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10 Jan 19. Ukrainian military receives KrAZ trucks. AutoKrAZ has delivered the 8х8 KrAZ-7634НЕ truck to the Ukrainian military, the company announced on 8 January. The vehicle has a powerful engine rated at 460hp and automatic transmission with maximum torque rated at 2500 N/m. To meet customer requirements, the exhaust system is located between first and second axles with exhaust directed to the right. Two 165-litre round fuel tanks are provided instead of two rectangular tanks with capacity of 350 litres. The truck’s ergonomic mounted cab has been lowered to a height of 2800mm to allow its roof to be fitted with special equipment as required by the customer. The vehicle’s first and second axles are steerable, and all the axles are driven. Integral power steering reduces driver fatigue. The all-wheel drive vehicle can be used on rugged terrains. (Source: Shephard)
10 Jan 19. Despot 4×4 APC unveiled in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Despot 4×4 armoured personnel carrier (APC) was unveiled during the parade in Banja Luka, marking the national day of Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), on 9 January. It is the first such vehicle developed and produced in RS and the Federation of BiH. Shown in transport mode armed with a remote-controlled weapon station, the 14-tonne Despot is now in service with the RS’s Ministry of Interior Special Anti-terrorist Unit. The Despot is produced by Tehnicki Remont Bratunac (TRB), a defence and security company based in Bratunac, RS. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
09 Jan 19. UK MoD kicks off electric vehicle drive study. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released an initial request for information (RFI) to evaluate hybrid and fully-electric drive technologies for its fleet of wheeled platforms, with the aim of eventually demonstrating the emerging technology on an in-service vehicle. The December 2018 RFI said the programme’s first phase would include a “capability investigation” into electric drive (E-drive) technologies, leading to a follow-on phase 2 that would concentrate on risk reduction and demonstrating the maturity of the automotive technology on an existing vehicle. Objectives for the programme include reviewing the applicability of different E-drive configurations on various platforms and identifying benefits and constraints, such as susceptibility to electronic attack. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
09 Jan 19. SAIC’s Got No Regrets On Armored Vehicle Losses. Despite losing out on three big production contracts in the last eight months, SAIC considers its armored vehicle business “successful” because of the development work it’s done, the company’s CEO and COO told me.
SAIC is not a traditional heavy-metal manufacturer and it shouldn’t be judged like one, Tony Moraco and Nazzic Keene said in an interview Tuesday. Especially with its $2.5 billion bid to acquire Engility, SAIC is primarily an engineering and services company with an increasing focus on space, cyberspace, and intelligence. It doesn’t build vehicles in factories of its own, but installs and integrates electronics on war machines built elsewhere so it doesn’t have the massive overhead costs that only a production contract can cover, the executives argued. While a production run would be great, they said, development contracts and upgrade work are enough to keep this side of SAIC going.
“We can continue to do the upgrades and integration services that we’ve done for decades. We saw the step to a larger production [contract] as essentially upside,” said Moraco, SAIC’s CEO. “We have not broken through [to] a large production program but [have been] very successful in EMD phase” -– i.e. Engineering & Manufacturing Development.
“We have been successful over the course of the last few years,” added Keene, the COO. “[We’ve] been a disruptor in this market.”
Is Fourth Time The Charm?
What SAIC executives told me Tuesday, though, doesn’t quite match what they said a year ago when the company expanded its manufacturing facility in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s where it had installed modern electronics on thousands of MRAP trucks for the Iraq and Afghan wars. Years ago, though, the military stopped buying MRAPs and started dismantling them – but SAIC doubled down on Charleston. “The beauty of the new facility is that we’re able to design it up front to optimally handle multiple large-scale programs,” senior VP Bob Carruthers told the local paper at the time (emphasis ours).
When SAIC said that, though, they thought they had at least one big contract to keep Charleston humming: rebuilding 400 Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV), decades-old machines which had proved dangerously vulnerable to IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq. Officially called an upgrade, the AAV survivability program was really a top-to-bottom overhaul, with SAIC providing everything from new armor, blast-proof seats, and tracks to a whole new powertrain. But the program, potentially worth up to $1.2bn, was canceled in September after only about $125m had been spent.
