Video Above: The Army asked industry to invest, innovate and push ahead of the technical curve for Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicles
There are a broad set of parameters when it comes to what the Army wants the new vehicle to incorporate, yet much of the actual designs, technologies and weapons configurations are being left up to industry innovators.
“We want to learn from their designs. We established what we believe are the best requirements. There are some things we think should be mandatory and other things which are left as open options for industry as trade space. When we get this in the hands of soldiers, we can compare performance costs and get the best equipment for soldiers. We are paying companies to come up with the best version of their idea,” Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director, Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told reporters at the 2021 Association of the United States Army annual symposium.
Of course the vehicle will need to operate with a robotic capability, meaning the technological ability to perform unmanned missions, yet the Army has not specified exactly how many soldiers each individual vehicle will transport or what kinds of exact weapons capabilities it will incorporate. For example, the Army may arm its new infantry carriers with a 30mm cannon or a 50mm cannon, or simply equip the vehicle with a turret that is able to quickly exchange between the two as required by a mission.
OMFV (Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle) Teams
There are currently five industry teams working intensely to refine digital designs sufficient to meet Army criteria, yet many of the offerings will simply be proposals or “suggested’ Ideas for the Army to consider. Some of the vendors will arm their
OMFVs with anti-drone missiles, heavy cannons, anti-tank weapons or even lasers. Some of them will launch and recover drones.
Robotic operations will be a crucial element of the vehicle as it will conduct manned-unmanned teaming operations. This means that perhaps a manned OMFV will operate a small fleet of nearby drone vehicles to deliver ammo, conduct forward surveillance, test enemy defenses or even conduct offensive strikes on enemy formations. At the same time, the OMFV itself could operate as an autonomous robotic vehicle and seek to fire cannons with input from human decision makers or seek to penetrate enemy armored fortifications without placing soldiers at risk.
Regardless of the weapons configuration, which will likely include anti-tank missiles, counter air weapons and recoverable attack drones, the OMFV will be engineered for massive amounts of networking. This means its ability to succeed in manned-unmanned teaming operations will be determined by the success with which it can gather, process and transmit time-sensitive data in combat.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox