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21 Dec 22. Legal battle over Army vehicle highlights contracting barriers. As the Army readies to take the next step in its priority effort to replace its infantry fighting vehicle, an ongoing court battle is shedding new light on the challenges faced by non-traditional contractors. The lawsuit is between Keshik Mobile Power Systems, a subcontractor, and Point Blank, a prime contractor pursuing the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. Earlier this year, a Florida court issued a decision that appears to have pushed Keshik out of the competition for good. While Keshik is appealing, the window to submit a bid for the next two phases has closed.
The Army has put special attention on drawing competition to OMFV, which was halted in early 2020 after only one bidder — defense behemoth General Dynamics Land Systems — offered a prototype. The service then reworked the solicitation in a bid to lower barriers to entry and draw more participants.
In testimony presented during the trial, Keshik asserted the Army was pleased by its offering, telling the company its technology was spurring new innovation. (The Army told Defense News it does not comment on prime-subcontractor relationships and could not comment on pending litigation).
But the company and Point Blank sparred over funding to advance its technology, according to court testimony, and the fight ultimately ended with Point Blank suing Keshik, accusing the subcontractor of attempting to break their contract and compete against Point Blank.
In August, a judge in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit Court approved an injunction against the company, ordering Keshik to stay out of the OMFV competition unless it teamed with Point Blank and blocking it from hiring any of Point Blank’s remaining subcontractors.
The Army is now moving forward with Phase 3 and Phase 4, covering detailed design and a vehicle prototyping effort respectively. The bidders are primarily well-known defense contractors, including BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and Oshkosh Defense along with leading German combat vehicle-maker Rheinmetall.
The service plans to select in the spring three winning teams, which will each get $900m to cover the design and prototype of vehicles.
Breaking into the business
In 2016, Patrick Maloney, a retired Army lieutenant colonel injured in a Bradley while serving, and Franklin Jones, a seasoned engineer, met and started an effort focused on a safer fighting vehicle, Jones testified in an Aug. 12 hearing.
The two focused on a power control technology that allows dissimilar power producers and power consumers to connect and work together, a Keshik official, who asked not to be named because of the pending court case, told Defense News.
When the Army in 2020 announced it would reboot the OMFV program after only receiving one bid, Jones testified that the duo saw a new opportunity and formed Keshik — named after the imperial bodyguards of Mongolian leader Genghis Khan.
The original OMFV competition required a physical bid sample, a tough requirement for a new company like Keshik. Jones testified that high-fidelity, model-based systems engineering had given him confidence in the company’s technology, but the business hadn’t yet built it.
Jones said Keshik sought to team with a prime contractor to compete in the concept design phase; the Army planned to select five teams to develop digital design concepts.
Keshik also needed a partner because bidders were required to have facility-level clearance — the ability to handle classified material — and cash on hand to start work before receiving a contract, Jones testified. “Keshik is a company that had never had a penny of revenue and had no paid employees at the time,” he added.
The company initially teamed with large defense contractor SAIC, but SAIC dropped out in January 2021.
“Keshik had the concepts that the Army wanted,” Jones said in testimony, “so we set out to find a suitable prime contractor that could act essentially as a passenger, so that Keshik and its team could perform this job.”
According to Jones, Keshik’s Maloney met Point Blank executive vice president Mark Edwards through a mutual acquaintance. Point Blank was primarily known for producing body armor and protective gear.
Executives at Point Blank and Keshik convened in February 2021, roughly four months before bids were due for Phase 2, Jones and Edwards confirmed in court testimony.
The contract opportunity “was unique in the sense that usually the way the government would solicit it, it would be limited to really companies with the manufacturing capability already installed,” Edwards testified. “The government really wanted innovation, so they really opened the aperture for non-traditional companies.”
Keshik and Point Blank quickly teamed up.
Jones said in court that Keshik executives thought their company would have “full design control and would manage its team of subcontractors and execute the job.”
