Army Releases RFP For New Infantry Light Tank, Plans To Buy 500 Vehicles

The Army has released a request for proposals (RFP) for Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF), laying out for industry plans to purchase up to 504 light tanks to accompany infantry brigades into combat.

MPF should provide Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) with “protected, long range, cyber resilient, precision, direct fire capability for early/forcible entry operations,” according to the RFP released Nov. 21. It will operate in coordination with other IBCT vehicles including the Ground Mobility Vehicle (GV) and the Light Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV).

An M551A1 Sheridan light tank during Operation Desert Shield.

An M551A1 Sheridan light tank during Operation Desert Shield.

"From the very start of the program, the Chief of Staff of the Army recognized the capability gap inherent in our current IBCT Force Structure for a platform to deliver mobile precision fires in support of the Infantry on the battlefields of the 21st Century," said Maj. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems.  

Bassett launched the program with an ambitious timeline focusing on mature technologies, “existing material solutions with proven capabilities” married with cutting edge technologies to meet the requirements.

"This effort illustrates how we are doing acquisition differently," Bassett said. "We engaged industry early to get the requirements right and the Chief has been personally involved in setting and prioritizing requirements…The chief also challenged industry, through various engagements, to think outside the box and see how they can meet our requirements in a more efficient manner to provide the Soldier this critical capability,"

Industry hopefuls have until March 1, 2018, to submit proposals for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the program. Two vehicles in early fiscal 2019 will progress into EMD and produce 12 pre-production vehicles apiece. All EMD testing, including pre-production testing and a soldier vehicle assessment, should be complete within 42 months of EMD contract award.

The Army expects to take delivery of industry prototypes within 14 months after the FY '19 contract award, and will get them into the hands of an evaluation unit four months after delivery. 

Industry has responded by investing their Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funds to mature potential MPF designs to a level of readiness “rarely, if ever, seen when procuring a new and highly complex combat platform,” according to PEO GCS.  

"This commitment by industry to help the Army deliver this capability quickly is the direct result of our senior leaders' commitment to the program and personal involvement with requirements,” Bassett said. Funding for the program includes $176 million for EMD in fiscal 2019, $311 million in fiscal 2020, $360 million in fiscal 2021 and $376 million in fiscal 2022.

Low-rate initial production (LRIP) option one has a ceiling price of $378 million for 26 vehicles, for a unit price of $14.5 million. LRIP option two should not exceed $311 million for 28 vehicles, for a unit price of $11.1 million, according to the RFP.

The contractor whose system best meets the evaluation criteria will be awarded the LRIP option(s). Only one EMD contractor will be selected for LRIP. The LRIP options include a total of 54 vehicles. LRIP also includes the retrofit of eight EMD vehicles. The Army plans to equip its first unit with MPF vehicles in 2025.

Requirement and affordability specifics remain classified, but the RFP states that the Army’s desired capabilities are ranked in four tiers ranging from required to objective. Some of the second- and third-tier performance characteristics deemed “tradeable” can be offset with sufficient cost reduction, the RFP says.

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