Affordability and capability are the focus as the Army moves forward swiftly on its priority Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) program, service and contractor officials said.

Technology Development (TD) contracts were awarded to teams led by General Dynamics [GD], $439.7 million, and BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman [NOC], $449.9 million, Aug. 18, hours after the acquisition decision memorandum was signed by top Defense Department acquisition official Ashton Carter (Defense Daily, Aug. 19).

"Given the economic environment the nation currently faces, the Army recognizes that it is imperative to continually address requirements as we build a versatile, yet affordable, next-generation infantry fighting vehicle,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said in a statement.

The Ground Combat Vehicle Project Manager Col. Andrew DiMarco on Friday met with contractors discussing the first steps forward, emphasizing that the program strategy is “all to better inform us in terms of options as we move forward that can better support the affordability goals that we established and the schedule targets that we established at this point in time.”

There are differences in the cost estimates between the Army and the DoD Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which DiMarco said he would look to closing the “uncertainty” in the estimates during the TD phase. The Army has set a unit affordability target of $9 million to $10.5 million per vehicle, he noted during a Friday teleconference.

“Our estimated unit manufacturing cost is on the low end of the required range,” said Robert Sorge, senior director Ground Combat Vehicle program for General Dynamics Land Systems.

“We’re using mature technologies that are cost effective and dependable, not unproven, complex technologies that are expensive with considerable technical and schedule and cost risk, to ensure delivery of the first production vehicle in seven years,” he said Friday.

On Aug. 19, contractors were already at work. DiMarco said initial meetings ensure a common understanding of the contract, its deliverables, expectations on key engineering elements and other elements.

Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems at BAE, said, “one of the things that this team has done is invest very heavily to reduce the risk to the program, because it is an aggressive schedule. And, to that end, and specifically we have spent effort to ensure that we were ready to meet those review schedules. The first one being the system requirements review 30 days after contract award. We’re ready to do that.”

Joe Taylor, vice president for Ground Combat Systems at Northrop Grumman Information Systems, said BAE and Northrop Grumman will be fast off the mark in part because the Army pulled the procurement and redid it. They “were able to continue the investment and work that we had started on first procurement and evolve it very seamlessly into the second particularly from the base design of the vehicle through the integration concept that we took. ”Using agnostic communications and sensors meant the companies were able to continue to mature the design as we went through this rather lengthy acquisition process.”

The work moves into some of what DiMarco called some of the more classic systems engineering events.

“I expect both contractors to be able to quickly execute a systems requirements review, a systems functional review, probably within the next six months or so I expect we would have within three to six months an integrated baseline review, where we sit down and take a look at their integrated master schedule, we take a look at their budget, we take a look at all the work packages we put together for the program’s TD phase," he said.

As contractors move technical information from their proposals and turn them into designs, the program office will watch how it progresses, pulling information from what they are doing into Army analysis work, “in terms of assessing both our affordability, our schedule and our requirements baselines we have right now,” DiMarco said.

The GCV is an operational need for the Army, and the service remains committed to the seven-year schedule. GCV requirements will be finalized during this initial 24-month TD phase.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “GCV is the first combat vehicle designed from inception for an IED environment. It will provide armor protection and the capability to maneuver cross-country with the nine-man infantry squad."

DiMarco said the program’s target is getting the best value and the right set of capabilities but ensuring “we’re not paying too much at the end of the day and balancing capability with the cost and certainly the time.”

The BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman Ground Combat Vehicle team includes: QinetiQ, iRobot [IRNT], MTU and Saft.

The General Dynamics team includes Lockheed Martin [LMT], Raytheon [RTN] and Tognum America.