WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will decide whether it will further pursue a hybrid version of the BAE Systems-built Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle in fiscal 2023, according to budget justification documents.
The service has been working to develop a hybrid Bradley for several years and will wrap up the process through a series of tests in FY22.
The funding for hybrid Bradley prototyping is not broken out of a combat vehicle prototyping line item of $164 million in FY22, according to the documents. The funding includes other efforts to examine advanced combat vehicle concepts, next-generation fire control technologies, XM913 chain gun development and even a vehicle protection technology demonstrator.
The Bradley vehicle is already pushed to the maximum when it comes to using power to support everything from running the vehicle to controlling its payloads. Going hybrid would provide other benefits as well such as greater survivability by reducing thermal and acoustic signatures, better acceleration, increased lethality and more onboard power to support the possible incorporation of high-energy lasers, according to budget documents.
The Army plans to conclude development efforts in the third quarter of FY22 and will then test prototypes at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, will also take place beginning in the fourth quarter of FY22.
Both testing efforts will come to a close in the first quarter of FY23, the justification books show.
Earlier this year, a 3rd Infantry Division unit at Fort Stewart, Georgia, became the first unit equipped with the modernized M2A4 Bradley following the Army’s decade-long effort to upgrade the vehicles.
The “A4″ variant is an engineering change proposal program that brings in new suspension and track upgrades. It also upgrades the electrical system and powertrain to restore lost mobility and integrate new technologies.
The road to delivering the A4 has been rough. A year ago, the Army was testing a solution to address overheating and toxic gas production in the newest version of the Bradley’s turret battery, for example, which delayed the program by almost a year.
Integrating electric capability into a vehicle like Bradley is challenging. but it will likely be far into the future when the Army considers fully electric options for combat vehicles or tanks.
The Army’s recently released climate strategy lays out a goal to field fully electric tactical vehicles by 2050, but hybrid ones by 2035.
Robotic platforms might be the first to be fully electric, or perhaps the Army’s still unfunded electric light reconnaissance vehicle effort.
Additionally, the Army is continuing analysis and technology development of a next-generation powertrain for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle that considers hybrid and a fully electric option. Oshkosh unveiled a hybrid version of the JLTV earlier this year.
“It’s about size and weight,” Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for ground combat systems, told Defense News in an interview last year. “If you took the amount of batteries with current technology that you would need to move an Abrams tank purely electrically, it’s bigger than the tank, so we have a packaging and storage problem when it comes to pure electric.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.