Last year, the Pentagon launched a new development program for a promising infantry fighting vehicle with the official designation NGCV - Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (“Next-generation Fighting Vehicle”). Soon the basic information about the program and the requirements for the new model were published. Later, the responsible persons announced an approximate schedule of work. To date, a number of enterprises involved in the project have completed preliminary studies. Based on the results of this stage of work, a project development contract was signed.
The possible appearance of the future BMP NGCV
In accordance with the wishes of the military, which are the basis of the project, the new infantry fighting vehicle must have its own crew of two and carry six paratroopers. Due to this, the car will comply with the current concepts that offer to transport the small office on two units of armored vehicles. Also, the military indicated the need to ensure high mobility, for which the BMP needs an 1000 hp engine.
The combat qualities of the NGCV are supposed to be enhanced by effective protection and powerful weapons. It is planned to use "traditional" metal booking, supplemented by a complex of active protection of an existing or prospective model. The main weapon of the BMP is the 50-mm automatic cannon on the remote-controlled combat module.
Since last year, specialists from several organizations from the US military together with colleagues from the defense industry have formed a preliminary version of the shape of the future armored vehicle. The finished preliminary draft was presented to the customer in the spring of 2017. Apparently, the military wanted to make some improvements to the existing project, but so far most of these issues have been resolved.
A few days ago it was announced that the Pentagon is launching a new phase of the promising program. To fulfill it, a contract was signed worth 700 million dollars. In accordance with this document, contractors will have to develop a full-fledged project, and then build two prototypes of a promising infantry fighting vehicle. Under the terms of the contract, the equipment should appear by the end of the 2022 of the fiscal year. In 2023, it is planned to pass it to the tests.
The development of a new model of armored vehicles was entrusted to a consortium of several US defense industry companies. The overall design guidance was entrusted to Science Applications International Corporation. Other companies include Lockheed Martin, GS Engineering, Moog, Hodges Transportation and Roush Industries. They will have to create and produce certain elements of the future armored vehicles.
It is curious that in the framework of the experimental design work it is proposed to create several versions of experimental equipment. Thus, in the 2023 of the fiscal year, the demonstration machines will be tested and will be designated as NGCV 1.0. After a two-year test cycle, revised and improved NGCV 2.0 prototypes will appear. The second version of the project may have the most serious differences from the first, due to the test results. At the same time, it will have to become a benchmark for subsequent mass production.
Apparently, the customer and the performers understand that processing the project according to the results of testing the first prototypes will take a lot of time. Development, construction and fine-tuning of machines such as NGCV 2.0 can also drag on for several years. As a result, 2035 is considered a possible start date for mass production. Thus, the implementation of all the work under the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program - in the absence of serious problems and schedule changes - will take almost two decades.
The base modification of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle was put into service in the 1981 year. The latest version, featuring modern onboard equipment, has been in operation since the beginning of the past decade. For known reasons, this technique, undergoing repairs and upgrades, will be operated over the next few years, until the appearance of a full replacement. It is easy to calculate the average age of the "Bradley" cars at the time of decommissioning.
It should be noted that the Pentagon has long been planning to replace the outdated infantry fighting vehicles with modern models that have the desired technical appearance. Back in 1999, the program was launched Future Combat System, which involved the creation of several samples of armored vehicles, including the BMP. The result of this program was to be the rearmament of the ground forces with the replacement of existing equipment. The FCS program brought some technical and technological benefits, but it did not solve the assigned tasks. In 2008, it was closed due to a number of serious problems.
After abandoning the FCS program, a similar program, Ground Combat Vehicle, was launched, within which it was also supposed to create protected vehicles for the infantry. In 2014, the US command ordered the collapse of this work. The army was again unable to obtain a promising technique for replacing existing samples.
Taking into account the existing requirements, wishes and results of the two previous projects, it was decided to launch the development of a new infantry fighting vehicle. Now this project is called Next-Generation Combat Vehicle. It is curious that in less than two years after the start, this program has reached the stage of launching development work. If we recall the successes of previous programs, this feature of NGCV can be considered a real success and a serious “bid for victory”.
In March 2017, the Tank Automotive Research Center, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) presented the official presentation of the new program. In addition to the general aspects of the project in the 1.0 version, this document presented a version of the overall appearance of a promising infantry fighting vehicle. In addition to a number of facts about the project, an image was proposed for the presentation, showing a general view of the BMP. For obvious reasons, this picture may not reflect the real situation. Real prototypes, the construction of which starts in the future, may be very different from the published image.
The figure shows that the promising BMP NGCV to some extent will resemble some modern counterparts, including the replaceable machine M2 Bradley. Proposed the construction of a relatively large tracked vehicles with developed means of protection and weapons that meet the unusual requirements of the customer. It can be assumed that part of the main decisions of the project will be borrowed from existing developments.
According to the current views of experts, the NGCV armored vehicle will receive a relatively simple form of armor, equipped with a number of means of protection. In addition to its own armor, a set of additional overlay panels can be used to increase the resistance of the machine to kinetic or cumulative ammunition or mines. The available picture shows that the patch modules can cover significant parts of external surfaces, and some of these devices will be at the level of the chassis.
Obviously, from the point of view of the layout of the body of the new type of BMP will not differ from existing machines. The front of the hull will accommodate the engine and transmission, and in the immediate vicinity of it will install a management compartment with the driver's workplace. The central compartment of the hull is likely to become a fighting compartment, and the landing will be in the stern.
