Army to test and shoot weapons at new Mobile Protected Firepower prototypes

The Army plans to fire guns, rockets and cannons at prototypes of the emerging Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle to prepare the fast-tracked platform for major mechanized warfare, service officials explained.

The attacks, expected to include RPGs, crew-served weapons, small arms fire and various kinds of cannons and land-rockets, are intended to fully and accurately replicate combat as part of upcoming soldier “lethality tests” of its new MPF platform, Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director, NGCV Cross-Functional Team, told reporters.

“We will take these vehicles and shoot at them to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers,” Coffman said. “The soldier user test will execute likely missions that an IBCT will have in full-scale combat. This includes the use of mechanized war vehicles in the close-in-fight.”

Part of these assessments, which include move-to-contact missions, assault exercises, medium range fire on static and moving targets – and mobility tests across rigorous, uneven terrain. Army developers will also look at expanding the anticipated mission requirements for the MPF, to include counter-air attacks on enemy drones and helicopters, Coffman added.

“MPF has a large cannon that would be effective against rotary wing. That would be beneficial – we are going to look at it,” Coffman said to Warrior Maven.

The prototype Mobile Protected Firepower vehicles will soon be arriving through the Army’s Rapid Prototyping deal with BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems. Each vendor will deliver 12 prototype vehicles for testing and development, a key step toward a 2022 “down-select” to one vendor and the eventual construction of 504 vehicles.

The MPF is being accelerated to war, in part to meet a pressing need for mobile firepower to support rapidly advancing light infantry. Army assessments found that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) lack the maneuverable firepower needed to destroy fortified enemy positions, bunkers, light armored vehicles and heavy machine gun positions.

A Congressional Research Report from October of last year reached a similar conclusion, explaining that current infantry lacks the requisite attack and mobility requirements.

“The IBCT lacks the ability to decisively close with and destroy the enemy under restricted terrains such as mountains, littorals, jungles, subterranean areas, and urban areas,” the CRS report states.

The Army’s fast-tracked plan for the MPF requires a dual-pronged acquisition approach for the service, which wants to both harness the best available weapons and technologies today – while also engineering a vehicle to be successful in war 20-years down the road. While the testing and developmental assessments are intended to be thorough, the Army plan is to prepare the platform for war on a massively expedited time frame, intended to circumvent some of the more lengthy and bureaucratic hurdles known to encumber the traditional acquisition process.

For instance, as a way to make use of readily available technologies and circumvent certain lengthy acquisition milestones, the program will not have a formal Preliminary Design Review and Critical Design Review

“One of our biggest challenges is to continue to upgrade our current platforms for anything we may go to war with today at the same time making sure we put the proper investments into our future abilities – so we are ready for the fight after next,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.