US Army Considers Hybrid-Electric Tank Proposal

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A proposed hybrid-electric tank could soon be used on the battlefield by the US Army. (Image courtesy of Flickr, All Rights Reserved BAESystems Inc.)

A proposed hybrid-electric tank could soon be used on the battlefield by the US Army. (Image courtesy of Flickr, All Rights Reserved BAESystems Inc.)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Hybrid-electric vehicles aren’t just for highways – they may soon be on the battlefield.

In a competition to design the Army’s next Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), BAE Systems has put out an infographic that details the benefits of a hybrid electric drive system in a modern tank. If chosen, it would be the first hybrid combat vehicle ever fielded. The released graphic illustrates how BAE’s hybrid system will ensure its GCV offering is faster, quieter and more fuel-efficient than standard 70-ton combat vehicles.

According to the graphic, the proposed GCV would create better financial and oil efficiency.

Fuel economy would improve by 10-to-20 percent, acceleration and immediate high torque would be boosted, and the hybrid tank could produce enough electricity (1,100kW) to “power a small city.”

As far as ground military purposes, the hybrid GCV would be more silent during operation, allow three-to-four more tons of armor due to flexible packaging, and smoother low-speed operation to support dismounted soldiers. The hybrid would also have a much longer operation life: “Our GCV is achievable within the Army’s acquisition, schedule and cost requirements; provides combat capabilities that will remain relevant for 30-40 years,” the report touted.

However, there are a few kinks in the hybrid proposal.

A Congressional Budget Office report states that the Army’s GCV may have to weigh as much as 84 tons for the vehicle to meet the service’s list of requirements. This would make the GCV heavier than the 64-ton M1A2 Abrams tank and more than twice as heavy as the 33-ton M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicle it would replace.

According to Defense Tech, “it has been difficult for Army officials to refute such estimates since the service didn’t set a weight limit for the new vehicle to avoid trade-offs in soldier protection, lethality and survivability.”

The Army announced an initial acquisition goal of 1,874 vehicles with production of the vehicle starting in 2018. The Army issued a revised RFP in November 2010 after the initial solicitation were deemed too ambitious and created a real possibility that high technical risks and immature technologies would lead to spiraling costs and schedule delays.

The updated RFP left some flexibility in how the contractor could deal with the requirements and designated a manufacturing cost of between $9 million and $10.5 million per vehicle, an average procurement unit cost of $13 million per vehicle, and a sustainment cost of $200 per mile of operation.

BAE was awarded contracts valued around $450 million for a 2011 proposal.

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