The Army will award a production contract for its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program in the third quarter of fiscal year 2023, with the competition to remain open for vendors that do not participate in the upcoming prototype phase headed for a downselect decision next March. 

Officials from the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team (CFT) told reporters on Tuesday the team is encouraging industry to continue making investments in advanced technologies, including emerging autonomy tools, for the program to replace its Bradleys with the OMFV as it looks to field the vehicles in the beginning of FY ’26.

General Dynamics’ Griffin III. Photo Matthew Beinart

 “One of the concerns from industry that the CFT kind of drilled in on really fast was this perception that it’s winner-take-all for 40 years and there’s never any competition after that. So we will do [a competition] all over again, and even a company that doesn’t play today could come in with their own dark horse submission and win,” said Col. John Bryan, project manager for NGCV. 

The Army released a Request for Proposals at the end of March for the OMFV prototype phase, with plans to accept bid samples this October (Defense Daily, March 29). 

A downselect decision is scheduled for March 2020 when prototype deals to deliver 14 vehicles will be awarded to up to two vendors.

Bryan and Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT, both said there will be a full, open competition for the production phase to encourage companies to continue working on technology solutions for their platforms that may not be ready for October and the prototype period.

“It could be a company that wasn’t select on this [prototype] phase or it could be a company that never even proposed on this phase,” Bryan said. “A company could conceivably watch the program, develop with their own dollars what they believe is a better proposal and then we’ll do it over again.”

Coffman noted an increase in discussion with industry before releasing the RFP to understand the capacity for realistically delivering advanced technologies for OMFV, a change he said was to avoid previous modernization missteps the Army made with rigid requirements.

“We knew that we were going to have to roll in new technologies, more computing power, more power for the vehicle, as well as more electronic generation. So we wrote in SWAP growth to enable that. Industry has come back and let us know what they thought was achievable, and we’ve kind of mirrored that within our requirements,” Coffman told reporters.

The CFT is specifically looking at advancements in the autonomy space, and monitoring industry’s progress beyond teleoperation and obstacle avoidance technology, according to Coffman. 

“What we’re really trying to do, and what we think is achievable within the next three to five years, is lower the amount of touch points and intervention by a human to five per mission,” Coffman said. “We’re not talking about killer robots that you just let out to conduct a mission and then come back. What we’re talking about is being able to understand terrain and its impacts, how the enemy would use that, moving to a position of relative advantage to enable other robots or humans to accomplish the mission. That’s something we’re striving for, but we’re years, if not a decade, away from that.