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27 Jun 20. The U.S. Army Contracting Command–Detroit Arsenal announced today that GM Defense LLC, a subsidiary of General Motors, has been awarded the production contract to build, field and sustain the Army’s new Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV).

Designed to provide rapid ground mobility, the expeditionary ISV is a light and agile all-terrain troop carrier intended to transport a nine-Soldier infantry squad moving throughout the battlefield. The ISV is light enough to be sling loaded from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and compact enough to fit inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for air transportability. The total production ISV contract award value is $214.3 million to procure the initial Army Procurement Objective of 649. The approved Army Acquisition Objective is 2,065 vehicles.

GM Defense’s solution to the Army’s next-generation transportation needs is based off the award-winning 2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 midsize truck architecture and leverages 90 percent commercial off-the-shelf parts. These parts include the Multimatic dual spool-valve dampers and Chevrolet Performance suspension components. The durability and performance of those components have been proven in the grueling Best in the Desert race series, where Colorado is one of only four vehicles to complete 11 consecutive races (out of a total of 434 competitors).

As a result, GM Defense can deliver an ISV with world class manufacturing efficiencies, ease of maintenance and a well-established global supply chain. All ISV models will be equipped with an occupant and cargo superstructure powered by a 186-horsepower, 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel engine, and six-speed automatic transmission.

“Winning this Army award is well-deserved recognition for the hard work and dedication of our GM Defense team and their production of a fantastic vehicle. We are confident the GMD ISV will meet and exceed all of our customers’ requirements,” said David Albritton, president of GM Defense. “It’s indeed an honor to leverage our parent company’s experience as one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers to design, build and deliver the best technologies available to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and our allies.”

In 2019, GM Defense partnered with Ricardo Defense after the U.S. Army awarded three $1m contracts to competing industry providers to develop ISV prototypes for testing, evaluation and down-selection for the production contract. Ricardo Defense will support key product logistics and fielding requirements of the GM Defense ISV.

“The entire Ricardo team is proud to continue our work with GM Defense on the ISV contract, and to provide our infantry troops in harm’s way with this highly-capable, and much needed vehicle,” said Chet Gryczan, president of Ricardo Defense. “Being awarded the ISV program is a testament to Ricardo’s success in developing and delivering key integrated product logistics and life-cycle sustainment plans for our customers’ top priorities. The ISV will showcase the speed at which the Army can rapidly produce, field and sustain new equipment by leveraging a proven commercially available vehicle and the global supply chain infrastructure of General Motors, supported by Ricardo.”

24 Jun 20. Arquus launches the FORTRESS Mk2. This third week of the Arquus e-xpo is an opportunity for Arquus to present the latest addition to its range of tactical vehicles: the FORTRESS Mk2. Designed to answer the intensification of the threats encountered on the battlefield, the FORTRESS Mk2 combines the very high mobility of the FORTRESS and brand new capabilities in terms of protection and firepower. More aggressive and even better protected, the FORTRESS Mk2 is a modern, high-performance vehicle, very well adapted to current and future operational commitments. It combines mobility, firepower and protection in a single multi-purpose vehicle, developed to meet the demands of Arquus’ customers and partners.

Designed to transport a combat group of 11 soldiers over all terrains, the FORTRESS Mk2 combines optimal protection against all ballistic threats and mines encountered on the battlefield, and unprecedented off-road mobility capabilities thanks to its independent suspensions and very powerful engine.

To better face the evolution of threats on the battlefield, the FORTRESS Mk2 is natively designed with very high levels of protection, both against ballistic threats and against mines and IEDs, thanks to an innovative under-body architecture. This new protection, particularly coherent and balanced, makes the FORTRESS Mk2 one of the most protected 4×4 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) on the market.

This increase in protection has been achieved without any increase in mass, thanks to the use of the latest Arquus technologies in terms of armour and body architecture. This major evolution has therefore been completed while maintaining the exceptional mobility of the FORTRESS. Since its presentation in 2014, the FORTRESS has always been very popular due to its excellent off-roads capabilities, and has very soon been adopted by a European Special Forces unit.

