30 Apr 21. US approves potential USD1.68bn sale of heavy armoured combat systems to Australia. The US State Department has approved a potential USD1.68bn Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of heavy armoured combat systems, along with related equipment and services, to Australia.The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 29 April that Canberra had requested to buy 160 M1A1 tank structures/hulls and 122 AGT1500 gas turbine engines provided from stock to produce 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs), 29 M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles (ABVs), 18 M1074 Joint Assault Bridges (JABs), and six M88A2 Hercules armoured recovery vehicles. This totals 128 vehicles, with the remaining 32 hulls likely intended as spares. Also included in the deal, which still needs to be approved by the US Congress, is development of a unique armour package, Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station Low Profile (CROWS-LP), Driver’s Vision Enhancer, mission equipment, special tools and test equipment, ground support equipment, system and engine spare parts, technical data, publications, modification work orders/engineering change proposals (MWO/ECPs), US government and contractor technical and logistics assistance, quality assurance teams, transportation services, programme management, New Equipment Training (NET); and other related elements of logistical and programme support. The M1A2 SEPv3 MBTs will replace the Australian Army’s current fleet of M1A1 SA tanks (with no changes to the force structure of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps), while the additional M88A2 vehicles will provide “deprocessing and combat vehicle recovery support” for the Australian tank fleet, according to the DSCA. (Source: Jane’s)
28 Apr 21. Point Blank throws hat in ring to design US Army’s Bradley replacement. Point Blank Enterprises is the most recent nontraditional business to come out of the woodwork as a competitor for the U.S. Army’s concept vehicle design phase to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
The company announced April 26 on its website that it had submitted a bid. The announcement comes almost two weeks after the Army’s deadline for solicitations.
While other small businesses and nontraditional companies are believed to have bid on the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, or OMFV, program, the only other company out in the open as a bidder is Michigan-based Mettle Ops. Defense News first reported its participation.
Companies like Mettle Ops and Point Blank are the underdogs, but there’s room for them to play as the service plans to choose up to five teams to produce preliminary designs.
Big defense contractors also competing for a chance to design the platform are General Dynamics Land Systems, BAE Systems, and a Rheinmetall North America-led team of Raytheon Technologies, Textron and L3Harris. Defense News also first reported that Oshkosh Defense submitted a bid and is partnering with leading South Korean defense company Hanwha.
Florida-based Point Blank’s executive vice president, Mark Edwards, said the company sees the Army’s “non-traditional OMFV program approach as a perfect opportunity to continue to diversify [Point Blank Enterprises] by leveraging our core competencies in collaborative digital engineering design management, survivability systems engineering and forming and leading teams of some of the industry’s best large and small defense companies.”
The Army completely revamped its approach after its first attempt to hold an OMFV competition ended with only one bid sample from GDLS in October 2019. The only other entry, the Lynx 41 from a Rheinmetall and Raytheon team, was disqualified because it wasn’t delivered to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, on time.
Incumbent BAE Systems bowed out months before the deadline over concerns related to the Army’s ambitious schedule.
Instead of moving forward with just one option, the Army canceled its OMFV competition and took a step back to come up with a plan that would better foster a robust competition over a more reasonable timeline.
The Army not only dropped the plan to require a physical bid sample as part of its reboot; it instead mapped out a five-phased effort that begins with an initial design phase, then moves into a detailed design phase, followed by prototyping, testing and production.
Those designs will inform the abbreviated-concept development document expected to be published in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.
Point Blank is working directly with Keshik Mobile Power Systems, according to Edwards, to form an engineering and manufacturing design team that includes other “large, experienced defense companies and a large group of innovative small businesses with advanced technologies that may not have had the chance to participate if not for this unique Army program.”
Point Blank features roughly 48 years of experience in developing body armor, according to its website, but also touts survivability solutions such as advanced, lightweight armor across platforms from ships to helicopters to vehicles.
“The team’s concept design will help fully inform the U.S. Army of what is possible today for the next generation fighting vehicle with a truly modular and technology-agnostic open systems approach for power, information, and physical architectures,” Frank Jones, Keshik’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.
“The OMFV design concept [Point Blank Enterprises] has proposed will fully enable the Army to rapidly adapt and scale the platform to emerging threats, changing missions, embedding the ability to integrate the never ceasing evolution of new defense technologies as they become available,” he added.