Edwards backed Jones’ characterization of the relationship. “Not only did [Keshik] provide the drivetrain, but they were also the design lead,” he testified. “They would give work out to subcontractors … and we would give them purchase orders to support that work.”
The relationship sours
The companies’ relationship deteriorated soon after the team won one of the five contracts awarded by the Army to work on design concepts, according to Jones’ testimony.
They began arguing over money, according to Jones. Keshik needed cash right away to get to work, but the government payments weren’t expected for several months and Point Blank wanted to wait, Jones testified.
Edwards testified that the Keshik team told Point Blank it needed $8m to get started. “I about fell out of my seat because we had a lot of conversations, especially when they came in and pitched the idea to us, and that was never included in there,” he said.
Company representatives also described a discrepancy in the type of agreement that was anticipated. While Jones said Keshik expected to sign a teaming agreement, Edwards indicated in his testimony that Point Blank didn’t intend to move beyond a subcontractor arrangement.
Tensions continued throughout the first year, typically over payments. Jones testified that Point Blank had, in some cases, paid subcontractors more than 90 days late, but Edwards testified that payments were only ever a few days late.
Even so, Jones testified the Army was pleased with the team during a systems requirements review in January 2022.
“We were being far more responsive to the Army’s requirement than any other team and helping them define what was possible,” he said in court. “They have had difficulty getting the established primes to change their ways, but by having the Point Blank-Keshik team in the midst, they’ve actually been able to move the primes into the future.”
Yet the design still needed work. The Keshik-Point Blank team told the Army during a May review the vehicle was turning out to be too heavy and underpowered and would require design adjustments, Jones testified.
The next month, Point Blank issued an “operational pause,” freezing the design six months before the period of performance was set to end, according to both Edwards and Jones’ testimony.
“We’re competing against giants,” Edwards testified. “So I needed to get the team better organized because the way we had managed Phase 2 had to be completely overhauled leading into Phase 3.”
Jones said in court that Keshik “objected strenuously” to the pause, and on July 8, Keshik asked to be released from its subcontract agreement. Days later, a Keshik executive sent an email, later presented in court, to subcontractors on the project, letting them know Keshik would no longer be a part of the team.
Edwards testified that he saw that communication as indicating Keshik was attempting to take subcontractors with it.
Later that month, Point Blank filed suit against Keshik, arguing in its complaint the company breached the loyalty clause in its contract by planning to directly compete against it in the next phase of the OMFV program.
“Keshik is actively soliciting other subcontractors to breach their own contractual obligations to Point Blank and join Keshik’s illegally competing venture instead,” the complaint states.
In August, the court ordered that Keshik could not compete directly or indirectly against Point Blank in the OMFV program or solicit subcontractors to work on any proposal for future OMFV work.
The court found Keshik’s actions from July 2022 onward “have disrupted Point Blank’s relationship with other subcontractors, as well as with the federal government.”
“Keshik must be prevented from taking actions that are materially adverse to Point Blank — and in particular from continuing to solicit other subcontractors to support a competing proposal for Phases 3 and 4 of the OMFV program,” the court’s order stated.
In its initial complaint, Point Blank said it no longer had enough time to find replacements for Keshik or any other subcontractors that might depart, making it hard to meet the Army’s Nov. 1 deadline for bids to compete in the subsequent phases of the program.
But in fact, by the August hearing date, Point Blank had already replaced Keshik, according to Edwards’ testimony. Edwards told Defense News in a recent interview it replaced Keshik with RENK America, which will provide the drive train. He said all subcontractors aside from Keshik remained on the team.
Keshik confirmed to Defense News it was unable to bid due to the injunction. A Keshik official, who asked to speak anonymously due to the pending litigation, said almost all employees have been laid off except for executive staff.
Keshik appealed the injunction and is waiting for an appellate court’s decision. (Source: Defense News)
21 Dec 22. Ajax armoured vehicles complete successful trials. User validation trials for the Ajax armoured vehicles have been successfully completed, according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has “reaffirmed the department’s commitment to the Ajax contract” after meeting with the General Dynamics Corporation CEO Phebe Novakovic and President of Land Systems Danny Deep.
