The U.S. Army wants at least two "field demonstrators" for its Next Generation Combat Vehicle no later than 2022. The vehicles, dubbed NGCV, will help the Army figure out what it wants in future vehicles designed to replace the venerable M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley fighting vehicle.
The Army's M1 Abrams main battle tank and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle have been the backbone of armor and mechanized infantry units for decades. Both were introduced in the early 1980s and were considerable improvements in firepower, protection, and mobility over vehicles they were designed to replace. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the lack of any credible conventional opponent, and the post-9/11 low intensity wars shifted emphasis away from major conflict.
The Army has tried twice to replace the M1 and M2. The first program, Future Combat Systems (FCS), ran from 1999 until cancellation in 2008. without fielding a single vehicle. A follow-on program, the Ground Combat Vehicle, scaled back plans from an entire family of armored vehicles to just replacing the M2 Bradley. That was in 2014.
Now, the Army is forging ahead with the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV. What is the NGCV? That's a very good question. In November 2016 an officer assigned to the program , "The Next Generation Combat Vehicle might be an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, but it might be a single combat vehicle that replaces the Abrams, the Bradley, potentially the (light tank) and even the (wheeled armored vehicle) It could be a family of vehicles very similar to the original FCS program."
In other words, the NGCV could literally be anything. It could be a substitute for a 40 ton infantry carrier, or a 70 ton tank, or even a 20 ton wheeled armored vehicle. The Army can't even break it down to something as simple as, "We want a tank."
In some respects, this zen approach to procurement is refreshing. Warfare is constantly changing, and it's difficult to plan for the next war. At the same time however, it's difficult to understand how industry is supposed to deliver a vehicle when the Army doesn't even know what kind of vehicle it wants. At what point is the program not performing to expectations when literally everything—and nothing—is expected of it? That's how the Army blew $18.1 billion on Future Combat Systems.