Nevertheless, Moraco told me, “the AAV survivability upgrade was … a success in upgrading a 30-year old platform.”
By all accounts, Moraco’s right to say SAIC’s engineering work on AAV was unimpeachable. The company did nothing wrong. But the Marines decided they no longer needed to invest in keeping their old AAVs battle-worthy when the replacement, the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), was coming along better and faster than expected.
SAIC had also bid on ACV, offering a variant of the Singaporean army’s Terrex. ST Kinetics would build the vehicle, SAIC would customize it for the American user. The Marine Corps was impressed enough to pay SAIC $121.5 million to build 16 prototypes for assessment. But in June, the Marines awarded the ACV production contract – for at least 200 machines, potentially 600 – to a well-established armored vehicle manufacturer, BAE Systems. (BAE offered a modified Italian design).
Moraco argues, much as he did on AAV, that SAIC deserves credit for the Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) work it did on its Amphibious Combat Vehicle prototypes. “We consider ACV EMD as a successful program over a multi-year period to introduce technologies, although we didn’t win the production contract,” he told me.
Meanwhile, the Army was looking for a new light tank to accompany airborne troops and other infantry where the massive M1 Abrams couldn’t go. SAIC teamed up with the Singaporeans again on this Mobile Protected Firepowerprogram, putting together a working prototype, but this time the military didn’t even give them a development contract. Instead, just last month, the Army awarded BAE and another traditional tank-builder, General Dynamics, $375m and $335m respectively to refine their designs and build a dozen prototypes apiece. The winner would build over 500 vehicles – potentially more if the Marines and/or foreign allies want the light tanks too.
The next big armored vehicle opportunity – far bigger than AAV, ACV, or MPF – is the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, meant to replace hundreds of aging and much-upgraded M2 Bradley troop carriers. An official Request For Proposals to kick off the program is expected within weeks. The three declared contenders for OMFV so far are the usual suspects – BAE and General Dynamics – plus a team-up of Raytheon, best known for electronics and aircraft, with German tank-maker Rheinmetall.
Will SAIC offer a Bradley replacement too? Moraco and Keene declined to answer. Moraco did say “it’s one of many programs we would consider” if the business case, impact on SAIC’s investment portfolio, and the potential for a win all made sense.
But even if SAIC teams up with a traditional manufacturer of armored vehicles, as they did for the Marine ACV and Army MPF, there’ll be a significant cost to participate and no guarantee of a development contract. Going after a fourth heavy-metal contract in a row is a definite risk – but also the biggest opportunity for SAIC to establish itself as a builder of armored vehicles after three successive misses.
Playing To Their Strengths
Whether SAIC tries to build the Bradley replacement or not, however, the company already has a role in Army modernization, leading a six-company team on an eight-year, $237m contract to develop prototype Next Generation Combat Vehicles. (NGCV originally referred to the Bradley replacement but has taken on a broader meaning to refer to a whole portfolio of manned and unmanned vehicles).
It’s an “engineering program that, again, introduces new technologies in the context of prototyping,” Moraco told me. “It’s not necessarily geared to a full up production, but it is a very critical component for the Army [to help them] test and prototype and drive that into other programs of record.”
That’s the kind of work that SAIC says plays to their strengths. The Pentagon increasingly wants high-tech innovation, not just tons of metal. SAIC has a “long history in complex systems integration,” going back even before the much-lauded MRAPs to the Army’s (canceled) Future Combat Systems, Moraco said. “We are very much still in that game, [and] we’re still very bullish… on the engineering side.”
The thing about SAIC’s kind of engineering work is that it requires a lot of brainpower – and a cadre of expensive, highly skilled personnel – but not a lot of physical infrastructure. “Our business model is a services model,” Moraco told me. “We are not an OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] in the form of having a factory and fixed costs that you have to carry on the front end and then recover on the back end” – i.e. in a long production run.
