One of the candidates to replace the military’s iconic Bradley Fighting Vehicle is this the proposal from BAE Systems that uses a hybrid propulsion system.

The Pentagon has a keen interest in hybrid gas-electric vehicles, solar power, and other clean energy sources.

For the Defense Department, building the Army’s next-generation fighting vehicle with a hybrid gas and electric system isn’t a matter of saving the world; it’s a matter of saving valuable budget dollars during an era of fiscal belt-tightening.

If BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department will save approximately 20% in fuel costs compared to an alternate vehicle with traditional propulsion.

The electric motor will also provide faster acceleration than Bradleys.

The tanks can also switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time. This would eliminate significant heat traces from the battlefield and lets the tank operate much more quietly at night.

The GCVs will have a 40-year lifespan and can effectively transport troops to the battlefield while providing support fire

The hybrid electric drive also means the tank burns half as much energy while idling.

The vehicle works as a tank once a few basic accessories are added.

Because of the on-board electricity source, it can also be equipped with electric armor, jammers, or the experimental energy weapons that the Army is currently researching.

2013-05-02

Co.Exist

Is This Hybrid Tank The Future Of American Warfare?

One of the two proposed replacements for the U.S. military’s iconic Bradley Fighting Vehicle is a gas-electric hybrid that can go into fully electric mode so it can surprise enemies silently at night.

In just a few years, the United States Army is expected to retire their iconic Bradley troop carrier. The Bradley’s replacement, the proposed GCV Infantry Fighting Vehicle, is a massive, highly modifiable ground combat vehicle that grew out of years of military and defense contractor studies. There’s also a very good chance it could be a gas-electric hybrid.

The Pentagon has a keen interest in hybrid gas-electric vehicles, solar power, and other clean energy sources. For the Defense Department, building the Army’s next-generation fighting vehicle with a hybrid gas and electric system isn’t a matter of saving the world; it’s a matter of saving valuable budget dollars during an era of fiscal belt-tightening.

When the next generation of GCVs begin construction—the exact date depends on an elaborate political horse-trading process between Congress, the Pentagon, and defense contractors—they will include parts from a variety of vendors. One of the proposals the Pentagon is considering uses a hybrid propulsion system. BAE Systems, which is partnering with several other firms to create the proposed hybrid system, is adapting civilian hybrid power systems from buses and automobiles to the tank. BAE has worked on various other hybrid systems in the past.

"The change from switching over to hybrid GCVs is like when the Air Force purchased their first jet fighters," BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli told Co.Exist. If BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department will save approximately 20% in fuel costs compared to an alternate GCV vehicle with traditional propulsion. The electric motor will also provide faster acceleration than Bradleys, and the tanks can switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time. This would eliminate significant heat traces from the battlefield and lets the tank operate much more quietly at night.

"There are several advantages in using a hybrid propulsion system for a military vehicle over a conventional engine," Signorelli said. "A hybrid electric drive system would use up to 20% less fuel, significantly reducing fuel costs and the number of vulnerable convoys for resupply. […] There are also 40% fewer moving parts with higher reliability, requiring less maintenance and decreasing vehicle lifetime cost. Vehicle acceleration, handling and dash speed are improved even over fuel hungry turbine systems. Finally, the system’s ability to provide large amounts of electrical power accommodates the integration of future communications and weapons technology for the next 30 to 40 years."

According to BAE, the team behind the vehicle will include several other defense contractors. Northrop Grumman, Qinetiq, MTU, Saft, L3, and Tognum are all contributing parts to the proposed project. If the military adopts the proposed hybrid vehicle—there is a competing proposal with non-hybrid propulsion, they could roll onto the battlefield in the next decade. BAE representatives claim that the first vehicle could be delivered in 2020 and fielded in 2022 if the Defense Department chooses their proposal.

BAE claims the GCVs will have a 40-year lifespan and can effectively transport troops to the battlefield while providing support fire. Once in action, the GCVs will be powered by a hybrid electric drive that generates almost 1,100 kilowatts of electricity. The hybrid electric drive also means the tank burns half as much energy while idling; this is a significant cost savings for the Pentagon, and can also let troops charge their electronics off the vehicle’s batteries.

Signorelli also stressed the GCV’s "growth and modularity"—the vehicle works as a tank once a few basic accessories are added; the vehicle can also be augmented with accessories including electric armor, jammers, and experimental energy weapons thanks to the in-vehicle electric power source. Some of these experimental energy weapons are being researched by the military for use in the medium future.

However, there has been criticism of BAE’s proposal for a hybrid fighting vehicle. All of BAE’s innovation comes at a price—the hybrid vehicle is significantly heavier than one with a conventional power system. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a critical report in March, which claims both BAE’s proposal and rival General Dynamics proposal would waste government funds. Instead, the CBO recommended purchasing a German troop carrier called the Puma or a similar Israeli product.

