Like its namesake mythical beast, the General Dynamics [GD] new Griffin medium tank is cobbled together to create a whole that is more than the sum of its constituent parts.

The vehicle, first displayed at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual exposition in Washington, D.C., consists of an M1 Abrams turret and main gun atop a modified Ajax tracked personnel carrier made by General Dynamics’ U.K. division.

In response to information the Army gave industry in August on the anticipated requirements for a light tank for infantry brigades, GD whipped up the Griffin design in five months, Michael Peck, General Dynamics Land Systems director of enterprise business development, told Defense Daily.

General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin light tank concept. (Photo
General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin light tank concept. (Photo

GD  wants to start a conversation with Army officials about specific capabilities it wants in an air-transportable tank designed to deploy with light infantry units. The company plans to show up to the 2017 AUSA with a retooled Griffin that addresses observations by Army officials at this year’s show, Peck said.

“This is a conversation piece,” Peck said. That’s why we call it a tech demonstrator. … We brought this to sit down with Army leadership to ask what we got right. What would you change? What else would you do that we wouldn’t do? Then, next year, we’ll show them something different from this where we accommodate all those things they give us as far as thinking and concepts.”

Without knowing precisely what the Army is looking for in an MPF (Mobile Protected Firepower) vehicle – many familiar with the program and the Army’s requirements have described it as a light tank – industry is preparing to mount sophisticated sensor-turret-cannon combinations atop existing, lightly-armored tracked and wheeled vehicles.

The company constructed a basic Abrams turret out of a different material that reduced its weight from 22 tons to 8 tons. It coupled the turret with a trunnion that can support any of the main-gun barrels in the Army’s inventory. The one on display is an XM360 lightweight cannon developed by the Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) that is half the weight of an existing turret pivot joint, he said. That cannon was developed as part of the now-defunct Future Combat Systems (FCS).

Griffin’s turret also will accept 105 mm, 120 mm standard barrel and the 120 lightweight with little more work than swapping out barrels. An Abrams gunner would recognize the inside of the turret as almost identical to the existing tank.

“The Abrams guys get inside this vehicle and it’s the same controls, same screens, same configuration, same everything,” he said.

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.

That turret was perched atop a modified Ajax armored fighting vehicle that is under development by General Dynamics for the British army.

“We just melded the three of those things together and it gives you a 27-ton solution you see on the floor,” Peck said. “It’s non-developmental from the standpoint off you’ve got three program that already have significant investment … that already have gone through test programs.”