General Dynamics UK was contracted to supply the British Army with 589 Ajax vehicles – they were originally due to enter service in 2017 but the troubled programme is now more than five years behind schedule.
The most recent MOD update added that the “vehicles have been tested across 1,530km at speeds up to 60kmph”.
After these trials, the vehicle testing programme is set to progress to the “Reliability Growth Trials”.
A former top brass recently branded the Ajax project “a complete and utter disaster”.
The project intended to provide a state-of-the-art fighting vehicle for the Army, but after running for 12 years and costing £3.2bn it has failed to deliver a single deployable vehicle.
Originally intended to enter service in 2017, it has been repeatedly delayed, with problems including noise and vibration issues which injured soldiers testing the vehicles.
The Ministry of Defence agreed on a fixed-price contract with General Dynamics for 589 Ajax armoured vehicles, but just 26 have been delivered and can only be used for training.
In March, it was reported that problems with the Army’s troubled Ajax vehicle programme are so deep-rooted that they may never be resolved, a Whitehall spending watchdog has warned. (Source: forces.net)
BATTLESPACE Comment: It is now certain that despite the views of some pundits that Ajax has survived with better headphones and stronger seating to absorb the vibration and noise issues. This of course doesn’t solve the noise and vibration issues but makes them liveable with for the crews. The Reliability Growth Trials will be the big test, particularly the ability of the vehicle to fire on the move and get a first round hit on the move (at speed). However, as Ben Wallace, the MoD, Army, DE&S and GDUK breathe a sigh of relief and get on to the RGT, they are left with a one canon, one nature of non-NATO standard CT-40 ammunition on the battlefield at a time when Ukraine is showing that logistic ammunition supply is key to operational tempo using common calibres across the battlefield. When the UK fights the next coalition war and the French Army is not involved, I would not like to be that Quartermaster who won’t be able to ‘borrow’ stocks to keep the fleet supplied and on the move.
19 Dec 22. Renewed Investments by Dutch Armed Forces in Dutch Defenture Vehicles. DMO, the Dutch Defense Ministry ‘s acquisition organization providing the Armed Forces with efficient and safe equipment, has commissioned Defenture to deliver at least 41 light tactical vehicles. These Defenture GRF vehicles (dubbed the VECTOR at the Ministry of Defense) will be supplied to the Airborne Mobile Brigade (11 LMB), an army unit. This contract also opens possibilities for the ministry to acquire additional vehicles over a longer period in the future.
DEFENTURE I For almost 10 years Defenture has been the leading specialist in the development and assembly of light tactical vehicles. The company originated from the fulfilled assignment of providing 50 vehicles for the Dutch Commando Corps (KCT), which resulted in an extended order of 76 GRF/VECTOR vehicles.
From day one Defenture has aspired to create the new benchmark within the light tactical market segment. This GRF is the perfect vehicle for the most important units within the armed forces. From scratch the vehicle was developed for military purposes in close cooperation with the users (KCT) and renowned knowledge centers.
The GRF/VECTOR vehicles have been in use now for several years and worldwide demand for the vehicles has been growing enormously ever since. Besides the GRF, Defenture has two more platforms in its portfolio, the SCORPION and the MAMMOTH.
Furthermore, DMO commissioned Defenture to develop and produce around 300 military diesel-driven quads, the SCORPION for Dutch armed forces units like KCT and 11 LMB. Defenture is also deeply involved in the development of a bigger version of the GRF with a payload of 3500 kilos, named the MAMMOTH. This vehicle is being designed especially for the German Kommando Speziale Kräfte (KSK). As in the SCORPION, there is a lot of serious interest in this MAMMOTH from other European countries.
