US Army selects ‘mini-Abrams’ as its future light tank – Ground Forces

The US Army on Tuesday selected General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) to build a light tank intended to improve mobility, protection and direct fire capabilities for Infantry Brigades.

The production deal is an important step forward for Army Futures Command, which has promised faster and more successful modernization programs through a competitive prototyping approach.

GDLS will initially deliver 26 vehicles, but the contract allows the Army to purchase 70 more over the course of initial low-rate production for a total of $1.14 billion, according to the Army.

At least eight of the 12 prototypes used during the competitive assessment will be retrofitted to be fielded, said service officials in charge of the competition.

The first production vehicles are expected to be delivered in just under 19 months. The first unit will receive sufficient amounts of MPF [General Dynamics “Mobile Protected Firepower” (MPF) light tank] to equip one battalion — 42 vehicles — by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2025. The Army plans to enter full-scale production in calendar year 2025, according to the GDLS.

“The MPF shows that the Army is committed to making acquisitions quickly and using all the new approaches and new authorities that we have to do modernization in a new way,” Army Procurement Chief Doug Bush said at a roundtable discussion. media on June 28.

He noted that it is the first major platform going from prototyping to production under the Army’s Futures Command, which has new rapid prototyping authorities.

“This program is leading that effort and prototyping into production is not easy. There’s a lot more work to do as we get into low-rate production and then we have operational testing,” he said. “But I am very encouraged by the work so far.”

The Army expects to spend about $6 billion on the MPF program during the procurement phase, including what has already been spent on research and development and prototyping, according to Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, service program executive officer for ground combat systems. The total life-cycle cost of the program, including maintenance, military construction, and personnel, is estimated at around $17 billion.

The Army plans to purchase 504 vehicles, which must remain in service for at least 30 years. Most purchases are expected to be completed by 2035, Dean said, adding that the MPF program remained on schedule and on budget.

Once in the field, MPF capability will be organized by battalion, but will be deployed as units “generally” at the brigade level, Major General Ross Coffman, who oversees combat vehicle modernization, said during the same roundtable.

GDLS and BAE Systems – selected in 2018 to build prototypes – were competing to produce MPF. Reports earlier this year indicated that the service had already made its choice, taking BAE out of the competition several months before announcing the winner.

At the time, Bush said the Army had conducted a fair and thorough assessment of both vehicles, but did not address reports that the Army had already decided on a winner. Dean, during Tuesday’s roundtable, declined to discuss the selection process, citing the sensitivity of the competition.

The two prototypes differed significantly. The GDLS offered a new, lightweight chassis with a high-performance power package and advanced suspension, combined with a turret with the latest version of the fire control system found on the Abrams main battle tank.

BAE Systems’ design is a system based on the M8 Buford updated with new features and components.

Army officials said the service chose to move forward with the GDLS model because it offered the best value. System cost, maturity and production readiness were factors, Dean said.

In 2021, the companies were tasked with delivering prototypes for a military vehicle evaluation with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

GDLS delivered vehicles for evaluation in January, months ahead of BAE Systems, which faced production delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. The military completed the assessments in early August.

In the fall of 2021, competing light tank prototypes underwent testing that included firing and marked the final step before the service selected a winner.

“The soldiers the Army selected [para a avaliação] were crews familiar with the Abrams tank when they started the assessment last year and immediately saw how common the appearance and operations inside the turret were. [comparadas] with current Abrams,” said Tim Reese, director of business development for GDLS in the US. “It didn’t take a lot of training to bring them up to date.”

The company also included a commander-independent thermal viewer, which was not originally an Army requirement, Reese said.

Reese said the similarity to Abrams will mean the vehicles can be upgraded together when appropriate.

He said the company designed its vehicle with growth capability “so what we envision over the life of the program will be the desire to update things or add features” and said the GDLS made some adjustments to the vehicle following feedback from soldiers. .

“One of the things soldiers really wanted was for the mat protection skirts to be more easily removable so they could get in, clean and adjust the mats,” Reese said.

“We made some changes to the seals around the hatches based on their feedback. We learned a few things about the cooling system,” he said. “There are a number of things that are better today or will be better when we go into low-rate production than the first 12 we built for competition.”

BAE Systems told Defense News in a statement that while the company “was not chosen to advance the MPF competition, we will take the innovation and lessons learned from our solution with us and apply it to future modernization efforts.”

SOURCE: Defense News

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