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09 Jan 20. US Army picks winners to build light and medium robotic combat vehicles. The U.S. Army has picked winners to build base platforms for its light- and medium-class robotic combat vehicles, according to a service statement released Jan. 9.

The Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command and the service’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team “intends” — pending successful negotiations — to award a contract to QinetiQ North America to build four RCV-light prototypes and another contract to Textron to build four RCV-medium prototypes, the release stated.

Through a rapid contracting mechanism, the National Advanced Mobility Consortium is coordinating the Army’s awards to industry, and the service expects to be officially under contract with both companies by mid-February, according to the statement.

While it was anticipated the Army would award up to two contracts per category at the end of the second quarter this fiscal year, it appears the awards have come earlier and are both limited to one company.

The prototypes, according to the statement, will be used to “determine the feasibility of integrating unmanned vehicles into ground combat operations. The Light and Medium RCVs will be used to conduct a company-level experiment at the end of 2021.”

Results from that effort, as well as a platoon-level experiment in March 2020 and several virtual experiments, will help the Army decide in 2023 how it wants to proceed with robots on the battlefield.

“Robots have the potential to revolutionize the way we conduct ground combat operations,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT, said in the statement. “Whether that’s giving increased fire power to a dismounted patrol, breaching an enemy fighting position, or providing [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive] reconnaissance, we envision these vehicles providing commanders more time and space for decisions and reducing risk to soldiers.”

Out of a large pool of whitepaper submissions, a Textron and Howe & Howe team, a team of QinetiQ North America and Pratt & Miller, HDT Global, and Oshkosh were each issued a request for prototype proposals in the RCV-light competition in October 2019.

Three teams were picked to move on in the RCV-medium competition in November 2019: General Dynamics Land Systems, QinetiQ North America, and the Textron and Howe & Howe team.

It is noteworthy that the companies selected to build prototypes in each category are the only two companies to have offerings in both the light and medium competitions, demonstrating potentially that they are the only companies with the flexibility to build in both categories.

At the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in October, Textron and Howe & Howe dramatically unveiled their RCV Ripsaw M5, which is based on the latter’s deep history of building unmanned ground vehicles, but adds technology like scalable armor and suspension as well as mobility options to cope with the challenges expected in the future fight. FLIR Systems is also part of the team, contributing its advanced sensors.

“Bringing together Howe & Howe, Textron Systems and FLIR Systems really represents a dream team,” Textron CEO Lisa Atherton said in a statement released at the show. “We formed this team based on our shared focus to serve this customer with disruptive ideas and proven experience, and we are dedicated to meeting and exceeding their requirements through the RCV program.”

The team told Defense News before the AUSA conference that it planned to submit a version of Ripsaw both for the light and medium variant of the Army’s robotic combat vehicle.

The Qinetiq and Pratt & Miller team submitted a variant of the Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle tailored toward the Army’s RCV-light requirements. The offering combines Qinetiq’s modular open-architecture control systems with Pratt & Miller’s advanced mobility platform.

The Army is also examining the utility of an RCV-heavy variant but is using robotic M113 armored personnel carriers as surrogate platforms for evaluations. That effort will focus on manned-unmanned teaming in a robotic wingman formation, with a manned Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle serving as the platform for the robot’s operators. (Source: Reuters)

09 Jan 20. GDELS to keep working on new Spanish IFV despite setbacks. General Dynamics European Land Systems-Santa Bárbara Sistemas (GDELS-SBS) is set to continue looking for ways to win the contract for Spain’s new 8×8 Dragon infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), although the project is insufficiently funded, according to a company source.

Spain’s cabinet on 20 December set a new target of May 2020 for delivery of the first five demonstrator vehicles, deciding to delay payments to the GDELS-SBS-led consortium after missing another deadline.

A company source told Jane’s on 7 January that GDELS-SBS had, at the request of the Spanish Ministry of Defence, presented an offer last October for the manufacture of what is known in Spain as the Vehiculo de Combate sobre Ruedas (VCR). (Source: Jane’s)

18 Dec 19. Jaguar Land Rover buys performance 4×4 firm Bowler. Derbyshire-based firm which specialises in Land Rover models has been acquired by JLR. Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations arm has acquired Bowler, the off-road Land Rover tuner, securing its future following administration.

Bowler rose to fame tuning Land Rover models and specialises in off-road performance cars and competition cars for rally-raid events.

JLR, which bought Bowler for an undisclosed sum, said the all-terrain specialist has expertise in “all-terrain vehicle dynamics, low-volume production techniques, and proving the durability of components under extreme conditions”, all of which is “highly sought-after”.

