The U.S. Army has selected two contractors to develop a new light tank under its Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program. BAE Systems Land & Armaments and General Dynamics Land System were awarded engineering, manufacturing, and development contracts worth $375.9 million and $335 million, respectively. The companies will each deliver 12 prototype vehicles under a rapid prototyping effort. The contracts also include options for low-rate initial production.
BAE Systems is offering a vehicle based on an the M8 Armored Gun System. General Dynamics put forward the Griffin III, which is a British Ajax vehicle outfitted with an M1 Abrams turret. A third industry team was also competing for an EMD contract, with SAIC offering a vehicle utilizing a CMI Defence turret on an ST Kinetics chassis.
The Army is seeking 504 vehicles for the brigade level and below, and intends to pursue an accelerated acquisition schedule with minimal development. The Army tentatively plans to produce the first 26 vehicles in FY22, followed by 28 vehicles in FY23 and 50 vehicles per year between FY24 and FY32. The program has a unit manufacturing cost target of $6.4 million in 2018 dollars.
The Army requested $36.2 million for development in FY18, and ramped up funding to $393.6 million in FY19 to support the EMD contracts. The service plans to spend $270.2 million on continued development in FY20, $189.7 million in FY21, $83.4 million in FY22, and $12.3 million in FY23.
Weighing in between roughly 25 and 35 tons, the tank would pale in comparison to the much larger M1 Abrams, and would be used to take out targets such as entrenched infantry or light armored vehicles. Threats such as heavy armored vehicles would be left to the Abrams vehicle. MPF will be outfitted with a medium to large size cannon. The lighter weight would allow the tank to be transported on C-130 aircraft.
The MPF program now falls under the Army’s broader Next Generation Combat Vehicle effort.