WASHINGTON: The US Army plans to switch on the ignition of its hybrid electric Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle in January and put it through several tests next year, a top Army official recently told Breaking Defense.
The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office is developing two hybrid electric Bradley prototypes, an effort that could have implications for the service’s future fleet of 225,000 vehicles.
Progress on the effort comes amid a larger focus at the highest levels of the Pentagon, including from Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, on the potential of hybrid and electric vehicles. Moving to electric would increase the overall engine performance and improve power generation inside the vehicle, while also reducing the fossil fuel emissions and, potentially, the logistical burden.
“If this works, we would use this kind of technology and apply it as we look at our requirements for other vehicles in the future,” Stanley Darbro, deputy director of the Army RCCTO, told Breaking Defense in a Nov. 19 interview.
The hybrid-electric Bradley effort is about 15 months into a 24-month prototyping effort, powered by a $32 million contract for BAE Systems to integrate hybrid-electric drive technology onto the vehicles. The company is currently finishing up integration on its first Bradley, with the second one expected to be completed in February or March, Darbro said.
A hybrid Bradley — and large fleets of electrified vehicles — could provide the Army with both cost savings and a battlefield advantage, Darbro said. According to an Army fact sheet, a hybrid Bradley will be able to operate in silent mode for about six hours and improve the performance of weapons systems.
“You will reduce the amount of fossil fuels that you’ll use when you’re running on electric. So if you took that and you multiply it by a number of those particular systems that are on the battlefield, even small savings on fuel … gives you a huge savings across the department,” Darbro said.
He added that the Army could also save on logistics because if the service is “using less fossil fuel, then our wear and tear on those parts that use it are less.”
According to Defense News, the hybrid Bradley prototype effort is part of a broader $170 million fund dedicated to combat vehicle prototyping.
Next summer, the hybrid electric Bradleys will undergo testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. At APG, the Bradley will be driven through rough terrain to see how it performs. In Yuma, Darbro said, it’ll basically compete against another vehicle.
“We’ll run these vehicles side by side and make sure that we didn’t lose any capability that the vehicle already had, and that’ll be a milestone as well,” Darbro said. “And we’ll run them through the same testing to compare them to each other.”
The overall takeaway for the Army so far is how to do the integration, Darbro said. The service has to outfit the Bradley’s subcomponents, such as the new engine, electric pumps and a new cooling fan motor that had to be redesigned to fit the vehicle. Additionally, finding the right placement for the new battery without decreasing the amount of space for transporting soldiers — the Bradley’s core use — presented a major challenge for the service.
“We don’t want to perturb any of the operator capacity — where you have so many soldiers that are in that vehicle,” he said. “We don’t want to change that at all. So it’s a little bit of a task … to go back and make those things happen.”
The future hybrid vehicles are more than just a hybrid engine that can save the Army money on fuel costs. The vehicles will also provide power using the electric capabilities to charge battlefield gear.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we put the standard connections out there so that they have some of these components, it just hooks right up and we don’t dictate which ones they charge or recharge,” Darbro said.
Army plans to turn on first hybrid electric Bradley in January – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Andrew Eversden for breakingdefense.com