It added that SVO is a “fast-growing business that amplifies the key attributes of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to create distinctive world-class products – including SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic”. Bowler, as a fourth business unit, is “a natural fit”, said the firm.

In 2012, Bowler formed a brand partnership with JLR which led to the creation of the Defender Challenge by Bowler rally series in 2014 to 2016.

JLR SVO boss Michael van der Sande told Autocar that there was a two-part plan for Bowler. The first is to stabilise the business for six months to a year “giving it the organisation and investment it needs,” said van der Sande.

The business, which is based in Belper, Derbyshire, will remain at this location. The day-to day team of 26 staff will remain, but “some people will no longer be involved,” said a spokesman given the change in shareholders. In the meantime, JLR will develop plans for the business, but van der Sande disclosed no more details beyond the fact that it will become bigger.

The likelihood is that the Bowler name will be used on Land Rover models as extreme, off-road variants.

“We think it’s a cool company that shows there’s a great deal you can do with Land Rovers,” commented van der Sande.

The purchase will be seen by many as a shrewd move from Jaguar Land Rover, given its long-standing objection to Land Rover tuners taking business away. A number of tuning and styling firms exist predominantly for Land Rover models, including Overfinch, Twisted and Kahn.

In 2017, Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern vowed to put third-party styling houses and tuners out of business by creating better variants of the brand’s models through the company’s own Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. However, Bowler is somewhat of a niche firm given its all-terrain and rally expertise, an area on which JLR will be keen to capitalise.

In an official statement announcing the acquisition today, van der Sande said: “For almost 35 years the Bowler name has stood for innovation and success, with a reputation forged by its participation in the world’s toughest off-road motorsport competitions. It’s exciting that we’re now in a position to participate in and lead the Bowler brand’s future as part of Jaguar Land Rover.

“At Special Vehicle Operations we are all eager to start working with our new colleagues at Bowler. Adding the Bowler team’s skills and experience to those of SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic is a key step in our strategy to create an exciting and diverse portfolio of products and businesses within Special Vehicle Operations.

“Our immediate focus is on ensuring continuity of support for Bowler employees and customers during this transition to Jaguar Land Rover.”  (Source: Autocar)

08 Jan 20. US Army Cancels High-Profile Robotic Mule Contract. The Army Contracting Command in the face of an industry protest canceled a General Dynamics Land Systems contract to build the squad multi-purpose equipment transport vehicle, according to one of the program’s participants. GDLS in late October was awarded the contract worth $162m to build the SMET, a robotic mule intended to lighten the load of soldiers in the field and perform other missions. One of the three other competitors for the program, Textron, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. However, the Army in December decided to terminate the contract and recompete the program prior to a GAO ruling.

“The government is taking corrective action following a GAO protest, and intends to resolicit for SMET. … Vendors can expect a new [request for proposals] in January, and will have 30 days to submit a bid. The target award date is 30 April 2020,” an Army Contracting Command email forwarded to National Defense by one of the program’s runners-up stated.

The contract was awarded after four companies competed for the program under an other transaction authority agreement. Such agreements are intended to speed up the procurement of new technology by allowing prototypes to go directly to a production contract as long as they are part of a competitive process.

The Army has long desired a robotic mule, with requirements dating back to the Future Combat Systems program, which was canceled in 2009. Leadership of program executive office for combat support and combat service support in a June 6, 2018 article published by the Army stated the necessity of fielding the SMET “faster and cheaper,” and proclaimed their intentions to use the newly found authority granted by Congress to use OTAs to alleviate the burdens of traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation contracting.

OTAs had been in existence for decades, but the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act changed several restrictions, including the ability of the military to go from a prototype developed under an OTA to a production contract, as long as there was a competition to determine the best technology.

After some 10 vendors had demonstrated their robotic mules to PEO CS&CSS, it awarded funding under an OTA to four manufacturers: General Dynamics Land Systems; Textron, with a vehicle developed by its subsidiary Howe & Howe; an Applied Research Associates/Polaris Defense team; and HDT Global.

The four robotic vehicles then underwent a series of user tests in 2019 conducted by the Army Test and Evaluation Command prior to the contract award in October. The Army has stated its intentions to procure more than 600 SMET vehicles at a price of about $100,000 each.

Textron’s protest argued that GDLS had significantly altered its vehicle in the follow-on contract after the OTA evaluation phase. That rendered the tests and users’ evaluations invalid, the source alleged.