The FORTRESS Mk2 is a vehicle at ease in all circumstances, off-roads as well as for obstacle crossing, thanks to its independent suspensions and proven chassis, which is the result of decades of operational experience. The FORTRESS Mk2 retains the 6-cylinder 340-horsepower engine, which gives it a power-to-weight ratio of 23 horsepower per ton, a top speed of 120 km/h and a range of 1,200 kilometers.

Its exceptional mobility and interior configuration allows for the safe transport of a full fighting group and their equipment, on all terrains, and with a high level of comfort, ensuring that they are well rested both physically and mentally before the action.

Thanks to its mobility and firepower, the FORTRESS Mk2 can carry and accompany the infantry on the battlefield, while providing operational fire support.

The FORTRESS Mk2 has been specially designed to carry Arquus’ Hornet range of Remote- Controlled Weapons Stations (RCWS). As part of the Scorpion program, Arquus has created a new French line of RCWS which accommodates a wide range of weaponry, from 5.56mm to 12.7mm, including 7.62mm and HK40. Common equipment for all the new combat vehicles of the Scorpion program, these systems will equip the French Army’s new combat vehicles. The FORTRESS Mk2 is natively equipped with Arquus’ Battlenet vetronics suite, designed to operate with the Hornet turrets and featuring Blue Force Tracking (BFT).

In addition to the Hornet RCWS, the FORTRESS Mk2 can accommodate a wide variety of weapons and systems, such as 7.62mm, 12.7mm or 14.5mm protected manual circulars, grenade launchers or acoustic and laser detectors.

These developments make the FORTRESS Mk2 an agile, well-protected, well-armed vehicle capable of going on the offensive on all terrains and in all conditions. In line with all formerly ACMAT vehicles, the FORTRESS Mk2 is rustic, durable, reliable and modular, which simplifies and reduces maintenance needs. Customizable, it can be configured in right or left hand drive.

For all vehicles in its ranges, Arquus presents a complete and innovative service offer, guaranteeing optimal uptime in all theatres of operation. Thanks to its logistics platform in Garchizy and its international network, Arquus can guarantee the availability of spare parts anywhere in the world on very short notice.

The FORTRESS Mk2 will be presented in September 2020, during an event organized by Arquus to display the performance of its new ranges.

23 Jun 20. Contract Authorized for the First Production Batch of the VCR 8×8 Combat Vehicle. The Council of Ministers has authorized the award of the contract for the first production batch of the Vehículo de Combate sobre Ruedas 8×8 (8×8 Wheeled Combat Vehicle, or VCR) for an estimated value of 2,083,275,262.81 euros.

The Armored Wheeled Combat Vehicle belongs to a family of versatile and adaptable medium-weight armored vehicles with protection, firepower and mobility capabilities that allow their rapid deployment to any Operations Zone. The vehicles will include their respective components of the mission system, weapons, level of protection, sensors, communications and command and control systems, as well as their logistical support equipment.

The contract includes the manufacture of 348 VCRs, which will be delivered progressively over ten years, until the year 2030. The vehicles will be manufactured in different configurations, which will allow them to adapt to different operating environments.

This program will allow the replacement of vehicles that have largely exceeded their service life and that offer less protection for their crews, such as the Blindados Medios sobre Ruedas (Medium Wheeled Armored Vehicles, or BMR) and the Vehículos de Exploración de Caballería (Cavalry Scout Vehicles, or VEC), improving the capability for autonomous defense

Likewise, the incorporation of these vehicles will allow decisive progress in convergence with the defense objectives established by NATO and recommended by the European Parliament, as part of a necessary distribution of responsibilities, economic efforts and resources demanded of allies, ensuring the sustainability of a regional environment of peace and security, and helping to prevent conflicts and contain emerging threats by projecting stability, particularly in areas of interest to Spain.

A very relevant aspect of the 8×8 program will be its impact on the industry, since its implementation is intended to reach, or exceed, 70% of the locally-produced content, thereby increasing the principle of sovereignty in acquisition.

The aim is to maintain an advanced technological and industrial base in the field of Defense equipment, for which purpose this program will continue the investments made in the “Leopard” and “Pizarro” programs, and thereby develop its own product.