The CBO was especially worried about the size of BAE’s hybrid GCV. With armor, the finished vehicle will weigh 70 to 84 tons, AOL Defense’s Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. reports. There is speculation that the vehicle’s large size would put it at a disadvantage when used in dense urban environments abroad.

Signorelli says that there is a need for increased capacity in the next generation of military vehicles. In the meantime, despite the military’s ambivalence about moving on from the Bradley, they will face an unavoidable choice in the future. As it stands right now, there are good odds that choice might just be a hybrid—and Prius owners will get new bragging rights.

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11 Comments

  • Truelitistnot

     Yes!  Make warfare cheaper, more cost effective, greener, cleaner and result is less lose... so we have no excuse to ever stop having wars.

  • J. Wall

    A Bradley is not a tank.  Just because it's big and has tracks does not make it a tank.  A Bradley and anything built in the future that fulfills the same role is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

  • Carl Geers

     Years ago I saw a vid of a humvee hybrid. Amazing but it came to early. Batteries were still the wet acid type and extremely heavy. Cool idea ahead of it's time.

  • JD

    70-84 tons is unacceptable.  Unless, of course, the "vehicle" will be used in some sort of Maginot Line.  In other words, a vehicle that heavy could only be transported to the battlefield via ship. While today, every Army and Marine fighting vehicle in the inventory can be transported by US Air Force transport aircraft. 

    And then there is the fact that regardless of how well built, these vehicles get blown up.  Imagine the additional lethality of the secondary explosions on our fighting soldiers and marines brought about by the batteries exploding when exposed to extreme heat.  Not a pretty picture . . .

    Then there's the millions of pounds of toxic batteries that no one wants to consider as these vehicles age, wear out, and/or are damaged or destroyed during battle, etc.  In fact no one wants to account for the looming toxicity about to descend on all of us as the existing hybrid/battery propelled cars' batteries need to be replaced.

    This is just a dumb idea that doesn't make our fighting forces more lethal but less so while polluting the planet with toxic waste like never before. 

    Fire the idiot that thought up this crap. 

  • Shizzzzel

    Mr Colin Campell, you make me laugh.  how do you propose to generate the power necessary ????

  • Colin Campbell

    Agreed.  No fighting vehicle can be immune to everything and this is a monstrosity that would wind up burning more fuel because it can only be moved using a HET.  (And we will have to at least double our HET inventory to move these things.)I'd say take the existing Bradley and see what armor improvements can be made with today's materials technology.  Put in a robotic turret which reduces your armored volume and lowers your center of gravity.  Use two of the many active armor technologies such as Explosive Reactive Armor combined with a system that fires a small missile to intercept and incoming missile.  Go with the hybrid technology - only make the batteries in a lot of small modules that automatically self- inert when damaged and you can use the batteries as additional armor.
    And do some hard thinking about what technology you put on the thing.  Put a remotely operated 40mm gun and add in some Javelin missiles, and you would have a pretty effective vehicle that weighs about the same as a Bradley and has a lower profile.

  • Shizzzzel

    This is first generation, 1.0.  I agree that the tonnage is high.  Simply, it will take 2 or 3 generations for
    the vehicle tonnage to drop to roughly 50 tons. 
    Also, this is not a special operations vehicle, with that being said;
    yes it does require naval vessels to transport this piece of hardware.  I find it somewhat comical that you speak of
    the vehicle blowing up and speak of secondary explosions.  By the time the vehicle gets hit it actually
    takes 30 to 180 seconds for the secondary explosion.  That secondary explosion is enclosed in
    composite steel that would barely be breached. As far as toxicity, I actually
    laugh at you again.  The beauty of this
    is the power source is recyclable. I would fire YOU, FYI.

  • Vandall

    Hallelujah.. "the Pentagon has a keen interest in clean energy sources"?? The military does not conserve anything - especially fuel and taxpayer money. Why this farce of selling a war machine that runs on hybrid technology? How many millions of gallons of fuel does the military and all related operations burn through every single day to keep the world safe? Or is it billions yet?

  • Doogs

    It's all about the logistics. Napoleon's dictum that an "army marches on its stomach" is as true today as it was in the 19th century. During WWII, numerous operations - on both sides - stalled out when commanders outran their fuel supply lines. Perhaps most famously Rommel in North Africa. And in Afghanistan and Iraq, the constant need for fuel is precisely what put so many convoys in the path of IEDs.

    Fuel efficiency gains allow vehicles to operate independently further and for longer. It leaves them less vulnerable to supply line disruptions. 

    Furthermore, it sounds like the hybrid drive being considered would basically use the fuel-consuming engine as a big generator, with motive power coming from high-torque electric motors. Which would make these vehicles more modular and easier to fix quickly in the field (bad engine, disconnect it and swap it, bad electric motor, same, without having to do a complete teardown).

  • Heracles Papatheodorou

    That 20% is surely a big deal, but it would be interesting to juxtapose what the US would save on fuel if they decided not to intervene across oceans instead.