Keshik plans to “augment the capabilities of future warfighters with a transformational fighting vehicle platform that leverages robust mobility and agility through a distributed redundant hybrid electric drive train, best-in-class survivability, unprecedented exportable electric power and scalability for maturing cross domain operational flexibility in real time,” company CEO James Blackburn said.
Point Blank’s key brands include Point Blank Body Armor, Protective Apparel Corporation of America, Protective Products, PARACLETE, The Protective Group, Advanced Technology Group, First Tactical, and Gould & Goodrich. According to the company, it is the “largest global supplier of ballistic armor systems and systems integrator in the world.”
The service plans to spend $4.6bn from FY22 through FY26 on OMFV, so it is turning to industry input earlier and more than ever.
Following the concept design phase, the Army will move into a detailed design phase that will be executed over the course of FY23 and FY24. The prototyping phase will begin in FY25. Vehicle testing will begin in FY26 and wrap up the following year with a production decision planned for the fourth quarter of FY27. Full-rate production is expected to begin in the second quarter of FY30. The Army plans to choose five teams to proceed in the competition in June. (Source: Defense News)
28 Apr 21. Official deliver to the Brazilian Army of the first unit of LMV-BR in the framework the VBMT-LR 4×4 program. In accordance with the contract signed in 2019, yesterday the first of 32 LMV-BR has been delivered to the Brazilian Army during a ceremony held at Iveco Defence Vehicles’ plant in Sete Lagoas (MG). The event was attended by representatives of the company and of the Brazilian Army. The remaining 31 units of this lot will be delivered by 2022 as part of the Army modernization process.
In addition to LMV’s well known standard features, all these vehicles are fitted with customized weapon and Command and Control systems, as required by the customer. The LMV-BR was chosen in 2015 by the Brazilian Army as the new Viatura Blindada Multitarefa, Leve de Rodas (VBMT-LR). The final assembly of the vehicles is carried out at the Sete Lagoas plant, where several National components are integrated. The project foresees the acquisition of 186 units, Iveco Defence Vehicles expects to start production of the next batches in 2022.
Iveco Defence Vehicles is already supplying the Brazilian Army with the Guarani VBTP 6×6 amphibious armored family of vehicles. More than 480 units have now been delivered since 2012, after the signature in 2009 of the production contract. Several units of VBTP 6×6 have already been exported to other customers.
The effective partnership between Iveco Defence Vehicles and the Brazilian Army is now consolidated with this second line of product while Sete Lagoas plant is demonstrating its paramount importance in strengthening the National Defence industrial base in the land systems domain, with a fully qualified workforce and top-level technical capabilities together with a network of local suppliers and partners.
28 Apr 21. Soucy lauds CRT technology ahead of LAND 400 decision. The composite manufacturer has outlined the supposed advantages of its track systems, selected as part of Hanwha Defence’s bid for the LAND 400 Phase 3 project.
Soucy has lauded the capability benefits of its composite rubber track (CRT) system, used in the Hanwha-built Redback infantry fighting vehicle, put forward as an option for the Commonwealth government’s $18bn to $27bn LAND 400 Phase 3 program.
The firm has claimed that its CRT offers a range of advantages over metal track designs, including:
- up to 70 per cent less vibration;
- up to 13.5 decibels of noise reduction;
- less weight;
- enhanced manoeuvrability;
- up to 80 per cent less maintenance; and
- improved efficiency supporting higher top vehicle speeds or fuel savings of up to 30 per cent.
Soucy has also claimed that its offering would support sovereign industrial capability, stating that if selected, 50 per cent of its CRT technology would be transferred to Hanwha Defense Australia to enable local production of track mechanical components, including road wheels and idlers to be sub-licensed to Australian industry.
“Hanwha’s overall AIC strategy is to deliver to our customer the best technologies from Australia and around the world,” Richard Cho, managing director of Hanwha Defense Australia, said.
“In this instance, Soucy’s composite rubber track is a highly innovative product that offers significant advantages and we are enormously pleased to be working with them to bring that technology to Australia under the risk mitigation activity.”
Normand Lalonde, Soucy vice president, business development, added, “Soucy has a long history of working successfully with Hanwha, [and] we are excited to see that relationship extend into Australia with our CRT on the Redback IFV.
“Soucy has a long-term strategy for the Asia-Pacific region and our co-operation with Hanwha is an important part of that.”