With pride Defenture can now announce that the Airborne Mobile Brigade is also going to use the GRF vehicles. On 19 December 2022 DMO and Defenture jointly signed a contract for at least 41 GRF vehicles. In commissioning this order to Defenture, DMO gives a very clear signal. The Ministry of Defense fills the gap after withdrawal in 2021 of the 12kN AASLT program.
For some time, the Airborne Mobile Brigade needed a suitable vehicle for which another provider was commissioned in 2018. However, this contract was canceled and Germany and the Netherlands jointly decided to purchase these vehicles together through a German tender. With its GRF platform Defenture is one of the contenders in this procurement.
Specially developed military modular vehicular systems, based on a uniformly designed platform like the GRF and the MAMMOTH are the future. The vehicles are developed in close cooperation with the users and renowned centers of expertise, with uniformity and inter-operability between the systems guaranteed for countries that decide to buy the Defenture vehicles and use them. The Dutch, German and Swiss armed forces make use of several versions and configurations from Defenture’s portfolio. In 2023 new procurement trajectories and assignments are coming up, improving interoperability across Europe even more.
So the signing of the contract is a momentous event for both the Dutch Armed Forces and Defenture. The Dutch Commando Corps and the Airborne Mobile Brigade often operate together, making inter-operability of vital importance. This contract also implies a reduction of operational costs, making the use of Defenture vehicles greatly improve the Armed Forces’ effectivity and efficiency.
To accommodate this growth Defenture is forcefully expanding both in terms of staff and housing. Specialists from the automotive branch, the production industry and defense join up to produce, deliver and maintain the most reliable and safe vehicles at the lowest possible Life Cycle Costs.
Defenture’s CEO Henk van der Scheer: “For years Defenture has invested in the creation of a new benchmark in the light tactical market segment. Our vehicles are contributing more and more to global security and freedom. With the Defenture platforms we guarantee that the troops that protect us carry out their missions in safety and can return from the most extreme circumstances. That’s our mission with which we make the impossible possible day by day”.
In autumn 2023 Defenture will deliver the first vehicles to the Airborne Mobile Brigade and expects to have delivered the first batch of 41 GRF vehicles by mid 2024. (Source: ASD Network)
19 Dec 22. Nato force set back by German tank’s ‘total failure.’ The “total failure” of Germany’s Puma schützenpanzer combat vehicles will hit the formation of Nato’s “spearhead force” defence against Russia.
Major general Ruprecht von Butler, who commands the 10th panzer, or Lion, division, has written to senior commanders and German defence ministry to complain that the tank was causing “considerable unrest”.
The Puma armoured personnel carrier is meant to replace the Marder infantry fighting vehicle and Von Butler’s brigade is supposed to take a role in Nato’s 5,000 strong Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2023.
The Puma is the most expensive infantry fighting vehicle in the world at more than €17 m per unit, and while the Bundeswehr have ordered 350, technical problems have delayed deployment. The cost of fixing the 41 Pumas for the Nato force is estimated at €723.5 m while €2.8 bn is earmarked to get 297 others into service.
During a recent eight-day exercise with 18 of the vehicles to prepare for frontline alliance roles, operational readiness dropped to zero, or “totalausfall” [total failure], within a few days, according to Von Butler’s letter, which has been leaked to Spiegel magazine.
The vehicle, which has been plagued with problems, was signed off as combat-ready by the army inspector a year ago but Von Butler reported that breakdowns had “never occurred with this frequency before”. He wrote: “You can imagine how the troops are now evaluating the reliability of the Puma system. This cannot be compared with the usual reliability of German land vehicles, and we are talking here about vehicles that we had brought to a different — supposedly — more reliable level. This is particularly stressful for the troops who report to me.”
He warned that Nato planners should assume that the brigade “can only be fully operational again in three to four months”.
Christine Lambrecht, the defence minister, will hold crisis talks over the tank problems today with army commanders in a major setback for the German military at a time when fears are growing of a new Russian offensive in Ukraine early next year.
