U.S. Would Save $14 Billion Buying German Combat Vehicle

The U.S. Army would save $14 billion and get a better combat vehicle by choosing a German-made transport over versions being developed by BAE Systems Plc and General Dynamics Corp., the Congressional Budget Office said.

Buying the German-made Puma was one of several options outlined in a report yesterday as improvements over the Army’s current plan for a tank-like Ground Combat Vehicle intended to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

“Although none of those alternatives would meet all of the Army’s goals” for the Ground Combat Vehicle, “all are likely to be less costly and less risky in terms of unanticipated cost increases and schedule delays,” the nonpartisan CBO said.

The Puma, made by a joint venture of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH based in Munich and Rheinmetall AG based in Dusseldorf, “is slightly more capable” than the Ground Combat Vehicle and might also be purchased “at only half the cost,” according to the report. It can accommodate six passengers, not the nine-member squad the Army considers a key capability, according to the CBO.

BAE, based in London, and General Dynamics, based in Falls Church, Virginia, are competing to produce the replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Previous plans called for both companies to continue development work beyond 2014, after which one probably would have been selected for the production phase.

Strategy Revision

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, directed a revision to this strategy in January, allowing for more companies to compete to enter engineering and manufacturing development and a chance to produce the vehicle.

The budget office pegged the latest cost estimate for about 1,748 vehicles at $29 billion through 2030 when priced in fiscal 2013 dollars. Previous estimates ran to as much as $40 billion.

In another option, the CBO said upgrading Bradley vehicles, made by BAE, would result in platforms “more lethal” in combat and would keep soldiers alive “at about the same rate” as the proposed new vehicle.

The Bradley carries seven passengers. Canceling the Ground Combat Vehicle development program and buying upgraded Bradleys instead would save $9 billion from 2014 to 2030, according to the CBO. That option would require adding a more powerful engine, additional armor and an extra gun to the Bradley.

According to the CBO report, the Ground Combat vehicle would have 1,500 horsepower and weigh 50 to 65 tons. That compares with the upgraded Bradley at 800 horsepower and 35 to 41 tons, and the Puma at 1,073 horsepower and 35 to 47 tons.

Army spokesman Matthew Bourke said in a response to the CBO report that, after extensive assessments last year of existing U.S. and foreign vehicles, the service concluded that options in meeting its requirements are limited.

“The Army continues to fine-tune the vehicle requirements to support cost targets while continuing to evaluate” what combat requirements can be adjusted that “better align with the goal of an affordable and achievable vehicle,” Bourke said in an e-mailed statement.