Army takes delivery of final RCV prototype

By Ethan Sterenfeld / May 26, 2021 at 2:27 PM

The Army has taken delivery of all eight purpose-built Robotic Combat Vehicle prototypes that it ordered last year, the service announced today.

The final of the four prototypes of the RCV-Medium variant was delivered to the Army May 13, according to a statement from the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team. All four RCV-Light prototypes were delivered in December.

Both variants will undergo shakedown testing this summer, in preparation for larger tests next year, according to the statement.

"With the RCVs now in government possession, work has begun to integrate autonomy on the systems, pair them with their manned control vehicle, and then move on to shake-out testing to prepare the vehicles for a Soldier Operational Experiment (SOE) to be held in summer 2022," according to the CFT's statement.

The company-level experiment in the summer of 2022 and other tests will serve as "mythbusting" as the Army decides how robots will fit into ground formations, Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT, told Inside Defense earlier this month.

This will be the second soldier operational experiment for the RCV, after a platoon-level exercise that finished in August. But that experiment used legacy ground vehicles as surrogates for the RCV, rather than purpose-built robotic prototypes.

"The prototypes will be used by soldiers in operational experiments to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) that our Brigade Combat Teams will utilize to bring new levels of lethality to our forces through the combining of Manned and Un-Manned Teams (MUM-T)," Coffman said in the statement about the deliveries.

Having purpose-built RCV prototypes will allow the Army to "increase our learning exponentially" about the ways that soldiers will team with robotic vehicles, according to Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the program executive officer for ground combat systems.

"Utilizing soldier inputs with these prototypes, while government and industry engineers are out in the dirt alongside the soldiers, allows us to ensure that when we move toward a production vehicle, we have all that input built into the system from the ground up," Dean said.

After the summer 2022 experiment, the Army will move to another phase of the RCV program, which will include a soldier operational experiment in fiscal year 2026, according to the statement. Decisions about the Army's acquisition and fielding of RCVs will be made after that date.