The U.S. Army selected QinetiQ North America for the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light program and Textron for the RCV-Medium program, the service announced Jan. 9.
According to the statement, the final other transaction agreement (OTA) for both variants is expected to be awarded by the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) and the U.S. Army Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team (NGCV CFT) by mid-February pending successful negotiations.
“Robots have the potential to revolutionize the way we conduct ground combat operations”, said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT. “Whether that’s giving increased firepower to a dismounted patrol, breaching an enemy fighting position, or providing CBRNE reconnaissance, we envision these vehicles providing commanders more time and space for decisions and reducing risk to Soldiers.”
QinetiQ North America (QNA) will build four RCV-Light vehicles and Textron will build four RCV-Medium vehicles, the statement added.
QNA announced its partnership with Pratt and Miller Defense for the program at AUSA 2019. The companies will submit a variant of Pratt & Miller’s Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV) tailored to the RCV program’s specific requirements.
Textron Systems, along with its subsidiary Howe & Howe Technologies and partner FLIR Systems, Inc., is offering the Ripsaw M5 tracked unmanned ground vehicle for the RCV program. The companies debuted the Ripsaw M5 concept during the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting on Oct. 15.
The light and medium RCVs will be used to conduct a company-level maneuvers in late FY2021. 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.
Even though the Army is the decision-maker, the RCV-Light and Medium competition is being managed by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC). The selection was also announced by NAMC.
The four shortlisted teams for the RCV-L competition were HDT Global, Oshkosh, Qinetiq North America (QinetiQ NA) partnering with Pratt & Miller, and Textron/Howe & Howe team and the three teams picked for RCV-M competition were General Dynamics Land Systems, QinetiQ North America and the Textron and Howe & Howe team.
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 program is led by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC).
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.