Army Makes Rapid Advances With New Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle

Kris Osborn

Warrior Video Above: Army Scientist Explains AI-Human Brain Sensing

by Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

The U.S. Army is preparing to review proposals for its new Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, an infantry carrier intended to use manned-unmanned teaming, next-generation networking technology, advanced weapons and AI-enabled sensors.

“From the beginning we said we would learn early and learn our lessons quickly. We have released a request for proposal for a design concept and will receive design proposals later this month,” General Joseph Martin, Army Vice Chief of Staff, told an audience at a recent event at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

The industry proposals are expected to include several industry competitors as well as an internal Army design team, Martin explained.

The new platform, part of the Army’s emerging family of Next-Generation Combat Vehicles, seeks to incorporate the service’s new vision for modern Combined Arms Maneuver. New weapons and sensing precision and ranges, coupled with advanced electronics and engineering are expected to deliver a faster, lighter-weight, more lethal and much better networked vehicle than the Bradley Fighting Vehicle it is replacing.

“Optionally-Manned” is an operative term here, as the vehicle is being engineered to operate with new levels of autonomy and AI-enabled navigational systems, enabling the vehicle to perform high-risk missions without placing soldiers in harm’s way. At the same time, the OMFV is also engineered to coordinate with the Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle platforms, emerging systems which also draw upon new levels of autonomy, weaponry and advanced computer algorithms. The concept is to offer “options” to commanders who might need to make rapid adjustments amid a fast-moving dynamic combat environment.

Army developers have told Warrior that the new vehicle will likely operate with a three-man crew, carry six-soldiers in back and ultimately fire a 50mm cannon. The new longer-range “TOW missile-compatible” weapons may arm the new platform, senior Army developers said, as a way to destroy enemy armored vehicles at a safer stand-off range. Also, these new missiles are very likely to be configured with newer, more varied explosives able to destroy enemy tanks, armored vehicles and infantry formations to a much greater extent than existing weapons can.

These kinds of new platforms are already shaping Army maneuver formations given the massive extent to which new technology enables different warfare tactics. For instance, an ability to conduct unmanned forward operations could allow forces to disperse, coordinate targeting from standoff distances and test enemy defenses. Also, an unmanned vehicle could also, of course, with human controllers, conduct attacks and fire weapons. Unmanned systems could also support dismounted infantry in some cases by traversing rigorous terrain and bringing armored support to advancing ground units.

Many of the initial requirements and “vision” for the Army’s Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle remain fully intact, yet the strategic developmental path has morphed a bit and moved away from the immediate receipt of ready-built prototypes. The service still wants the main element of its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle to emerge this decade, after having realigned its approach by putting a stop to the early prototyping, by instead using digital modeling to fast-track the developmental time frame.

The concept is also to improve technical quality at the same time. The Army seeks to be more efficient than fully constructing, testing, analyzing and assessing completed prototypes. Prototyping will still very much be part of the process, it is just that the Army seeks to leverage promising technologies digitally.

Despite the nuances and various trajectories that have been associated with the OMFV development, many of the core sought after attributes remain the same. For instance, in an essay about the new OMFV strategy, an Army report cites the requirements characteristics as “survivability, mobility, growth, lethality, weight, logistics, transportability, manning, and training.”

Part of why the OMFV is advancing effectively on what could be called an accelerated developmental trajectory is because the service has been using "digital modeling" to evaluate designs and refine requirements. Many of the initial requirements and “vision” for the Army’s Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle remain fully intact, yet the strategic developmental path has morphed a bit and moved away from the immediate receipt of ready-built prototypes.

The service still wants the main element of its Next-Generation Combat Vehicle to emerge this decade, after having realigned its approach by putting a stop to the early prototyping, by instead using digital modeling to fast-track the developmental time frame. The concept is also to improve technical quality at the same time. The Army seeks to be more efficient than fully constructing, testing, analyzing and assessing completed prototypes. Prototyping will still very much be part of the process, it is just that the Army seeks to leverage promising technologies digitally.

Despite the nuances and various trajectories that have been associated with the OMFV development, many of the core sought after attributes remain the same. For instance, in an essay about the new OMFV strategy, an Army report cites the requirements characteristics as “survivability, mobility, growth, lethality, weight, logistics, transportability, manning, and training.”

The requirements, the report cites, “will further be refined through a cooperative and iterative process with industry, digital design competitions and Soldier touchpoints to produce the final prototypes for testing.”

The requirements, the report cites, “will further be refined through a cooperative and iterative process with industry, digital design competitions and Soldier touchpoints to produce the final prototypes for testing.”

Indeed, many of the sought after attributes can be very well explored through computer modeling. For instance, Army developers have told Warrior that the new vehicle will likely operate with a three-man crew, carry six-soldiers in back and ultimately fire a 50mm cannon. The new longer-range “TOW missile-compatible” weapons may arm the new platform, senior Army developers said, as a way to destroy enemy armored vehicles at a safer stand-off range. Also, these new missiles are very likely to be configured with newer, more varied explosives able to destroy enemy tanks, armored vehicles and infantry formations to a much greater extent than existing weapons can.

AI-enabled sensors and targeting technology will also be a pivotal technology when it comes to engineering a vehicle that is both highly-mobile and survivable. When it comes to new sensor technology, there are several pertinent areas of technical exploration. Improved 3rd-Gen Forward Looking Infrared sensors will bring higher-resolution targeting, longer-range technology and massively improved computer technology. Computer-enabled autonomy will help operators organize incoming sensor data from otherwise disparate nodes.

Also, new platforms are being increasingly engineered with common technical standards such that they can conduct “joint” attack operations with Air Force and Navy platforms.

-- Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Comments

Land

FEATURED
COMMUNITY