SAIC forges ahead on ground vehicle integration push

Science Applications International Corp. was not chosen for the Marines' next-generation vehicle program but believes it can take those lessons into a similar Army competition.

Science Applications International Corp. is going full-steam ahead on its push to be an integrator of choice of ground vehicles and other large platforms for the military after a pair of setbacks with high-profile Marine Corps programs.

But SAIC is using lessons from those experiences with the Marine Corps as the government services contractor chases another program with the Army to build a lighter tank with digital tools designed in that can be updated as needed, a company executive recently told me.

And for the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower light tank competition, SAIC again here is betting that it can apply its IT and systems integration experience into the ground vehicle arena with a bent toward incremental upgrades as technology changes.

That experience also includes engineering and modeling and simulation in an aim to create a more digital environment for soldiers inside the platform, SAIC’s Jim Scanlon said.

“All of these technologies as you look at platforms, it all becomes the cognitive load for the user. So how do you use technology to unburden and speed up some of the things they can do through automation to allow them to do the mission they need,” said Scanlon, senior vice president and general manager of SAIC’s defense systems group.

“Marrying those technologies allows us to connect our training and resiliency type activities with the IT and the platform,” Scanlon added in an Oct. 8 conversation at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.

Rather than be the platform builder, SAIC partners with makers of different pieces of a ground vehicle and then integrates those parts into the larger offering. SAIC also seeks to “leverage the industrial base that is already out there” in terms of sites for the assembly and manufacturing work, Scanlon said.

That was SAIC’s approach for the Marine Corps’ next-generation Amphibious Combat Vehicle competition, for which the company offered a customized variant of an ST Engineering-built vehicle used by the military of Singapore, where ST Engineering is headquartered.

SAIC’s offering for the MPF competition again has ST Engineering in the picture with the latter’s chassis and Belgium-based CMI Defence is providing the turret. The MPF competition pits SAIC against BAE Systems and General Dynamics with an award anticipated for November.

BAE Systems, builder of every Marine Corps amphibious vehicle since World War II, won the ACV program in June through a head-to-head showdown with SAIC. Then the Marine Corps in September ended SAIC’s contract for survivability upgrades to the legacy Amphibious Assault Vehicle, which ACV is intended to eventually replace.

The loss of that Marine Corps work did not take SAIC out of the vehicle picture entirely. Scanlon told me SAIC also integrates new technologies onto both the Army’s Humvee fleet and its successor in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

And pieces of that experience with the Marine Corps can be applied to its effort for the Army MPF competition with supply chain management and the partnerships being transferrable across programs, Scanlon said.

“Working with how we bring technology from offshore into the U.S., all of that was applicable,” Scanlon said. “Each one positioned us to be able to continue to work through this journey and we’ve been able to leverage all of the investments from the initial work all the way through.”

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