The firm also noted interest for its technology from international partners, including the US Army, which recently awarded the firm with a contract to deliver prototype CRT systems to its Ground Vehicle Systems Centre.
“With the advantages of the Soucy CRT being so clear and decisive, we were gratified but not really surprised to see the US interest in the system,” Cho said.
“I think CRT is going to be the best solution for many programs and I am proud that Hanwha is working with Soucy to bring it to Australia.”
Hanwha’s Redback IFV is currently undergoing a risk-mitigation activity along with fellow contender Rheinmetall Defence Australia’s Lynx IFV.
The assessments include mobility, reliability and blast testing.
Defence is also expected to assess contracts, supply chains and maintenance associated with the vehicles, ahead of the government’s recommendation on the preferred tender, scheduled for 2022.
(Source: Defence Connect)
26 Apr 21. OMFV: Army’s Bradley Replacement Faces Hill, DoD Skeptics. Industry is excited about the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. Congress and the Biden Administration are a harder sell.
: With at least five industry teams submitting proposals, the Army’s rebooted Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program has passed one hurdle that doomed its predecessor: getting enough competitors. But, multiple experts warn, the service still must convince Congress and the Biden Administration that a new heavily armed and armored infantry carrier – in many ways optimized for Eastern Europe – will be relevant to the Pacific.
Even within the Army, OMFV must compete against more obvious counter-China weapons like long-range missiles, high-speed aircraft and air & missile defense. The Army’s budget as a whole is under pressure to fund more air and naval forces for the Pacific: No less a figure than former Army Chief of Staff and current Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, have warned of a budgetary “bloodletting” for the land service. Despite OMFV’s emphasis on electronics and automation, it’s hard to sell $46bn worth of new ground combat vehicles as revolutionary tech when you’re competing with armed robots, hypersonic missiles and drone-killing lasers.
“The budget situation [and] the ghosts of past failed Army acquisitions …do not bode well for the OMFV,” said AEI’s Bill Greenwalt, a longtime skeptic of the Army’s acquisition bureaucracy. “Historically, large Army programs have been plagued by plans to incentivize the creation of items that are just slightly better than what is currently in inventory, take decades to get there, and then are ultimately cancelled or scaled back. OFMV is likely to head down this path without a major cultural shift.”
The Army’s current Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the M2 Bradley, was designed in the 1970s, entered production in 1980, and has been repeatedly upgraded since, to the point that the chassis, engine, and electrical system are getting overloaded. The Army has at least three cancelled programs they tried and failed to develop a replacement:
By contrast, the rebooted OMFV program – with a more realistic schedule and less stringent demands on industry – got at least five bids this month. The competing teams’ prime contractors include the usual suspects, BAE Systems (which makes the Bradley) and General Dynamics (which makes the M1 Abrams), but also two foreign firms, Germany’s Rheinmetall and Korea’s Hanwha (teamed with Oshkosh), and even a small business, Michigan-based Mettle Ops.
Admittedly, the barriers to entry are much lower this time around: The current contenders are just submitting digital concepts, with physical prototypes not due until a later phase of the program that starts in 2023. And the Army can make up to five concept awards, meaning all five contenders can participate in this phase. But the Army can still take heart in how its new approach has gotten a more robust industry response than previous programs.
“A year ago there was rightful skepticism of the OMFV’s future,” said Guy Swan, a former armor officer now with the Association of the US Army. “This program is now back on track, has solid leadership, and a realistic game plan – all of which is built on a strong Army-Industry partnership…. Now we need Congress to provide the resources to bring this program to reality for our soldiers.
“Clearly, there are challenges ahead,” Swan acknowledged in an email interview. “But the fact that so many bidders have come forward for this second round of the OMFV program solicitation indicates that industry leaders feel some significant level of confidence in the program and the congressional support it will receive.”
In particular, Swan said, “the number of companies and their geographic locations ensures that Congress will take note of the number of jobs involved, especially during the post-COVID 19 economic recovery.” BAE’s vehicle factory is in Pennsylvania, GD’s in Ohio, Oshkosh’s in Wisconsin; Mettle Ops is in Michigan, although it would need to find a larger partner to actually build prototypes, while Rheinmetall is still picking a US location.
But are all these companies genuine contenders in the Army’s eyes?
