AUSA 2019: General Dynamics Unveils TL1 Concept for U.S. Army Robotic Combat Vehicle Program

General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has introduced its TL1 unmanned vehicle concept developed for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) program, at AUSA 2019 Exposition.

According to the company, the TL1 is designed to exceed Army objectives for weight and payload for the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L) and the RCV-Medium (RCV-M) programs.

U.S. Army Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) Program

The U.S. Army is developing a family of armed unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) through its Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) program, under the larger Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program.

The unmanned vehicles, which are to be operated from the manned combat vehicle, can make contact with the enemy before the Soldiers do while achieving overmatch–decisive mobility, survivability, and lethality–against future operating environment threats. The unmanned platforms can also conduct nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance while keeping Soldiers in a manned platform at a safe distance.

Even though the RCVs are to be remotely operated by Soldiers, there are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence (AI) in order to reduce the cognitive burden on the operators.

The RCV family includes three variants:

+ RCV-Light (RCV-L) – can be transportable by a rotary-wing aircraft.
+ RCV-Medium (RCV-M) – can fit in the cargo hold of C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter.
+ RCV-Heavy (RCV-H) – can fit in the cargo hold of C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter.

Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy. With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries.

In August, the Army demonstrated the teaming of a prototype manned fighting vehicle with a robotic combat vehicle platoon at Camp Grayling in Michigan. This Phase I testing involved two manned Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrator (MET-D) vehicles, based on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and four unmanned Robotic Combat Vehicle Phase 1 surrogates, based on M113 armored personnel carriers.

In late FY2021, the Army will initiate Phase II testing of the RCV vehicles which will involve company-level maneuvers. This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which will be provided by the industry.

Before these tests, an Army light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe next May. The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations.

Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.

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