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US Army awards four contracts for RCV prototypes

Ripsaw M5 and M3. (Textron Systems)

The US Army has selected four companies that will build two prototypes each for the service's Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light (RCV-L) programme, officials announced on 20 September.

Textron Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, McQ Inc, and Oshkosh Defense were awarded the contracts, which task them with delivering prototypes by August 2024. The companies will also go through a preliminary design review during the first phase, David Phillips, senior vice-president of Textron Systems' Land and Sea Systems, told Janes on 22 September.

The army will hold a competition between the first-phase awardees for the second-phase contracts, according to an army press release. A single winner will be selected in fiscal year (FY) 2025 to finalise system designs, build, and deliver up to nine full-system prototypes in FY 2026, the release said. Further testing will support a follow-on production decision in FY 2027, with first unit fielding planned for FY 2028.

“Human-machine integrated teams are the future of successful ground combat in the land domain,” said Brigadier General Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team.

The army plans to analyse “mobility, ruggedness, durability, sensor performance, and remote vehicle control and reliability”, he said in an interview. During the early testing, the vehicle will be teleoperated because the RCV-L's autonomy software is being developed under a separate acquisition pathway, Brig Gen Norman added.

The Ripsaw M3 – Textron's prototype – will use Teledyne FLIR's Operator Control Unit (OCU), which is used in the army's Soldier Borne Sensor programme and in other Special Operations Command programmes, Phillips told Janes . Its hardware includes a chest-mounted display and single-handed controller, and it is controlled by uPoint Multi-Robot Control software, an Android-based application.

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