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21 Apr 04. US Marine Corps (USMC) Systems Command has requested bids to conduct the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of its Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS), responses to which are due in early May 2004. Source selection is planned for completion by the end of August. Initial funding of US$134m is allocated in the Fiscal Year 2004 (FY04) Program Objective Memorandum. SDD will involve four complete EFSS systems, with a further six being supplied during low-rate initial production. Three full-production lots are foreseen, totaling an additional 60 systems. Initial operational capability, with one battery of six to eight launchers, is planned for the fourth quarter of FY06.

This is good news for SUPACAT and Supacat HMT Ltd who are working closely with Lockheed Martin to develop the mortar carrier vehicle for this requirement. Supacat told BATTLESPACE that Lockheed ‘borrowed’ a 4×4 HMT whilst on trials in the USA and mounted a 120mm mortar on the back. The results far exceeded expectations and the Marines are very pleased with the results. Lockheed Martin had a model of the proposed vehicle on its stand at AUSA in March. Supacat has become the vehicle of choice for the Watchkeeper bids and is also the selected vehicle for the UK LIMAWS project, also involving Lockheed Martin.

It is unlikely that Supacat will furnish these vehicles from its Dunkenswell plant, with an in-country license build being the most likely option. Other uses for the vehicle in the U.S. are believed to be the U.S. Special Forces following the success of the vehicle in winning the Pink Panther replacement for the U.K. equivalent. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that there is no shortage of U.S. suitors for the license where front runners are believed to include Stewart & Stevenson, who already supply the bodies for HIMARS to Lockheed Martin and Lockheed Martin Owego.

The Editors is visiting Supacat next month to drive its latest 6×6 HMT variant.

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