Likewise, the program will allow equipment and systems already operating in the Armed Forces to evolve, establishing an industrial base that will continue to support future operational needs.

(Defense-Aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: The Spanish Ministry of Defense said the contract will be awarded, as planned, in August.

Delivery of the first vehicles, called Dragon (Dragoon) by the Spanish Army, will be delivered during the first half of 2022.

Pre-production vehicles will be evaluated by Spain’s Foreign Legion beginning in late 2020 or early 2021.

In total, Spain could buy as many as 1,000 VCRs.)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Spanish Government)

22 Jun 20. EC awards Milrem consortium €30.6m for standardised UGV. The European Commission has awarded a Milrem-led consortium €30.6m (£27.4m) to develop a standardised European Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV).

The consortium headed by the Estonian UGV maker includes defence, communications and cybersecurity companies from across Europe and ‘high technology SMEs’. The funding was awarded through the European Commission’s European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).

The 14 parties involved in the project are Milrem, GT Cyber Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense, NEXTER Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Diehl Defence, Bittium Wireless, Insta DefSec, (Un)Manned, dotOcean, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, GMV Aerospace and Defence, the Estonian Military Academy and Royal Military Academy of Belgium.

Based on Milrem’s existing TheMIS UGV, the project aims to develop a modular and scalable architecture for unmanned systems that will be part of a standardised Europe-wide ecosystem of ‘aerial and ground platforms, command, control and communication equipment, sensors, payloads, and algorithms.’

The total cost of the integrated Modular Unmanned Ground System (iMUGS) project is projected to be €32.6m, the bulk of which is being provided through European Commission funding. The result of the project will be tested in exercises with several member states military exercises.

Commenting on the funding, Milrem Robotics CEO Kuldar Väärsi said: “Robotic and autonomous systems will tremendously enhance defence and military capabilities in the coming years all around the world.

“iMUGS is an excellent example of how Europe can utilise and develop high-end technologies as a joint effort while avoiding scattering activities and resources.”

Väärsi welcomed the European Defence Funding, adding that it showed how Europe was ‘efficiently consolidating the requirements of EU member states’ and improving European industries’ ability to increase its defence capabilities and build autonomy.

Väärsi added: “The European industry is determined and ready to provide efficient and deployable technologies already over the next three years in the course of this project,”

The iMUGS project is being led by Estonia, with technical requirements agreed by Finland, Latvia, Germany, Belgium, France, and Spain. The rest of the project’s funding is being sourced from these member states.

In a press release, Milrem said: “During the project, operational know-how will be gathered and concepts for the combined engagement of manned and unmanned assets developed, while considering the ethical aspects applicable to robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems. State-of-the-art virtual and constructive simulation environments will also be set up.”

The European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) is designed to build the European Union’s strategic autonomy in the defence industry and build cooperation between member states industrial bases and militaries.

Priorities for EDIDP include the development of artificial intelligence systems, cyber technologies and novel ground combat capabilities. (Source: army-technology.com)

22 Jun 20. COVID-19 casts uncertainty over Central and Eastern European armoured vehicle procurement. Before the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Europe, the 2020s looked set to usher in a rise in Central and Eastern European investment into procurement of new armoured vehicles. Based on plans drawn up before the pandemic, Shephard Defence Insight has identified more than $26bn of expenditure earmarked for armoured vehicle procurement programmes among NATO member states alone.

However, many of these programmes are predicated on defence budgets continuing to increase or at least remaining at their current levels. While COVID-19 has had little immediate impact on the progress of major European armoured vehicle programmes, its long-term economic ramifications have the potential to cause delays and even cancellations.

This economic dislocation could be disproportionately concentrated in Central and Eastern Europe. Spurred on by the threat from Russia, many governments in this region have committed to increasing defence budgets at a dramatic rate in order to fund extensive modernisation programmes aimed at dispensing with legacy Soviet equipment.

Tightening economic constraints arising from the coronavirus could upset this trend, thereby compounding the already significant risk attached to high-value armoured vehicle programmes, especially as issues concerning government inexperience in running major tenders, funding, and shifting technical requirements are already rife in major Central and Eastern European defence contracts.