Instead, he said, “we use our suppliers to actually carry that infrastructure.” On ACV and MPF, for example, the Singaporeans had already built the factories and starting building the vehicle for their own army. That meant neither SAIC nor its US customers had to pay the start-up costs.
The exception that Moraco argues proves this rule is the Charleston facility. Is it viable without a major production contract? “It’s large integration facility, not a factory production line,” he insisted. “We’re doing late-stage systems integration, integration of the subsystems, rather than fabrication and manufacturing.”
Finally, ground vehicles simply aren’t a big part of what SAIC does, so the company can take hits in that sector and keep on ticking profitably.
“There’s certainly a lot of interest in this particular part of our portfolio,” said COO Keene. “It’s an important part …. it serves the warfighter … but it’s a very small part of the portfolio.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
09 Jan 19. GDLS to upgrade US Army Abrams tanks to M1A2 SEP v3 configuration. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has been contracted to upgrade the US Army’s M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT) to the M1A2 system enhancement package version 3 (SEPv3) configuration. Under the $714m delivery order, the company will modernise an additional 174 M1A1 Abrams MBTs. The order increases the total M1A2 SEPv3 tanks ordered by the army last year to 274, which represents more than three brigades of tanks. In December 2017, the US Department of Defense awarded a $2.62bn fixed-price-incentive contract to GDLS for the upgrade of up to 786 M1A1 configured Abrams MBTs to newly configured M1A2 SEPv3.
General Dynamics Land Systems US Market vice-president and general manager Don Kotchman said: “We’re proud to help the army provide world-class combat capability to Armored Brigade Combat Teams. This delivery order, along with our previous orders, means our production line will be rolling at a steady rate through 2021.”
Work on the contract will be carried out at the company’s locations in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Tallahassee, Florida, in the US. The company will also perform work on this delivery order at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, which is the ‘only operational tank plant’ in the US. The newly configured M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams MBTs feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency, including upgraded armour. Designed as an advanced digital tank, the M1A2 SEP V2 features enhanced colour displays, a remote-operated weapon station, and a thermal management system. It is equipped with a tank-infantry phone to provide increased situational awareness for commanders and crew members. Manufactured by GDLS, the M1A2 Abrams tank is designed to engage enemy forces using enhanced firepower and manoeuvrability. (Source: army-technology.com)
07 Jan 19. Serbian Army receives first Lazar III 8×8 MRCVs. The Serbian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on 20 December that the indigenously developed Lazar III (8×8) Multi-Role Armoured Combat Vehicle (MRACV) has entered service with the Serbian Armed Forces (Vojska Srbije: VS).
The Lazar III was introduced into service at the VS’s Nikinci Technical Test Centre, 45km west of Belgrade, where the first group of VS soldiers completed training for the operational use and maintenance of the new vehicle. The vehicle has a roof-mounted M15 remote-controlled weapon station with a modernised 12.7 mm NSV machine gun and electro-optical system fitted with a charge-coupled device day camera, thermal night camera, and laser range finder. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
04 Jan 19. US Army moves out with MPF prototypes, eyeing acceleration options. As BAE Systems and General Dynamic Land Systems (GDLS) move out on building and delivering new light-combat vehicle prototypes to the US Army, the service says it is exploring ways to accelerate its six-year timeline for getting Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) into the field.
In December, the service announced it was awarding the two companies with contracts valued up to USD376m each to build 12 MPF prototypes with an eye towards getting the first unit equipped in fiscal year 2025 (FY 2025). Between now and then, the service said it will look for entry points to speed up the timeline and get the vehicle into the field sooner. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
Millbrook, based in Bedfordshire, UK, makes a significant contribution to the quality and performance of military vehicles worldwide. Its specialist expertise is focussed in two distinct areas: test programmes to help armed services and their suppliers ensure that their vehicles and systems work as the specification requires; and design and build work to upgrade new or existing vehicles, evaluate vehicle capability and investigate in-service failures. Complementing these is driver and service training and a hospitality business that allows customers to use selected areas of Millbrook’s remarkable facilities for demonstrations and exhibitions.