FRIDLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — For the past 30 years the U.S. Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle has given soldiers armored protection as they maneuver the battlefield.
It’s a tank-like armored personnel carrier with a crew of three and capable of hauling six fully equipped soldiers. But the time has come to design a vehicle that is more capable of responding to the challenges of modern warfare.
BAE Systems designed the original Bradley after the close of the Vietnam War. BAE’s team of engineers will once again put pencils to paper and come up with a new Combat Ground Vehicle for the Army. It’s been awarded one of two technology development contracts at a cost of $449 million, giving a big boost to a slowly recovering economy.
Mark Signorelli is a BAE Systems vice president and general manager of weapons systems.
“Not only is it a shot in the arm, but it really brings back some high tech engineering type jobs,” he said. “We found even these jobs were falling behind the market.”
The contract will span a period of roughly six years to design and build a prototype vehicle that’s more adaptable, affordable and survivable than its predecessor.
Roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan became a soldier’s worst enemy as improvised explosive devices took more lives than live fire. Despite the Bradley’s armor, soldiers were still vulnerable to the powerful explosions.
“That was the first basic request, that we are able to operate in an IED environment,” Signorelli said.
Some 700 employees work at the BAE facility in Fridley. At least 120 engineers are expected to work on the CGV project. Part of the design challenge will be to build a vehicle with heavier armor but is lighter and more efficient in weight.
It may also prove to be the military’s first hybrid electric drive propulsion system, making for a greener Army.
“So we’ve designed a vehicle we believe will be adaptable and flexible enough to integrate new technologies for the next 30 to 40 years for the Army,” Signorelli said.
After 24 months of design work, BAE will spend up to 48 months manufacturing 15 of the vehicles that will be the prototypes for Army testing. BAE is teamed with Northrop Grumman for the project and will compete with another defense contractor, General Dynamics.
The eventual winner of the $7.6 billion production contract won’t be selected until 2017 at the earliest.