The risk posed by the economic fallout of the coronavirus is particularly acute in programmes that aim to establish domestic production of complex platforms such as MBTs, tracked IFVs and 8×8 armoured vehicles.

This is epitomised by the Czech Republic’s protracted efforts to acquire a new tracked IFV to replace its remaining Cold War era BVP-2 IFVs (pictured). Considered as one of the most urgent modernisation priorities for the Czech Army, the preferred bidder was expected to be announced later in 2020 with and awarded a contract for 210 vehicles.

Yet with the coronavirus forcing difficult decisions, the Czech Prime Minister has cast doubt on whether this programme will proceed as originally intended. Although the latest statements from the Czech government appear to have backtracked on these comments, the turbulent past few months indicate how even a programme considered vital for modernisation now occupies a more precarious position.

It is possible that the coronavirus may create similar difficulties for other programmes aiming to procure heavy armoured vehicles. In addition to a BVP-2 replacement, the Czech Army is in need of a new MBT platform to replace around 30 T-72M4CZ MBTs, many of which are not even operational due to issues with spare parts. If funds are not forthcoming for their replacement, the Czech Army could be put in the unenviable position of making do with a neutered MBT capability or bringing more non-upgraded T-72s back into service.

Poland’s ambitious defence programmes, among them an effort to produce around 1,600 domestically designed Borsuk IFVs and related variants, may also be upset by the coronavirus. By law, Poland’s defence spending is tied to its GDP, making it even more vulnerable to economic fluctuations.

The implications of the coronavirus could prove even more disruptive for programmes that are still in their infancy. One example is Romania’s co-operation with Rheinmetall to establish a facility capable of manufacturing more than 300 Agilis 8×8 amphibious armoured vehicles. With the Romanian government already reluctant to commit to making financial contributions, not to mention reports that it has considered procuring the PSM Puma tracked IFV or opening a tender instead, there may be little appetite to continue wrangling with Rheinmetall in the face of an economic downturn.

Even without an economic downturn, many defence acquisitions in Central and Eastern Europe encounter significant delays or even cancellation as a result of funding restrictions, allegations of irregularities in the tender process or changes in procurement strategies stemming from a change in government. The economic fallout from the coronavirus could exacerbate these underlying problems and may even prove fatal to programmes currently stuck in limbo.

Among the programmes hanging in the balance is Bulgaria’s effort to procure 150 wheeled armoured vehicles, including 90 IFVs. The winning bidder was expected to be announced in 2020, but further news has yet to materialise.

Formed not long before the coronavirus struck Europe, Slovakia’s new coalition government has officially cancelled a tender for 4×4 tactical armoured vehicles, which had already been halted in July 2019 following allegations that the tender favoured a certain bidder. Although the government has signalled its intention to initiate new programmes to address the Slovakian Armed Forces’ need for new equipment, it remains to be seen how quickly these will materialise in a more constrained economy.

Considerably less risk is apparent to Central and Eastern programmes that are already well underway or which involve a more straightforward procurement process either through MOTS purchases, government-to-government transfers of surplus materiel, or contracts placed via international procurement agencies such as OCCAR.

For example, despite minor hiccups, Lithuania’s procurement of 88 turreted Boxer 8x8s has achieved first delivery more or less on schedule. Similarly, there are no signs that agreements on the delivery of surplus armoured vehicles will encounter major disruption, as Greece reaffirmed its intention to take receipt of second-hand vehicles from the US Army even as the coronavirus pandemic was at its height.

Notwithstanding these glimmers of hope, the prognosis for the Central and Eastern European armoured vehicle market is not encouraging, at least in the short-term. Unless countries in this region can implement stimulus packages to support the defence industry such as France has done, delays and even outright cancellations may become unavoidable for programmes that were already fraught with a high degree of risk from the outset.

