Like The Off Road Pickup It’s Based On, GM Defense’s Infantry Squad Vehicle Is Light And Fast. It Could Be An Example For Army Acquisition
The new infantry squad vehicle from GM Defense can carry nine soldiers at high speed through rough terrain … [+]
I recently had the opportunity to drive the Army’s new Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) built by GM Defense on an improvised off-road course in Concord, North Carolina. Compared to the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and even the Army Humvees I’ve driven, the ISV is a breeze, fast, and agile.
Speed and agility bring dividends in the scout / light transport role, which the ISV with nine passengers will initially take on with the 89th Airborne Division. The production speed of the ISV has also attracted attention.
After GM Defense closed the $ 214 million contract to build 649 ISVs for the Army in June 2020, it took just 120 days to ship the first production infantry squad vehicle. The company built a new 75,000 square meter production facility in Concord, NC in three months for the ISV, which will launch several vehicles per week from April.
GM Defense executives cite parent company General Motors GM’s ability to drive to market, technical depth, and delivery / support of off-the-shelf components.
Newly minted GM Defense President Steve duMont, a former Army Apache helicopter pilot and Raytheon executive, told me the Pentagon needed more of the company’s commercial-industrial ties.
Steve duMont, former Raytheon manager and Army AH-64 Apache pilot, has been announced as the new one … [+]
“I think the Department of Defense needs companies that can get commercial reach. The fact that we can produce one [new] The vehicle from order placement to delivery in 120 days is amazing to me. I started in this industry 20 years ago and one of the first programs I was involved in was cut back after 20 years of development. It was no longer relevant. “
A story of similar experiences explains why the army is looking for new approaches. The service recently abandoned its traditional acquisition scheme for the Optional Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) program to replace the M-2 Bradley after its first supplier competition ended in October 2019 with just one sample from General Dynamics GD Land Systems .
The revised OMFV has received suggestions from non-traditional vendors like Point Blank Enterprises from Florida and Mettle Ops from Michigan, who bring in focused design know-how that they want to combine with established manufacturers.
Oshkosh Defense, himself a long-time military vehicle supplier, is working with South Korean armored personnel carrier manufacturer Hanwha Defense at OMFV to expedite a bid, an alliance that would have been unlikely a decade ago.
Matthew C. Ociepka, speaking for Army Headquarters in Washington DC, said the service’s focus on “Working with industry to streamline our modernization process begins with two pillars – competition and fairness.”
“Companies, both traditional and non-traditional, that demonstrate the ability to validate concepts and deliver efficiently and effectively to meet our modernization needs are essential.”
GM Defense seems to align well with the Army’s desire for rapid concept validation and deployment. The company was re-established as a subsidiary of General Motors in 2017, 14 years after GM sold its previous defense unit to General Dynamics.
The new GM defense provided an opportunity to add an existing, well-developed GM platform to the Army’s requirement for easy troop transport at a reasonable cost.
“We saw that they looked at a nine-passenger SUV that was less than 5,000 pounds curb but could carry 3,200 pounds, fit in a helicopter, or sling on,” said Mark Dickens, GM Defense chief engineer remembered. “I had just finished launching the ZR2 … all of the content was just there.”
The ISV’s Chevy Colorado ZR2 pickup roots are evident side by side in this comparison. It drives and … [+]
Chevrolet – GM Defense
The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is the off-road racing-inspired performance version of Chevy’s midsize Colorado pickup. By deleting the truck’s body, adding an ingenious rolling structure with nine seats, and other changes, GM Defense came up with a concept that was quickly implemented.
Approximately 90% of the parts of the ISV, including the chassis, engine, drivetrain, electronic lock differentials, transfer case, suspension, and more, are standard components that can be purchased from a Chevy dealer. This commonality accelerated the ramp-up of GM Defense’s ISV production. It also offers supply chain benefits based on General Motors economies of scale and a global supply network.
