Mike Peck, Director of Business Development at General Dynamics discusses the company’s latest combat vehicles and future army vehicle and weapon needs during an interview with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the 2018 AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Our AUSA coverage is brought to you by Bell, a Textron Company, Elbit System of America, L3 Technologies, Leonardo DRS, and Safran.
Director, Business Development
AUSA Annual Meeting
Vago Muradian: Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report. I’m Vago Muradian here at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Conference and Trade Show here in Washington, DC, the number one gathering of U.S. Army leaders from around the world to discuss the service’s future, its strategy, budgets, doctrine, technology and more. Our coverage here is sponsored by Bell, a Textron company; Elbit Systems of America; L3 Technologies; Leonardo DRS; and SAFRAN. And we are here at the General Dynamics stand to talk to Mike Peck, who is Director of Business Development here. A former United States Army Special Operator, among a very long and illustrious career.
Every year we talk about the investment you guys are making in vehicle technology. Every year it’s called the Griffin. This year it’s called the Griffin, but this year it’s totally different than it was in last Griffin. Talk to us about this awesome vehicle behind you because everything about it is different, from signature reduction stuff you guys have on to a whopping gun that can reach out and touch somebody in a very pronounced way.
Mike Peck: You bet. This is our investment strategy over time. Two years ago we did Griffin I and it was focused on mobile protected firepower. Griffin III, on the other hand, is now focused on the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, and their first priority is a Bradley replacement. So we’ve looked at the infantry fighting vehicle capabilities that the Army says they want, so we’ve developed this. It’s almost on a common chassis, though. So the Ajax chassis from the United Kingdom is the basis of the same engine, transmission, suspension, but all the other things on this thing are unique.
So we have an underlying operating system that is agnostic to the kind of sensors you would have on it. It’s a plug and play. Give me your app, just like your Android. So we don’t, we’re not involved in anybody else’s intellectual properties. We’re only interested in making sure that you can integrate it on this platform.
The unique thing is that we’ve been, over the last two years, involved with a CRADA with ARDEC in developing a 50mm cannon on a unique turret. So the one you see here is a 50mm cannon developed by ATK and ARDEC, an ARDEC fire control system and our turret.
So when you start from scratch with a turret design, then you can do a lot of things. One of them is integrate all your sensor packages.
So every sensor is integrated on this, runs on a common operating platform. There’s no external hangers, there’s no add-ons later on, so you have an active protection system. You have the laser warning system. You have a UAV integrated system with a sensor and a warhead. We have the 3rd gen FLIR in this one.
So it is really a unique design. It’s set up for a crew of two and six passengers in the back. The turret elevates to 85 degrees which makes it a little interesting view of the turret up in the air, but the Army says they’ve got a problem in the urban battle, so this kind of solves some of those problems.
So we’re using it just like we did Griffin I. It’s Army, come and take a look at this, tell us what you like, tell us what you don’t like, and then we’ll make an iteration and by next fall we’ll have a different version of the Griffin IV with the modifications that the Army thinks would be necessary to make it applicable for their mission.
Mr. Muradian: That is extraordinary elevation, but yes, aside from saying hey, you know, we can do anti-air stuff, that really would be in a very close-in fight if you have a target that is very, very high. You can nail that in the 50mm round. It’s something that packs a tremendous punch, right? I mean the bullet weight is what compared to a 25mm?
Mr. Peck: It’s about six times the power of a 25mm. It’s not two, it’s six. And so that comes with some unique characteristics and the turret has to be a little bit bigger because it has to accommodate that size of ordnance. So your baskets that hold the ammunition have to be bigger.
So the turret itself is almost as wide as the vehicle. It still has a fairly nice width profile. It’s a little high, but that’s because they want 85-degree elevation on the gun.
Mr. Muradian: What’s the muzzle velocity on the cannon?
Mr. Peck: I don’t know. We haven’t really gone out and shot it yet. They’re still doing the trades on the ammunition, that’s still in development. So just in case the 50mm isn’t available by the time the Army wants this thing built, the trunnion accommodates a 30mm like the one we have on Stryker.
Mr. Muradian: All right, that’s great. And what I always love is as you go up from 25 to 50, it’s actually exponential. It’s not just a doubling of size in terms of the mass of the round.
Mr. Peck: Right.
Mr. Muradian: Talk to us a little bit about the cladding that you have on the vehicle as well. Signature reduction and optical, I mean I can see this being very, very interesting. Talk to us about what you’re doing and demonstrating.
Mr. Peck: This is one of our contributors called Armor Works. This is their TactiCam camouflage. They’re in test right now and going to provide it to the Army for the Army’s tests, but it is an IR heat and acoustic signature reduction camouflage. So it’s a multi-purpose kind of camouflage. And it does give us a little wow.
Mr. Muradian: Well, but you can also see how, what was one of the challenges, right? Armored vehicles are very slab-sided. They actually tend to stand out even if the camouflage pattern is right. Then you have to worry about netting, which is a problem. With this, I can see it, if you get the color mix absolutely right, it would really contribute to it blending into a background even without getting into any of the reflected or the acoustic signature.
Mr. Peck: Correct. And the fact that it’s in panels. You can take a panel off if it gets damaged, put a new panel on. So it’s not a single solution. So you can adapt this kind of camouflage to any platform, so it will be a mix and match kind of thing.
But we think, from a show perspective, we wanted to be able to grab people’s attention and our partnership with Armor Works certainly did that.
Mr. Muradian: It does. What’s neat is the number of people who come up and actually touch it to see like is it soft, is it Styrofoam, is it — it’s a very, very high-density foam.
