Coming soon: A smart combat vehicle

With artificial intelligence and digital design, here’s our vision for the Army’s Bradley replacement

It looks like a fighting vehicle. But it’s a lot more than that.

Raytheon Technologies and American Rheinmetall Vehicles are developing an infantry fighting vehicle that can conduct close-combat operations, survive modern threats like anti-tank guided missiles and cyber attacks, and use artificial intelligence to help the crew make split-second decisions. If there’s a crew at all, that is; it can also be operated remotely.

The vehicle, Rheinmetall’s Lynx KF41 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, will be the foundation for the industry team’s proposed design to the U.S. Army for its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which will replace the aging Bradley fleet.

The team’s design is built on decades of experience in key combat programs and user feedback. It includes a chassis produced by Textron Systems and a next-generation transmission by Allison Transmissions, both made in the U.S.

“The future battlefield calls for a digitally connected fighting vehicle that can outpace the enemy,” said Pat McCormack, a former Bradley master gunner for the Army and now a capability analyst at Raytheon, a Raytheon Technologies business.

Bradley fighting vehicles traditionally have a three-soldier crew: a commander, gunner and a driver. The new OMFV will have two soldiers and an AI-powered virtual third crew member to help the humans on board think, decide and act faster.

“We will design a vehicle where artificial intelligence detects, identifies and tracks a target, but leaves the engagement decision to the soldier,” McCormack said.

Modern automation will allow a two-person crew to maneuver across the battlefield and watch for threats. When the system finds a threat, it will classify it and assign it a priority, after which soldiers can decide whether and how to engage. This reduces their cognitive load and number of simultaneous demands. The vehicle will be similar to a sophisticated semi-autonomous car, with computers and algorithms doing lots of analysis but people making the final decisions.

“Artificial intelligence is a big leap forward with any fighting vehicle,” said Brad Barnard, director of OMFV at Raytheon. “Not only will AI assume a role, it will increase situational awareness and survivability.”

The Lynx Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The Lynx Infantry Fighting Vehicle is a next-generation, tracked, armored fighting vehicle designed to address the critical challenges of the future battlefield.

Digital engineering a combat vehicle

The Lynx team is using digital engineering to build detailed, accurate computer models to ensure new capabilities like aided target recognition, or ATR, are compatible with the vehicle. It allows them to connect multiple points of model data into one database, also called a single source of truth.

“We will virtually build, analyze and refine the Lynx design as we progress,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon. “And we’ll ensure digital technology enablers, like AI-enabled aided target recognition, provide soldiers every advantage on the battlefield.”

The team will install ATR or other technologies virtually to iterate and assess impacts on the entire system. This reduces integration efforts and risk before manufacturing physical prototypes or installing hardware.

A computerized testbed allows them to create the vehicle virtually — testing it on different terrains and modeling combat simulations — and then export the digital model to build a physical version. 

That’s only the beginning. The team will look to install other automated programs on the OMFV, where artificial intelligence will help spread the workload. As part of the assessment, the team will examine how effectively AI assumes a portion of a crew member’s tasks.

Artificial intelligence is driving a revolution in the way military systems are designed and built, and it will change the way soldiers carry out missions.

“Designing and testing virtually in a digital environment is revolutionizing our rapid learning,” Kremer said. “The results are dramatic; we can give our front-line warfighters advanced capabilities that allow them to face whatever challenges the future fight entails.”

The Army plans to have its Bradley replacement in the field in 2028.