Losses aside, SAIC still sees future in ground vehicle business

Science Applications International Corp. is betting that the third time is a charm in its push to win a program of record as a prime in the military ground vehicle domain through partnerships with manufacturers of those platforms.

A pair of losses against BAE Systems for contracts to provide larger vehicles to the Army and Marine Corps is not deterring SAIC from its belief that it has a great deal to offer for those types of programs as a technology integrator and engineering services provider.

Experiences and lessons from its pursuits of the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower and Marines’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle programs are also feeding right into how SAIC is approaching its newest opportunity, the company’s defense systems head told me recently.

So too are the incremental upgrades to the Marines’ lineup of Amphibious Assault Vehicles that SAIC had worked on for several years, SAIC Executive Vice President Jim Scanlon said.

“What we had going into all of those programs was still that engineering, domain understanding, background that we’ve done, the people, processes and tools,” Scanlon told me. “We were able to bring those forward into those programs.

“What those programs then allowed us to do was to further mature production-type capabilities, where we have high-throughput elements and aspects. Through many years we have been doing a lot of lower-quantity modifications (and) technology insertions, those programs were focused more on taking it into production.”

Here is where that brings SAIC today. The vehicle program it is pursuing this time around is the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle, a lighter-weight mobile truck to carry a nine-person squad and their equipment. SAIC is the prime contractor just like in the other two pursuits, but this time is partnering with Polaris to offer the latter’s “DAGOR” vehicle for the ISV competition.

Contracting documents posted in February indicate the Army plans to choose three companies for prototype contracts by the end of this month and pick a final winner by March of next year. In ISV, the Army wants a vehicle it can transport via helicopter and support infantry squads moving within “the close battle area.”

As Scanlon explained in our conversation, the idea behind SAIC’s partnership with Polaris is partially centered around the idea of rapidly integrating new technologies onto the vehicle as they evolve. By taking that approach, Scanlon said the Army is more in control of what the vehicle looks like and runs on.

“Fundamentally, we think it’s really important to be able to provide to our customers that open architecture… the ability for them to be able to own their destiny going forward,” Scanlon said. “To incrementally modify and improve their platforms with any competitor is consistent with the model that we’ve done and we’re going to continue as we go forward.”

That is intended a different way of thinking about the platform as having parts from many different companies versus the traditional role of the original equipment manufacturer.

“Some folks like to think that it’s just a traditional black box (and) I can just bolt it on -- well you’ve got to think about where do I place the antennas, how do I think about the co site interference, the bonding, the grounding, the shielding, all of those kinds of things,” Scanlon said.

“It’s that expertise and that insight of bringing capabilities together onto a platform, that’s the system integrator (and) technology integrator role that we’ve been providing for the last 20-25 years to our customers.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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