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IAV 2018: Mobile Protected Firepower is US Army Top Priority

A Light Tank by Any Other Name?

On the sidelines of IAV 2018 at Twickenham this week one of the major subjects of discussion has been the US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) programme. This emerged as the service’s top priority in its 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernisation Strategy.

A tracked vehicle in the 25-35t bracket, with armour protection described as “substantial” and carrying a 105mm main armament, Army officials deliberately steer clear of calling it a ‘light tank:’ but that is, in effect, what it will look like to operators, observers and adversaries. Transportability is one of the key requirements of the outline specification, with the Army planning to transport two MPF in a single C-17 GLOBEMASTER III airlifter. The vehicle is intended to fill a direct fire gap in the Infantry Brigade Combat Team structure with the RfP calling for a “protected, long-range, cyber-resilient, precision, direct-fire capability for early or forcible entry operations.”

That the programme is considered to be a priority is evident in the speed with which it is being pushed forward. An RfP was released in late November, with bids due in March. Programme officials are on record as stating they would like to be evaluating bid samples by mid-year and awarding initial engineering and manufacturing development (EMD contracts) early in FY19. It is anticipated that two contenders will be shortlisted for the EMD phase, and each will build 12 prototypes, in a similar fashion to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) procurement. A total procurement of 504 vehicles is envisaged, with production rates running at approx. 50 per year and an in-service date around 2025. The RfP also informs potential bidders of a desired price point in the region of $6.4 million.

BAE Systems has shown a demonstrator vehicle for MPF, based on its earlier Armoured Gun System vehicle. General Dynamics and ST Kinetics are also widely expected to mount energetic bids, but with upwards of $3 billion at stake, additional bidders are likely to appear in numbers.


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