A GDLS spokesperson declined to be interviewed about the program and referred questions to the Army. A PEO CS&SCC spokesperson could not provide comment in time for publication. A Textron representative also declined to comment. (Source: glstrade.com/NDIA)

08 Jan 20. Iveco Defence Vehicles, a subsidiary of CNH Industrial N.V. (NYSE: CNHI/MI: CNHI), announces that on December 30, 2019 a first order of a frame agreement including more than 2,900 high mobility trucks has been signed with the Romanian Ministry of National Defence. These first 942 vehicles will be delivered throughout four years, starting from 2020.

The frame contract includes four typologies of military logistic platforms from Iveco Defence Vehicles’ high mobility truck range: 4×4, 6×6, 8×8 and 8×8 Prime Mover, to be further declined in 16 different

variants, among which approximately a third are with armored cabin.

Being equipped with Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS), black-out lights, dual-fuel engines, selfrecovery winches and tactical axles, they can offer exceptional mobility, fording capability and C-130

air transportability in order to provide tactical support to any military operation. This important achievement is testament to the satisfaction of the Romanian Armed Forces with the two previous contracts for 57 high mobility trucks in 2015 and 173 in 2017, and contributes to further

strengthen the relationship between the Romanian Ministry of National Defence and Iveco Defence Vehicles, enhancing the company’s position as a key military truck supplier.

08 Jan 20. Turkey modernises ACV-15 armoured combat vehicles. Turkey’s Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB) announced on its website on 2 January that it had signed a TRY900m (USD151.3m) contract with Aselsan to upgrade Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) ACV-15 armoured combat vehicles. Leading manufacturer FNSS announced on its website the same day that it had signed a subcontracting agreement with Aselsan on 31 December for the modernisation of the vehicles. FNSS said it would conduct all upgrade activities, prototype production, qualification, integration of all equipment, turret production, and logistics support for the platform.

Aselsan will install its Nefer 25mm remote controlled weapon system, as well as laser warning, close surveillance, driver vision, and navigation systems, according to the SSB. (Source: Jane’s)

07 Jan 20. Serbia unveils upgraded M-80 IFV. The Serbian Ministry of Defence (MoD) published photos of the prototype of the upgraded M80AB1 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) at a demonstration at the Nikinci testing centre on 30 December, nearly two years after the Serbian Armed Forces (VS) announced plans to modernise the M-80A. The upgraded vehicle features new armoured plating, a one-man 30mm turret, and optoelectronics.

Nenad Miloradovic, Assistant Minister of Defence for Materiel Resources, said that the modernisation of the M-80A is one of the priorities for the MoD and its Military Technical Institute (VTI) in Belgrade.

“One of the basic requirements of the modernisation is to significantly increase the ballistic protection of this vehicle and to increase firepower,” he explained, adding that its interior and parts of the crew accommodation were rearranged and engine power increased to compensate for the increased weight.

Miloradovic said the vehicle turret is new, with greater ballistic protection, a new optoelectronic system with a long-range thermal imaging camera, and more powerful weapons, including a 30 mm gun, eight 30 mm automatic grenade launchers, a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and two launchers for modernised Malyutka 2T5 radio-guided and 2F and 2T wire-guided anti-tank missiles. (Source: Jane’s)

03 Jan 20. Spanish Army plans to convert M113s into Spike launchers. The Spanish Army plans to convert some 60 of its M113 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) into anti-tank missile platforms. Engineers at the Armoured Systems Maintenance Centre (PCMASA) have already developed a prototype that has been tested by Regiment No 31 ‘Asturias’, part of XII Brigade ‘Guadarrama’. Spike missile launcher is among a number of new roles assigned to Spanish M113s ahead of their replacement in the APC role by the Piranha 5 (to be known as the VCR in Spanish service).

Spanish Army newspaper Tierra said the aim is to enable “the veteran vehicles to retain a relevant role in the day-to-day [functions] of units”. (Source: Jane’s)

03 Jan 20. Turkey receives first two Kaplan anti-tank vehicles. The Turkish Land Forces Command (TLFC) received its first two Kaplan tracked anti-tank vehicles from FNSS on 25 December, the company announced in a press release the same day. Under the Weapon Carrier Vehicle (STA) project, FNSS has installed remote-controlled anti-tank turrets on armoured vehicles to increase the effectiveness of domestically and foreign produced (Russian Kornet-E) anti-tank missiles in the inventory of the TLFC, FNSS said on its website. (Source: Jane’s)

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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.

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