As the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria are winding down, and the U.S. military is turning its gaze toward conventional warfare once again, the Army is looking to add a new light tank to its arsenal. And now, two companies are left vying for the sweet top spot.
As part of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) programme, the Army awarded a contract to BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, to produce 12 prototype vehicles in the next 14 months. The contracts are worth $375 million and $335 million respectively. The Army rejected an offering by a third party (a joint bid by the American SAIC, Singaporean ST Engineering, and Belgian CMI Defense).
The Army leadership is planning to deploy the new light tank with airborne troops and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT).
Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems, said in a press release that “our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach. We’re confident our design meets the requirements and the unique capabilities the IBCT needs.”
From the General Dynamics Land Systems side of the house, Don Kotchman, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems U.S. Market, said that “We are excited about this opportunity to provide the U.S. Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams. We are especially proud of this new opportunity to serve in the Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) formation.”
The Army began the MPF process immediately after the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Concerned with the blitzkrieg capabilities of the Russian armed forces and the prospect of a full-on conflict in Eastern Europe, the Army posted its requirements and invited companies to bid. The Army emphasised that the new vehicle must have Lethality, Deployability, Protection, Mobility, Sustainability, and Operationability. Among other traits, it must be able to be parachuted from a C-17 or landed by a C-130, destroy bunkers, light and medium armoured vehicles, and support troops in urban operations, and stay operational without resupply for at least 24 hours. Moreover, the new light tank must be tracked and have a manned turret. The Army is also looking for designs that will be capable of fielding small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
BAE is running with the M8 Armored Gun System (AGS), which has a 105mm main gun and weighs about 20 tonnes. General Dynamics, on the other hand, is contesting with the Griffin II, which fields a 120mm main gun and weighs around 28 tonnes. Both designs have additional secondary armament.
The final decision is scheduled for 2022, with the new light tank entering service in the middle of the next decade.