U.S. Army Shortlists Four Teams for Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L) Competition

The U.S. Army shortlisted four teams for the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L) competition, according to an announcement by National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC).

The four teams are HDT Global, Oshkosh, Qinetiq North America (QinetiQ NA) partnering with Pratt & Miller, and Textron. A Request for Prototype Proposal (RPP) will be issued to these teams as the next phase, added the NAMC announcement.

Even though the Army is the decision-maker, the RCV-Light competition is being managed by the NAMC. The Army’s RCV-Medium competition which seeks a larger armed unmanned ground vehicle is also managed by the NAMC.

The Army is expected to award up to two contracts to deliver four non-developmental RCV-L surrogate vehicles for government evaluation, testing, and Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) experimentation.

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-L program.  The companies debuted the Ripsaw M5 concept during the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting on Oct. 15.

Ripsaw M5 Concept
Ripsaw M5 Concept.

QinetiQ North America (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.

Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV)
Pratt and Miller’s Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV).

HDT Global is expected to offer a variant of its Hunter WOLF unmanned ground vehicle. The offering by Oshkosh is currently not known.

HDT Global’s Hunter WOLF unmanned ground vehicle at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 21, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Rhita Daniel)

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.

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