analysis results should be presented to HASC by Dec. 3, according to the committee’s NDAA mark.

Future Vertical Lift

As with its ground vehicles, the Army has for years relied on incremental upgrades to rotorcraft to keep them one step ahead of enemy threats and to bridge capability gaps identified in ongoing wars.

Fiscal years 2019 and 2020 are considered by the Army and Congress to be pivotal for the success of the FVL program. A precursor Joint Multirole Technology Demonstrations (JMR-TD) program is ongoing while the Army also conducts an analysis of alternatives for FVL.

The subcommittee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing to HASC by Dec. 3, on the outcome of the analysis of alternatives and on any other analysis utilized in deciding the Army’s priority of rotorcraft investment for FVL before the release of a request for proposals.

“The committee believes that as more dangerous threats emerge at an accelerated pace in the mid-term, unwavering investment in advanced future disruptive technologies like Future Vertical Lift (FVL) will enable rotorcraft aviation to retain overmatch through significant capability improvements in reach, speed, protection, and lethality,” the subcommittee report reads.

Greater rotorcraft technology investment is needed to “regain” the U.S. military’s overmatch in rotorcraft and vertical-lift innovation, which is “eroding” the committee says. As the leading investor in rotorcraft research and development for the Defense Department, that burden falls to the Army.

To correct course, the committee encourages the Defense Department to explore opportunities to accelerate the FVL program to meet national security challenges and to “maximize full and open competition in doing so.”

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