Army Plans To Buy A Dozen Light Tank Prototypes From Two Industry Teams

The Army is about a week away from issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for its new light tank that will accompany infantry brigades into combat and eventually will buy 12 prototypes from two companies whose vehicles will compete for a production contract.

Nov. 17 is the target date to publish the official RFP for the Mobile Protected Firepower platform, according to a program synopsis released Oct. 31 on the government’s contracting website. Industry proposals will be due within 90 days of the RFP release. Offerors may submit a bid sample and armor coupons to substantiate proposal data. Contract award is scheduled for 1st quarter of fiscal 2018.

An M551A1 Sheridan light tank during Operation Desert Shield.

An M551A1 Sheridan light tank during Operation Desert Shield.

Industry responses to the draft RFP published in late September were due Oct. 12 and are being incorporated into the formal RFP going out in two weeks. The Army has established an MPF program office within Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) to oversee the competition.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, chief of PEO GCS, has set an aggressive schedule for MPF with proposals due next spring followed by a contract award in early fiscal 2019, which begins Oct.1, 2018, “as soon as we can get dollars,” Bassett said. Industry should deliver prototype vehicles 15 months after a contract is in hand and an evaluation unit should have hands on them for testing within six months, he said.

MPF is shaping up much like the Marine Corps’ ongoing effort to procure a new Amphibious Combat Vehciel (ACV). In that program, the Marine Corps went after largely non-developmental vehicles and awarded contracts for two companies – BAE Systems and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] – to produce more than a dozen engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) prototypes. The service is in the midst of a thorough test campaign at the end of which it will compare capability, performance and cost and move into production with one or the other.

With MPF, the Army intends to award up to two EMD contracts with options for low-rate initial production (LRIP) vehicles. The EMD phase will be conducted under firm-fixed price contracts with a 43-month period of performance, according to the Nov. 1 synopsis.

Each contractor chosen to participate in EMD will build 12 pre-production vehicles, two ballistic hull and turrets, armor coupons and logistics products. Near the conclusion of EMD, the government intends to conduct an additional evaluation to determine the best value offeror for LRIP option exercise, according to the synopsis. 

Criteria for the LRIP downselect will be released through an amendment of the RFP by Dec. 15.  During LRIP the Army plans to procure up to 54 vehicles on a fixed-priced incentive firm basis, retrofit of eight EMD prototypes to LRIP configuration, test support, and logistics products. The total period of performance, including all LRIP options is 83 months, or just under seven years.

So far, industry hopefuls have largely been silent on plans to submit proposals and details of potential designs. No potential MPFs were on display at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s annual trade show in October, a traditional venue for showing off wares to the Army.

The lone company that made its plans public before AUSA was SAIC, which has teamed with Singapore-based vehicle manufacturer ST Kinetics, mirroring the industry combo that is in competition to build the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Assault Vehicle (ACV) 1.1. CMI Defense will supply the turret.

BAE Systems has not released any details on its submission, but the company is prepared to submit a proposal by spring 2018, according to a spokesperson.

General Dynamics Land Systems [GD] brought a prototype light tank consisting of an M1 Abrams turret and main gun atop a modified Ajax tracked personnel carrier to AUSA in 2016, but made no formal announcement this year.

Called the Griffin, GD’s vehicle can accept 105mm, 120mm standard barrel and the 120 lightweight with little more work than swapping out barrels. Griffin is outfitted with the Abrams V2 mission systems architecture and is ready to accept upgrades associated with the V3 engineering change proposal (ECP) configuration.





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