Since the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was first introduced to the Army in 1982 it has been constantly modernized; however, the upgrades conducted over the past decade have been particularly taxing to the platform.
“It’s important to remember that armor improvements and the Bradley Urban Survivability Kit (BUSK) make today’s Bradley very different than the Bradleys that rolled into Iraq in 2003. The Army has not stopped improving its capabilities, but the Bradley has reached its limit of new capabilities it can accept without making some basic architectural improvements,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Dean, Product Manager for the Bradley and Armored Knight programs.
Space, Weight, and Power-Cooling, or SWaP-C, limits have been reached within the Bradley’s current configuration, leaving little room for integrating future capabilities. During the conflict in Iraq, the Army upgraded the Bradley to improve Soldier protection. These modifications included improved armor, BUSK integration, and counter-radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare (CREW) devices. The improvements, while extremely effective, increased the weight and electrical power consumption of the vehicle leaving little remaining margin to add new capabilities. This problem becomes compounded by the need to integrate the Army’s new network systems — the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, the Joint Tactical Radio System, and the Joint Battle Command-Platform software — and new systems such as next generation CREW devices, all of which require additional SWaP-C or computing capacity to operate.
To ensure the vehicle can enable the Army’s network investment and incorporate other Army programs of record without further degrading operational performance, basic improvements will be made as part of the upcoming Bradley Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) program. An ECP is a modification to a system that leaves the essential capability unchanged. So while the Bradley will maintain its classic look on the outside, under the hood will be a different matter.
The current Army plan breaks the Bradley ECP changes into two iterations. ECP 1 is designed to address the weight growth of the vehicle with early delivery of some mature products. It includes four capabilities — extended life; heavyweight track designed to handle larger vehicle weights; heavyweight torsion bars which will restore ground clearance lost to increased weight, improving cross-country mobility and underbelly blast protection; and improved durability road arms and shock absorbers, designed to reduce operating costs and maintenance intervals at increased vehicle weights.
The Army has not stopped improving its capabilities, but the Bradley has reached its limit of new capabilities it can accept without making some basic architectural improvements.
ECP 2 is focused on meeting electric power generation and computing requirements for network systems.
“The intent of the Bradley ECP program is not to degrade the performance of the vehicle. If we simply added a larger generator to the current vehicle, we would get more electrical power, but at the expense of less automotive power for speed, acceleration, and cross-country mobility,” said Dean.
To address this issue ECP 2 will include an upgraded generator and power distribution system, but will also require an engine and transmission modification to ensure automotive capability is not lost in order to power network systems.
“The last time we did an engine power upgrade was with the Bradley A2 in 1988. With the ECP program, the Bradley will be able to keep pace with Army modernization, remaining capable and relevant into the next decade and beyond,” added Dean.
Computing and data handling capability will also weigh heavily in the ECP effort. The digital bus architecture of the Bradley will be improved through incorporation of common intelligent displays, an improved slip ring, improved Ethernet switch, and VICTORY computing architecture standards, all of which will contribute to the integration and handling of the large volumes of data the new Army network systems require.
Current plans are to apply both ECPs to just over 15 brigades, or about 1,860 vehicles. Some ECP 1 components are projected to be fielded during FYs 14 through 18, depending upon future defense budgets. ECP 2 will begin engineering design in FY13, and is scheduled for initial fielding in FY18.
“The ECP effort is a total system solution to manage vehicle space, weight, and power to enable the network,” said Dean. “We’re taking the opportunity to deliver the weight management pieces early, since they are the most ready, while we complete the engineering of the rest of the changes. That way we can ensure a constant flow of improvements to the field.”
The Bradley ECP program is managed by Product Manager Bradley/Armored Knight, which falls under leadership of the Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems.
- Bill Good is with Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems Public Affairs.