The basis of the power plant, according to the technical specifications, will be an engine with a power of at least 1000 hp. An unspecified type of transmission will be located next to it and deliver power to the front drive wheels. In the proposed form, NGCV will have six track rollers on each side, as well as front drive and rear guide wheels. The layout of the chassis may indicate the need for supporting rollers.
The image from the official presentation shows the possible appearance of the combat module. The Pentagon wants the NGCV to carry an uninhabited turret with the necessary weapons. It is not known whether it will be possible to do this, but it is possible to create a fighting compartment, completely placed inside the tower and not occupying useful hull volumes. Regardless of the layout and placement of aggregates, from the point of view of the means of protection the tower will be similar to the hull.
NGCV program components
The basic one weapons The future BMP should be an automatic gun caliber 50 mm. At the moment, such a weapon is missing, which is why a project on its creation is envisaged under the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program. The gun will be located on the rocking installation with vertical-drive drives. In addition to the gun, an infantry fighting vehicle will receive a twin machine gun (or two machine guns with independent guidance) and a set of smoke grenade launchers.
The fire control system will have to have all the basic functions of modern similar means. At the same time, its structure should include devices for remote control of an uninhabited fighting compartment and all weapons. The machine also needs optoelectronic or other means of detection, information from which will be output to the multifunction console of the commander, also performing the functions of a gunner-operator.
To enhance the combat qualities of the new infantry fighting vehicles, the NGCV will have to have a developed set of surveillance and detection tools. In addition to traditional optics built on electronic components, radar or other systems can be used. Also, the machine should be equipped with various sensors for the timely detection of a possible attack from the enemy using this or that weapon. Information about the detected enemy can be used to retaliate with the use of any available weapons.
Own crew prospective BMP will consist of only two people. In front of the case, next to the engine compartment, the driver and the commander-operator will be placed. The aft compartment of the hull will serve as the troop compartment and will receive six armchairs for the soldiers. Embarkation and disembarkation will be carried out through the stern ramp. The published image shows that the troop compartment does not receive any of its own means of observation. Installation of airborne embrasures for firing from personal weapons is not provided.
Requirements for a new infantry fighting vehicle were determined taking into account the operating experience of existing M2 "Bradley" infantry fighting vehicles and the features of recent local conflicts. Now and in the foreseeable future, various anti-tank weapons and explosive devices pose a particular danger to such equipment. As a consequence, the NGCV project places special emphasis on remedies. Own body armor supplemented overhead modules and active protection.
Of great interest is the proposed weapon system, or rather its “main caliber” in the form of an 50-mm automatic cannon. Modern BMP and other equipment of such classes are equipped with tools of no more than 30 mm in size, and also have protection against such weapons. Because of this, the increase in firepower, capable of ensuring superiority over the enemy's equipment, can only be obtained through the use of weapons of larger caliber. It is for this reason that in the framework of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program it is proposed to create a new 50-mm gun.
The presence of modern and promising optical and radio electronic systems, in theory, should significantly increase the potential of technology in observation, as well as improve the effectiveness of fire and ensure that the likelihood of an enemy's weapon strike is reduced.
The main functions of the NGCV machine, however, will remain the transport of the landing force and the fire support of the landed fighters. In accordance with the requirements of the customer, this BMP will be able to take on board only six soldiers. Thus, for the transportation of one compartment you will need two armored vehicles at once. It should be recalled that the machine M2 Bradley previously been subjected to harsh criticism due to insufficient volumes of the troop compartment. In the new project, which is interesting, similar features of the technology will be preserved. The problem of transporting more soldiers is proposed to be solved by the simultaneous use of two infantry fighting vehicles.
At the level of technical specifications and general features, the promising NGCV armored vehicle looks quite interesting and promising. Its design takes into account the main problems of the existing technology and current challenges. This is especially pronounced in the case of the proposed weapon system. Nevertheless, it is already possible to find certain shortcomings that can have the most serious influence on the course of the project.
There is reason to believe that the NGCV BMP, as well as previous developments in this area, will meet the requirements, but at the same time it will have a very high cost. Also, within the framework of the general program, several new “auxiliary” projects will have to be developed: for example, an automatic cannon with enhanced characteristics will have to be created.
According to the announced plans, prototype armored vehicles of the first version will have to be tested at the beginning of the next decade. Based on the results of their inspections, the NGCV project can be reworked in one way or another. Creating, testing and finishing BMP NGCV 2.0 also take some time. As a result, mass production of technology will be able to start only in the mid-thirties. Such a long process of creating a BMP can lead to negative consequences.
Due to the long duration of the development work, the cost of the program may go beyond reasonable limits. In addition, during the development of these or other problems may arise that can complicate the work and lead to its appreciation. It is also impossible to exclude the risk that over the next two decades, the requirements for prospective transport for infantry may change, including in the most serious way.
However, the Pentagon can no longer wait. The existing equipment is gradually becoming obsolete morally and physically, and therefore needs to be replaced. However, the need to create a new BMP as quickly as possible is not yet available, and the industry has the opportunity to carefully work out the project, including with the creation of two series of experimental equipment. According to the latest reports, SAIC and other program participants are currently starting full-fledged design. This means that in the near future there may be new messages on the progress of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program. However, before the appearance of real prototypes is far away.
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