“The number of competitors is a positive,” agreed Greenwalt, “but one has to question whether the Army is really serious about ever moving beyond its current industrial base, in this case BAE and GD…. Bidders beyond the ground systems duopoly may need to be highly suspicious as to whether the Army can break from its past record of awards.”
“Hanwha, Rheinmetall and particularly MettleOps may eventually only be there for window dressing,” Greenwalt warned, “essentially serving the same function that Karem Aircraft and AVX did on FARA.” That’s the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, where the Army included small businesses in awards for early designs but whittled it down to aerospace stalwarts Bell and Sikorsky for actual prototypes.
The Hard Part
Even if the Army manages the OMFV program well, it faces an uphill battle to sell the program.
“While the additional offerors help the acquisition strategy, the fundamental problems of budget constraints and strategic focus on China make OMFV’s future challenging,” CSIS scholar Mark Cancian told me. “The program does not align well with a China and Pacific-focused strategy. Although OMFV is high in the Army priorities, it will have a hard time gaining traction with the strategists in OSD [the Office of the Secretary of Defense]. They will give priority to long-range strike capabilities.
“The Army budget will be squeezed and there will be intense competition for modernization dollars,” Cancian said. “OMFV will need to compete with all  Army development programs and is not mature enough to have developed a broad coalition in Congress.”
But convincing Congress isn’t the hard part here, argued Tom Spoehr, a retired Army three-star now with the Heritage Foundation: It’s the Biden Administration appointees in OSD, especially the veterans of Obama-era cuts.
“I think Congress would be willing to give the Army the benefit of the doubt and support the OMFV program, especially given the robust responses to the RFP [Request For Proposals],” Spoehr told me. “Armored vehicle production easily translates to manufacturing jobs – unlike AI or networks – which is always attractive to Congress.”
“The bigger problem,” he went on, “[is] the Biden administration is bringing back many of the same people who were disposed to make cuts to the Army in the 2014 timeframe, and it will be an uphill battle to convince them that great power competition— including against China—is a global competition that will not just be fought [in] the Western Pacific.”
“In 2014, these new Biden nominees were of the opinion that if America declared that the Army would not be sized or equipped for stability operations, that the rest of the world would similarly agree not to challenge the U.S. in a way that required those type of forces and capabilities,” Spoehr snarked. “The world is never so forgiving.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
27 Apr 21. UK Boxer MIV Programme: KMW and WFEL UK Supply Chain Expands with Further Significant Contract Award. KMW and WFEL announced a further sub-contract has been awarded for the UK Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle Programme. Horstman UK will supply over 250 angular gear boxes and control units for the British Army’s Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle programme. Following rigorous supply chain evaluation, Horstman was selected to ensure best value and lowest risk to the Boxer programme. This £12m contract award means that another significant transfer of technology to the UK will be undertaken from Horstman’s parent company, RENK, which has made all production Angle Drive Gearboxes for the Boxer vehicles to date. In close collaboration with KMW and WFEL, RENK will ensure all required technical support and investment into Horstman, to ensure that identical Boxer gearbox products are built in the UK at Horstman’s premises in Bath, following identical processes and procedures. The gearboxes will then be supplied to WFEL’s new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for assembly into the new Boxer vehicles being produced in Stockport. Based in Bath, UK, Horstman is already well known for its armoured vehicle suspension systems and this Boxer contract re-kindles a significant history in producing gearboxes for battle tank turrets, tactical 4×4’s and combat engineering vehicles.
Having successfully supplied suspension systems for German Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Horstman already has established relationships with KMW’s Engineering and Delivery teams and this sub-contract for the UK Boxer gearbox programme will create or sustain up to 20 skilled roles across Horstman and its wider UK supply chain. Horstman will further expand its Inspection, Assembly, Test and Paint Teams based in Bath.
The Boxer MIV programme aims to source 60% by value of the contract from within the UK, protecting sovereign engineering and manufacturing skills and ensuring that the vehicles remain supported through their 30-year operational life.
Just like WFEL, Horstman UK counts amongst its employees a number of ex-military personnel, well versed and experienced in working with the British Army and industry alike and involvement in this UK Boxer Programme continues a long heritage of providing combat mobility solutions in support of British and allied forces.
26 Apr 21. A new team will compete for Britain’s next Ajax variant. General Dynamics UK has joined forces with European missile maker MBDA to position itself for an upcoming British Army requirement to field an “Overwatch” anti-armor vehicle to support the army’s heavy and deep recce strike brigade combat teams.