All the same, the desire for military modernisation is unlikely to recede even if budgets do not match aspirations, giving hope that the market may be able to quickly bounce back once Europe’s economic situation stabilises. (Source: Shephard)

22 Jun 20. Rocky start for Land Rover’s new Defender. Hitches in rollout of revived classic offer opening to rival 4×4 from Ineos.  The new Land Rover Defender is “tough enough to take on any unexpected surprises,” according to a James Bond-themed ad that features three of the relaunched off-roaders careering down a grassy hill. But the coronavirus crisis may prove one surprise too many for Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover — delaying the rollout of one version of the car and damping early orders. The hitch has given JLR’s rival, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, a chance to recover lost ground in his race to launch a competitor vehicle. Ineos, the chemicals group controlled by Sir Jim, plans to make the “spiritual successor” to the iconic Land Rover model that was taken out of production in 2016. After failing to buy the rights to the vehicle from JLR, the businessman vowed to make his own version. While production of JLR’s model began in Slovakia this year, the pandemic slammed the brakes on its operations, closing the plant for months, delaying deliveries of test-drive vehicles to the all-important US and Chinese markets, and closing dealerships around the globe. Cars arrived in US and Chinese showrooms last week, something that “should have happened 10 weeks ago,” Nick Collins, head of the Defender project, told the FT. The delayed release of new Bond film No Time to Die from April to November has also pushed back one of the vehicle’s key marketing events. The film had been expected to increase awareness of the brand in the US and China. JLR’s order book of just 22,000 vehicles, disclosed in its results last Monday, left analysts underwhelmed. Yet the company, which has been making cars for almost a century, still enjoys significant advantages over Ineos and executives privately say they are not daunted by the new competitor.

Although still more than a year from beginning production at a factory in Bridgend in South Wales, “Projekt Grenadier” has not been slowed by the pandemic, in part because the outbreak hit when little construction work was taking place at the site. In recent weeks Welsh government contractors have levelled the site and installed roads, with builders for Ineos expected to begin work within two months, according to three people familiar with the matter. Previously unreported details about the project show how Ineos also plans to undercut JLR on price while offering a full range of models familiar to buyers of the old Defender, according to several people briefed on the project. The company will launch a long-wheelbase model of the vehicle late next year, with a shorter version and a pick-up model to follow. It expects to produce 30,000 cars a year. The price will start at £30,000 and rise to £45,000, according to two people who have seen the plans. Ineos declined to comment. Prices for JLR’s long-wheelbase model start from £45,000 but stretch to more than £100,000 with extras. The company will open orders for the delayed shorter model, which sells from £40,000, in September, and a stripped out commercial model aimed at builders is expected to start at £35,000. Site of the new Ineos facility in Bridgend, south Wales © Richard Williams When the Defender was discontinued in 2016, prices started at £23,000, although in the US, where the car has not been sold since 1996, models can change hands for more than $100,000. The new model costs more because of expensive technology including over-the-air software updates, and because it is built on an integrated chassis to allow better road driving as well as off-road capability. But the number of orders disappointed analysts.

Robin Zhu, a Hong Kong-based analyst for Bernstein, said: “22,000 orders is somewhat underwhelming in the context of the heritage of the Defender nameplate and management’s comments around strong demand.” Despite being configured online 1.6m times by enthusiasts, only 11,000 customer orders have been placed for the car so far, with a further 11,000 test-drive cars ordered by dealers, according to JLR’s annual results. JLR executives remain positive, saying a large number of test-drive vehicles are required for dealers in the US and China. Test cars produced in Slovakia before lockdown only arrived in China and the US last week. Defender boss Nick Collins expects orders to swell in the coming months. “Our research tells us that 65 per cent of customers won’t order until after a test drive,” he said. “In the context of not getting test drives, we’re actually extremely positive where we are.” (Source: FT.com)

BATTLESPACE Comment: The Editor saw the new Defender last year and although a good looking car its pricey for what you get and more like a Discovery replacement rather than a Defender replacement for which the new Ineos Grenadier is slated to replace. Sources suggest that after a showing to the MoD at Goodwood last year, the vehicle was not seen as a replacement for the Wolf fleet given its monocoque chassis and price. JLR will struggle to achieve volume of sales in this COVID-19 market particularly with discounting among suppliers to regain sales post-lockdown.

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