The revelations are highly embarrassing for the government. In an interview at the weekend Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, insisted that Germany’s military was now well-equipped. “Unlike in the past three decades, the Bundeswehr will once again be able to repel an attack on our territory or that of our allies,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
In the course of the exercises which ended last week, Pumas broke down with turret problems, failures of electronic systems and even a serious cable fire in the driver’s compartment. (Source: The Times)
19 Dec 22. Germany pauses purchases of Puma tanks after operational problems. Germany will not purchase any more Puma infantry tanks until they have proven themselves to be reliable, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Monday after several of the vehicles were put out of service during a recent military drill.
“The recent failures of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle are a major setback,” Lambrecht said in a statement, adding that she had requested a report on the matter by the end of next week.
Shares in Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE), which manufactures the tanks together with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), were down 7% after the minister’s announcement.
“Our troops must be able to rely on weapon systems being robust and stable even in combat,” Lambrecht said, while assuring NATO allies that they could continue to rely on Berlin to fulfill its readiness obligations as part of a joint task force (VJTF) from 2023.
A statement from the German defence ministry said the goal was to make the Puma tanks operational as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the German Bundeswehr military would use Marder tanks, the predecessor model to the Puma, from Jan. 1, in what a ministry spokesperson called a “fall-back solution”.
Neither Rheinmetall nor KMW would comment on the issues with the Puma model.
The Spiegel magazine reported over the weekend that 18 Puma tanks intended for NATO’s very high readiness joint task force next year were not operational after problems arose during a firing exercise.
Germany has vowed to boost defence spending and modernise its military in the wake of the Ukraine war, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government making 100 bn euros ($106.10 bn) available for defence investments in this year’s budget. ($1 = 0.9425 euros) (Source: Reuters)
21 Dec 22. Germany’s Puma panzer hangs in the balance after report of mass outage. Following a media report about mass outages of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle during a recent drill, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said the manufacturers must fix any problems quickly or see the program canceled.
Fresh problems with the Puma, which has a history of iffy performance that officials thought were largely resolved, came to light after German has made the vehicle a cornerstone of its contributions to NATO’s Very High-Readiness Joint Task Force. Berlin will pick up the helm for that formation, and be its largest troop contributor with up to 2,700 troops, on Jan. 1, 2023.
Makers Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann have described the Puma as the world’s most modern infantry fighting vehicle, highly interconnected with mounted and dismounted soldiers on the battlefield.
Der Spiegel reported over the weekend all 18 vehicles used during an exercise had failed, prompting the unit’s division commander to complain to higher-ups in Berlin about faulty onboard systems and even a case of an electrical fire.
Interviewed by the Heute Journal TV show on Monday, Lambrecht gave industry weeks to come up with solutions, stressing the goal of long-term reliability. “We can’t stumble from one fix to the next,” she said. It’s “worth the effort” to examine what exactly had happened, Lambrecht added, but warned “other decisions will have to be made” if problems remain unaddressed for too long.
Meanwhile, initial work to evaluate eight of the reportedly faulty vehicles has begun at a Rheinmetall test facility in Unterlüß, northern Germany, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Arne Collatz told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday. Officials hope to have an initial “analysis of the damage” before the end of the year, he added.
Leaders of the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, have previously certified the Puma as ready for duty under the NATO-VJTF force during a yearslong process. Still, officials opted to modernize the vehicle’s half-decade-old predecessor, Marder, named after the weasel-like mammal marten, as an insurance policy in light of the Puma’s past reliability problems.
Those Marders will now make up Germany’s armored contribution to the NATO formation. Defense officials in Berlin have said the government’s pledge to the alliance would be unaffected by the Puma saga. But the Defense Ministry’s most recent report on major weapon systems, dated November 2022, describes the Marder’s capabilities as “significantly degraded” compared to its successor. (Source: Defense News)
16 Dec 22. Oshkosh Defense Receives $543m Order for More JLTVs as Follow-On Contract Award Nears. Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE: OSK) company, announced today that the U.S. Army Contracting Command – Detroit Arsenal has placed a $543m order to exercise available options to support the fielding of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Family of Vehicles. The order includes Oshkosh Defense JLTVs for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy.