The companies are offering the Ares version of the Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicle already purchased by the Army fitted with a Brimstone missile capability carried in a modular cannister to meet a requirement to strengthen its anti-armor capability.
The teaming effort and the building of a capability demonstrator were announced by the companies July 26.
The Army already has a nascent program, known as Battlegroup Organic Anti-Armour (BGOAA), in the pre-concept phase, which includes the armed overwatch requirement.
Armed overwatch is a priority for the British and likely to be one of the first elements of the wider BGOAA program the military will look to move forward with as the procurement effort ramps up.
Ares is a troop carrying reconnaissance vehicle acquired by the British in a wider 2014 deal with General Dynamics worth £3.5bn to provide 589 vehicles in the Ajax family.
The principal variant is a scout vehicle armed with a 40 mm case telescoped cannon.
Some 34 Ares vehicles were purchased as part of the deal and deliveries of the variant got underway last year.
In a statement Carew Wilks, vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems–UK, said the vehicle makers “collaboration with MBDA further demonstrates the versatility of the Ajax fleet through the delivery of an ‘Overwatch’ capability quickly and effectively for the heavy and deep recce strike brigade combat teams.”
Brimstone has been widely used by the Royal Air Force in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya as an air to ground weapon. The missile has also been exported.
The latest version of the missile will be a key weapon deployed on the new General Atomic Protector drone purchased by the British to replace the Reaper vehicle.
As far as is known Brimstone has not been purchased to date as a surface-to-surface weapon, but the weapon has been extensively test fired from land in support of maritime development campaigns.
The British are looking to step up their missile equipped armored vehicle capabilities.
Aside from the emerging BGOAA requirement the British are also looking to boost land anti-armour capabilities with a possible purchase of missile equipped Boxer wheeled armored personnel carriers.
The Army is looking at adding more fire power to it’s new Boxer force following the recent decision to axe the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle program.
One option might be to increase the number of Boxer reconnaissance variants fitted with anti-tank guided missiles.
For the moment the number of missile equipped reconnaissance vehicles purchased by the British stands at 50, but the Army is conducting an analysis to determine if more Boxer’s should be fitted with ATGMs. (Source: News Now/Defense News)
22 Apr 21. Milrem Robotics of Estonia has delivered the first THeMIS UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) to Australia for trial, evaluation and demonstration. The European leading robotics and autonomous systems developer Milrem Robotics signed a distribution and maintenance agreement with XTEK Ltd. and delivered the first THeMIS Unmanned Ground Vehicle to the Australian homeland security specialist.
This first THeMIS will be used by XTEK Ltd., for trial, evaluation, and demonstration purposes. Including Australia, the THeMIS UGV has been acquired by eleven countries, of which seven are NATO members, including Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the US.
Following the signing of an MoU in the end of last year, Milrem Robotics also signed an agreement with XTEK appointing the Australian homeland security specialist as the exclusive distributor of the THeMIS UGV, the Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, and Milrem’s Intelligent Functions Integration Kit (MIFIK) in Australia and New Zealand.
“I am thrilled about the synergy created with XTEK and delivering the most advanced robotic capabilities to Australia,” said Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics.” In collaboration with XTEK, we can be close to our customer and secure continuous high-quality support.”
XTEK is the exclusive distributor of the THeMIS UGV, the Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle and MIFIK in Australia and New Zealand
Philippe Odouard, XTEK Ltd’s Managing Director said: ”The delivery of our first Milrem Robotics THeMIS is a major milestone for XTEK. The THeMIS platform is ideally suited for a broad range of applications within the Australian Defence Force, particularly the Australian Army. It is also the perfect platform for us to further showcase our ‘AirWolf’ sensor-to-shooter software, which distributes targeting information from UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to advanced combat configured UGVs such as THeMIS.”
XTEK has extensive experience and expertise in unmanned vehicle distribution, maintenance, and value-added services. The company’s established maintenance facilities include a Logistics Engineering Business Unit based in Canberra, where a pool of technicians and trainers with extensive Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robot maintenance experience can provide maintenance for Milrem Robotics’ UGVs and RCVs. The company plans to leverage its Adelaide Manufacturing Centre and unique XTclave technology for novel ballistic protection design, and other engineering and manufacturing services for Milrem Robotics’ UGV systems. (Source: joint-forces.com)