Now in terms of the back end of the vehicle, there are a lot of folks in the U.S. Army who really like the CV-90 a lot. Thought that in some respects it was the right vehicle, but it’s an eight-person in the back and the Army wants nine people, and you’re saying you’ve got six in the back. So talk to us a little bit about that dynamic, given that the Army still wants to stay with that nine-man —
Mr. Peck: Currently the Army in the Bradley have three and five, so this stays on that same kind of force structure capability inside the armor brigades. We anticipate, and the Army’s kind of told us that they’re going to stay with that same structure. They’re not going to try to pile the whole squad in one vehicle. Remember GCV was designed to carry the whole squad.
Mr. Muradian: Hence that nine number.
Mr. Peck: Yeah. And it was a little large. A little might be on the kind side. It was really big.
Mr. Muradian: It was like out of a German WWII —
Mr. Peck: It was like a building moving on a track. The Army decided that’s not really what we want.
Mr. Muradian: But you’re a SOF operator, everything looks like a building walking —
Mr. Peck: Yeah, we’re small. We have a small signature.
But the Army after seeing what they said they wanted decided that’s not what we want. That’s when we started saying well, we better show it to them early, then they can get the idea of what the package looks like, and are they comfortable with that or are they not comfortable with that?
And so the conversations we’ve had have been pretty positive that we’re close. Some of the things we’ve done were really good, and some of the things, they may change some potential requirements to accommodate a different look, but that’s the value of our investment strategy, is to bring something like this to a show and have all the senior Army leaders take a look at it and make an assessment. And then they can go back and say hmm, 85 degrees, is that what we really want? Or are we satisfied with something a little less? Then what does that do to the design of the turret and the vehicle?
So it’s been beneficial for us as a manufacturer and solution provider, a platform provider for the Army, to get this discussion early rather than late. With GCV it was late and it looked like a house. This looks pretty good.
Mr. Muradian: Have you been having conversations with General Coffman who is the cross-functional team lead for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle? Do you have a clear-enough idea about what it is that the Army roughly wants, what the baseline is going to be?
Mr. Peck: I think the Army’s really, really close. There are some things they might change like gun elevation and a few of those kinds of things. They still have a decision to make crew size. Is it a two-man crew or a three-man crew? So we’re watching that. We’re talking to him. He’ll be in this afternoon and we’ll have some more conversations with him, but he’s just down the road from us, so we have seen him a couple of times and I think the Army’s done it right with this CFT organizational construct because they put one guy in charge of the requirements, one guy in charge of developing what it is the Army really wants, and then has the community support from the Army functional areas to help him come up with the solution set. Then eventually go to contract and get it. I think it’s going to be beneficial to the Army. It’s certainly beneficial to industry.
Mr. Muradian: Talk to us a little bit about Futures Command. While folks are applauding to some measure the cross-functional teams, there are a lot of folks who are saying look, how does this fit into the Army acquisition enterprise? Right? You have Dr. Jette and his teams, you have TRADOC that still does a part of what it does, you still have ARCIC doing what it does, and now you have these cross-functional teams who are going to be doing it. I understand the dotted line or dual-hatted nature of General Ostrowski and a couple of other folks in the acquisition organization, but is this clear enough for you as somebody who’s been in this business for a long time to know, you know, what the points of entry and what the new eco-system is really going to look like from a functional standpoint?
Mr. Peck: It broadens our customer base. Now I’ve got three or four CFTs that we have some integration of our product line with. So it spreads me a little bit wider. But what it does, it gives me a single point of contact for everything up until they throw the ball over the fence to the acquisition community. And the nice thing is, the acquisition community is involved from the very beginning in the development of the requirements. So the CFT can say I want this and the acquisition guys who are experienced in the development of the vehicle say here’s the impact of that decision. And they can make some different kinds of decisions that way. So I think it’s beneficial for everybody.
Mr. Muradian: Do you think that, power. That has been a question on the Ground Combat Vehicle. The Army was trying to experiment and look at a number of different power sources. The Brits have tried to do that.
From the standpoint of modifying the power plant for this, what are you guys doing in the propulsion element of this? General Motors is making its debut as General Motors Defense here in a powerful way. They’re looking at sort of a hybrid technology. They’re looking at it as an agnostic power plant in the event that the Army chooses it.
Talk to us about some of the propulsive technology that you guys are considering and the on-board power, considering that everything now has a higher power load than ever before on a vehicle.
Mr. Peck: Well, we’ve done an extensive amount of work on electric drive kinds of vehicles, with in-hub electric motors. That’s one option.
The other option, quite honestly, is in-line starter generators. Those develop a huge capacity for electronics and electrical storage. You still have to store it somewhere. You still have to have it available. It has to surge at times. But we’re exploring all of that. [TARDEC] is a partner with us on an in-line starter generator. We’re doing our own IRAD on the in-hub electric motors.
So there’s a lot of options out there for the Army. Some of them apply better to one platform over another platform. But we’ve been watching this for a long, long time. We’ve got some really smart people that work for our Chief Technology Officer, and they’re really working with the Army to decide what are the limits that you guys expect from the capacity on electronics? But when you go buy a car, do you worry about reliability? They’re all reliable. What are you worried about? Can my iPod play on my radio? Can I get satellite radio? Do I have way-point navigation?
Everybody’s worried about now the attributes of the electronics, and the Army is not any different. So we see that as growing, not getting smaller. But at some point in time you’re going to tap out and you’re just not going to need any more than that. I think we’re at the point where we’ve got some pretty good solutions that can be applied across the board.
Mr. Muradian: Mike Peck, Director of Business Development here at General Dynamics Land Systems. Sir, it’s always a pleasure. It’s not AUSA unless we get a chance to talk.
Mr. Peck: Thanks, Vago. Appreciate it.