Fridley Defense Contractor Lands Big Prize

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.

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  • Mike Jacobson

    I’m confused…I’m happy for the local company getting this contract but it states a 6 year contract, 2 for designing and 4 for building. The company rep states the design is already done. “We’ve designed” he states. Maybe someone can clarify. Did they get this contract 2 years ago or now?

    • Gary

      A competition was held between multiple teams to develop concepts for the vehicle. The best concepts were chosen for the next round of the competition which is to build and test a technical demonstration vehicle to prove out their concepts. BAE which was teamed with Northrup Grumman was awarded one of the two technical demonstrator contracts. General Dynamics who are teamed with Lockheed Martin was give the second contract.

      The Technology Development Phase involves risk reduction, refinement of requirements, competitive sub-system prototyping activities, and planned technical reviews leading to a Preliminary Design which demonstrates the maturity to enter into Engineering and Manufacturing Development EMD phase.

      Following the completion of the Technology Demonstration phase the subsequent EMD phase would run through the first quarter of FY 2016, and include delivery of the first prototype vehicle in FY 2015. The Army is approaching the GCV’s development in an incremental fashion — designing it for adaptability, modularity and scalability to adjust to and incorporate technological change. The source selection process is used during competitive, negotiated contracting to select industry proposals that offer the best value to the Army.

      A winner chosen as the new Ground Combat Vehicle to replace the Bradley.

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  • tom

    Is this a waste or what????? Who are we going to be fighting in 2017??? And why on earth does it take 6 years to build a prototype??? Oh i can answer that, the longer we take the more MONEY we make. Defense contractors really like to gut the government when contracts are concerned. And just a thought= they want to have electric combat vehicals now??? Do batterys come with a armoured sheild ??????

  • Mark

    Actually Tom, the government has been nickel and diming contractors pretty good the past few years asking for discounts essentially trying to get contractors to signup to do work at slightly above cost. What these gov’t bean counters don’t realize is basic capital budgeting philosophy states is that if you can’t make a decent enough profit on one type of work, you should look at doing something else. Heck, since about 2000, the Army blew a bunch of money on an earlier incarnation of the GCV called Future Combat System and allowed a company totally new to army work to be the head of this multi-billion dollar program…the thing flamed out for several reasons. The army officials in charge of the program never could make up their minds on what the final product should look like, Boeing the lead integrator on the program was shooting for the moon when promising all types of new network centric tech that never panned out, and the govt got burned by working with the new kid on the block there. BAE however performed well with developing a working demonstrator vehicle for both the NLOS cannon and motor vehicles. In fact it is usually indecision and constantly changing requirements on the “government/military end customer side of the house” that “truly drives up new military systems development costs” astronomical amounts. The current fleet of army armored vehicles are gas guzzlers and the biggest threat to being able to conduct missions of all types whether it be humanitarian, international rescues, full on armor versus armor conflict is fuel supply chains. Ever see the movie/reenactment of Battle of the Bulge? The Germans were in need of fuel. Watch CNN and see those long convoys of vehicles hauling supplies and the all important fuel? How many of those were attached with IEDs? Vehicles nowadays also run dozens of electrical systems that can more efficiently be powered by hybrid electric systems. Is this a waste? Heck no. In fact BAE Systems/United Defense/FMC Corporation/Northern Pump-Ordinance used to be one of the largest employers in the Twin Cities until politicians downgraded the importance of keep ‘defense’ jobs in the state and CEO’s out in DC found cheaper small towns to run manufacturing operations out of – case in point Louisville KY, Aberdeen SD, Aiken GA, York PA just in BAE’s case. The length of time of this GCV competition is usually dictated by the end user, so if you have a problem with it, go talk to your local national level politicians who may have input or are members of the SASC or HASC. I find it short sited that you have such a problem with BAE and some of its competitors like Eden Prairie based ATK or Goodrich or General Dynamics all housing well paying engineering and business management jobs in MN. With attitudes like the one you display, MN will only be left with Target, who by the way has been outsourcing all types of formerly local jobs to India for several years now including marketing, IT. One thing this story does not talk about is that the final prototype will be put together and run through its paces likely in Sterling Heights MI where BAE has worked a sweet heart deal with local gov’t to build a probably tax free Army prototyping facility and provide a bunch of jobs for which they don’t have the workload yet to fill. Many of those jobs were asked to be filled by internal transfers (relocations) which was extremely short sited considering why would anyone want to move from say Santa Clara CA or Minneapolis to the Detroi-let area? These jobs after this engineering phase could unfortunately come from transplanted jobs taken from their MN operations and Santa Clara, time will tell.

  • Eisenhower

    How about we just stop invading other countries around the world and mind our own business?

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