These can come into play in GM Defense’s new manufacturing facility. Instead of the heavy industrial layout common to defense equipment manufacturers, the facility appears economical, streamlined, and adaptable. Production engineers at the Concord plant characterize it as “flexible production”, scalable to variable volume and product performance.
GM Defense’s new ISV manufacturing facility in Concord, NC was built in approximately 4 months. It looks … [+]
The ISV assembly line integrates advanced software and Bluetooth enabled tools with a small, non-unionized workforce of artisanal “production engineers”. Currently they are exposing a handful of ISVs per week (the numbers are expected to increase) with components from GM and other partners. The agreement is obviously aimed at efficiency, but requires an awareness that non-traditional defense suppliers often lack.
Unlike in the defense sector, automotive suppliers are not subject to increasing control of the DoD supply chain. Wendy Melton, IT director of GM Defense’s manufacturing facility, says the company is aware and has adjusted to the Pentagon’s cyber security maturity model certification framework.
These suppliers include Concord’s neighbor and the legendary NASCAR racing team Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick has built precision tubular frame chassis and roll cages for its low volume racing cars for over 30 years, and builds the exoskeleton that surrounds the ISV chassis and soldiers’ occupants.
“Because the ISV chassis is made of chrome-moly steel and requires custom manufacture, GM Defense’s requirements are a perfect match for our capabilities,” said Marshall Carlson, president of Hendrick Motorsports. He adds that if Hendrick sees opportunities in the defense market, he will be aggressively pursuing them, particularly with GM Defense.
Hendrick Motorsports may be better known for its legendary NASCAR racing teams, but it produces them … [+]
GM Defense’s relative novelty, flexibility, and partner relationships are the things the new president wants to capitalize on in order to generate new products quickly.
“We will continue to drive the model that we demonstrated with ISV – in order to get the capability into the hands of the warfighter earlier. We need that as a country, ”he says.
GM Defense will next attempt to evolve the model with its own participation in a JLTV offering. That will surely be a big elevator.
Although DoD has ordered around 17,000 JLTVs, of which over 7,500 have been delivered to the services to date, the Army will open the JLTV contract to new bidders in 2022. Almost three times heavier than the unarmored ISV, the JLTV has a sophisticated anti Blast technology and weapons and communications subsystems that GM Defense has little to no experience with.
The company has had discussions with potential partners and while it could act as the lead integrator it will likely look for a team role for JLTV. The same type of partnership could apply to OMFV, which the new president of GM Defense says will be another target for the company.
Mr. duMont previously worked with Raytheon on OMFV, which, together with Rheinmettal and Textron TXT, offered a vehicle for the canceled 2019 competition. An OMFV alliance would offer GM Defense the same luxury as its avowed competitors. There is no need to create a physical prototype, just a virtual design.
This could allow the company to demonstrate its virtual design skills based on GM’s expertise. The combination would revisit the fast-paced experience of the ISV prototype “with the latest technology and the large investment that General Motors is making in battery power for things like the quiet clock capability.” [electric weapon systems power] This is required for OMFV, ”says duMont.
An electric powertrain is something the Army is considering for future ISVs, and GM Defense has already made a concept EV variant of the ISV with a battery-electric Chevrolet Volt engine. It drives similarly to the diesel-powered ISVs the company already produces.
In addition to the diesel powered ISVs currently in production, GM Defense has built one … [+]
The army and other services have a long way to go in proving the usefulness and feasibility of battlefield electric vehicles. However, GM Defense’s access to General Motors’ experience with electric mobility from batteries suggests that the former could ultimately run a stable business as a supplier of electric powertrains to a wide variety of military ground vehicles and key integrators.
“It’s something we look at,” duMont admits, “how do we properly grow to deliver value across defense?”
Whether as Prime or Supplier, GM Defense could exemplify the type of diversified, midsize vendor that DoD is looking for – fast and flexible with commercial roots.
The ISV embodies such traits and explains its attraction to the army soldiers who rated it last year. My experience has shown that it drives like a pickup truck, not a clumsy armored vehicle. As a newer, leaner company, GM Defense could draw the same convincing analogy.