Since winning the competitive JLTV contract in 2015, Oshkosh has built over 18,500 JLTVs and fielded vehicles to over 50 U.S. and international military installations. Oshkosh has also secured more than 125 patents and applications on the JLTV family of vehicles and related technologies, and invested in several technology demonstrators such as the hybrid electric JLTV (eJLTV).
“Oshkosh has spent the past eight years optimizing its manufacturing and design processes and building a robust supply chain with maximized efficiencies,” said George Mansfield, Vice President and General Manager of Joint Programs for Oshkosh Defense. “As we prepare for the follow-on contract award to be announced in early 2023, Oshkosh is in a great position to continue providing the best JLTV solution today and for many years to come.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
14 Dec 22. Paramount Land Systems ramps up production and delivery of new ‘Maatla’ 4×4 Light Protected Vehicle (LPV) to customers. On the heels of the exciting launch of the Maatla 4×4 Light Protected Vehicle (LPV), Paramount Land Systems, a subsidiary of Paramount, the Abu Dhabi headquartered global aerospace and technology company, has announced that 50% of the newly announced Maatla vehicle contracts have already been completed with deliveries underway to customer countries.
The new multi-role ‘Maatla’ (meaning ‘Power’ in Setswana) was launched at the African Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (AAD 2022) held in September. It was during the expo that Paramount announced the first Maatla contracts totalling 50 vehicles.
The Maatla and has been designed to address the increasing demand for lighter weight vehicles, while offering advanced capabilities and reconfigurability in the field. Given immediate interest for the Maatla’s capabilities from various countries, each with diverse requirements, Paramount plans to manufacture and deploy new Maatla variants, with a focus on conducting a range of missions, such as Command and Control, CBRN Detection, Police and Ambulatory, Reconnaissance and Recovery, and Border Patrol.
Eric Ichikowitz, Senior Vice-President of Paramount International, stated that, “The immediate reaction and global demand for our newly launched Maatla Light Protected Vehicle (LPV), in this highly competitive marketplace, is a testament to our commitment to mission survivability and outstanding vehicle performance, while addressing the requirements of our customers.
“For over two decades, we have leveraged and championed ground-breaking innovations in armoured vehicle design and manufacture. The Maatla is a product of working closely with our customers to finding solutions to their unique challenges. In matter of a few months we have unveiled a new vehicle, secured orders and now deliveries are in full swing to customers. This is a proud achievement and we are delighted to see the response to the experience we bring in offering Maatla to the world”.
The Maatla has been manufactured on a commercial vehicle chassis, capable of addressing all types of terrain for its nine-crew personnel. The vehicle is fitted with a 2-speed transfer case and 3 differential locks, which allows it to cross almost any obstacle in difficult territories. Its Smart Floor technology further enables its seating to be quickly removed and the vehicle to be configured for alternative mission requirements, with day/night vision devices and extra sensors able to be fitted to provide 24/7 operability.
The Maatla provides as a minimum, ballistic and blast protections to STANAG 4569 Level 1, and can protect against handguns and other small calibre ball rounds. The vehicle also offers underbelly protection against M26 hand grenades or a blast equivalent.
The Maatla can reach a road speed of up to 100 km/hr, with a cruising range of up to 600 km when travelling at 80 km/hr, and a fording depth of up to 750 mm without preparation. The vehicle can be operated in extreme environments, with temperatures ranging from -10°C to + 55°C, also without any preparation.
Deon Grobler, CEO of Paramount Land Systems, added that: “Our innovative techniques in manufacturing the Maatla Light Protected Vehicle (LPV) are driving the tempo of customer delivery, which is mission critical in our view, given the ever changing and asymmetrical environment which many countries and their armed forces find themselves in. We look forward to the continued roll-out of the multi-purpose Maatla and to the development of its mission specific variants to meet our customers evolutionary requirements”. (Source: www.joint-forces.com)
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