Rival Robotic Vehicles Unveiled as the Army Adopts a Fresh Approach

Four companies competing for the Army’s robotic combat vehicle program unveiled their prototypes at the recent Association of the US Army conference. The Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) is designed to work alongside manned units and is part of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicles initiative, aimed at updating ground combat capabilities. The RCV’s missions include high-risk tasks like gathering intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance in the presence of enemy forces.

Initially, McQ, Textron Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, and Oshkosh Defense were selected to compete for the RCV’s light model. However, the Army’s program framework has evolved, with a shift towards a single-sized RCV that falls between the previous light and medium requirements. This shift emphasizes payload capacity rather than size, according to Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, the chief program officer for ground combat systems.

In the first phase of the competition, each company was awarded funding to submit two prototypes to the Army for testing and evaluation by August 2024. In fiscal year 2025, the Army will choose a winning prototype for further development. The first operational unit is expected to be deployed in 2028.

Among the prototypes displayed was the Wolf-X by McQ, featuring wheels instead of treads. The “tweels,” designed by Michelin, offer increased nimbleness, stealth, and durability. The vehicle runs on a hybrid diesel and electric engine, can reach speeds above 40 miles per hour, and has a range exceeding 150 miles, meeting the Army’s requirements.

Textron Systems showcased the RIPSAW M3, part of its RIPSAW vehicle family. The M3’s 80-inch-wide chassis has a curb weight of 13,000 pounds and can support a 5,000-pound payload. It has a range of 140 miles and can travel at more than 30 miles per hour. Textron retains the capability to make the vehicle swim, which could be added back if needed.

Oshkosh Defense, with seven years of experience on the program, emphasized their prototype’s improved cooling system, essential for a battery-powered vehicle within a steel shell. Their model, on display at the conference, included a 30 mm turret and payload for countering unmanned aerial systems. The platform is adaptable and can integrate various payloads.

General Dynamics Land Systems presented its TRX platform, supporting a short-range air defense system as a payload. The TRX is a five-ton vehicle with a five-ton payload capacity, showcasing its versatility. GDLS has explored various other payloads for the vehicle, including missile systems, obstacle-moving arms, and autonomous resupply capabilities, demonstrating flexibility in adapting fielded capabilities for unmanned systems.

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