Well-armoured and armed, mobile and roomy – the US military command has taken a look at models of advanced combat vehicles, one of which will eventually replace the veteran M2 Bradley
Five companies have come forward with their options. The winner will receive a lucrative contract to supply hundreds of BMPs to the army.
A tough choice
The program to develop an advanced BMP (Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, OMFV) was launched in 2018. The Pentagon’s requirements were extremely stringent – most participants dropped out at the very beginning of the competition. Because of this, the project was cancelled in January 2020. However, it was soon restarted – by the end of July 2021, the US Army selected five preliminary proposals from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), BAE Systems in cooperation with Israeli Elbit, Rheinmetall North America, Oshkosh Defense in partnership with South Korean Hanwha and a small company Point Blank Enterprise.
In the first phase, digital models were presented. By April 2023, the Pentagon will name three of them to receive government funding. By the summer of 2025, working prototypes should be ready.
By the middle of the next year, experimental vehicles will be driven at test ranges, comparing their performance and combat capabilities. The winner will be selected by January 2027. The first battalion-size BMP will be delivered to the military in the autumn of 2028.
It is planned to spend 4.6 billion dollars on research and development (R&D). The main requirements for the prospective vehicle are survivability, mobility and firepower. An unmanned variant is also envisaged.
BMP of the future
BAE Systems has shown the RV-301, a modified tracked armored personnel carrier Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. The BMPV will be significantly larger than the AMPV due to its reinforced armor and will have a remotely-controlled combat module with a high-speed 30-mm cannon made by Israel’s Elbit Systems. The electronics are open architecture, which increases its upgrade potential. By the way, this is a prerequisite for all applicants.
The GDLS Concern has shown a mock-up of the Griffin III. It weighs between 38 and 50 tonnes and has a capacity for six soldiers in full armour. Armament is a twin turret with a 50mm cannon. “The Gryphon” is compatible with Israel’s Iron Fist active defence system. Its know-how is the Switchblade borne ammunition launcher, which can search for targets in automatic mode. This means the armoured vehicles will be able to hit the enemy at greater distances.
The North American division of Rheinmetall offers a model based on the latest German BMP KF41 Lynx. The feature is its modularity and separation into a basic vehicle and special equipment. This allows the vehicle to be equipped with a variety of combat modules. So far there are two versions – with 30-mm and 35-mm automatic guns. The vehicle takes pride in its AMAP-ADS self-protection system which has proven to be extremely reliable and effective.
Oshkosh Defense in conjunction with Hanwha introduced a version based on the South Korean AS-21, which was intended for the Australian market. There is not much information about the project. It is known that the engine power – 750 horsepower, armament – automatic cannon 30 or 40 millimeters, and up to eight infantrymen. Plus a crew of three.
Finally, Point Blank Enterprises is partnering with Keshik Mobile Power Systems to develop “an innovative product with a modular and technological approach to open systems for energy, information and physical architectures”. No details are available. The project by the two small and little-known companies is considered an outsider. Point Blank Enterprises, though, has a significant advantage – nearly half a century of experience producing high-end armour. Given that the vehicle’s protection is a priority, there is still a chance of success.
The issue of replacing the M2 Bradley in the US Army is long overdue. The vehicle has been in service for over 40 years – it has been upgraded and improved many times. The latest modification M2A3/M3A3 is a crown of the American design school. All subsystems of the BMP are transferred in “digital”.
In particular, the commander now has an independent sight with second-generation thermal imager and electro-optical telesystems. In addition, the anti-shatter protection is increased and the modern engine of 600 horsepower is installed. Armament was a 25 mm cannon and anti-tank missiles in mounted launchers.
The Americans actively used M2 Bradley in both campaigns in Iraq. The vehicles provided reliable cover for infantry fire. However, the armor was not enough – BMPs were often disabled by RPG-7 grenade launchers. In addition, they are very vulnerable to anti-tank guided missile systems.
The OMFV project is the third attempt by the Pentagon to find a replacement for the M2 Bradley BMP. Future Combat Systems closed in 2009, Ground Combat Vehicle closed in 2014.
Andrew Kots, RIAGerman Foreign Ministry refuses to comment on details of Russian embassy officer’s death