- The Washington Times
Sunday, December 13, 2020

Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division will soon begin testing prototypes of light tanks designed specifically to give infantry troops more lethal power on the battlefield.

In December 2018, BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems were picked to produce 12 prototypes in the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program for testing in the field. The Soldier Vehicle Assessment (SVA) begins at Fort Bragg, N.C. on Jan. 4 and will run through June, Army officials said.

The Army’s Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) don’t have an assigned mobile, direct-fire platform capable of taking on hardened positions, dismounted personnel and armored vehicles. The MPF program is expected to fill that gap.

“The MPF brings a new level of lethality to our infantry forces. The SVA gives us the first opportunity to put these vehicles in the hands of our soldiers with the 82nd Airborne and begin to develop the methods by which our forces can best employ,” them, said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the Army’s director for the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team.

The Army wanted to integrate existing technologies into the vehicles and avoid the kind of development that would lengthen the program schedule. The priority has always been to field this new critical capability soonest but it also will be able to accommodate additional weight and spare electrical power to support future growth, Army officials said.

The Army awarded $355 million to General Dynamics Land Systems and $376 million to BAE Systems for their prototype vehicles.

“Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach,” said Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems.

The medium weight mobile protected firepower combat vehicles are required to be lethal, survivable and mobile, General Dynamics said.

“We are excited about this opportunity to provide the U.S. Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams,” said Don Kotchman, Vice President and General Manager of General Dynamics Land Systems U.S. Market.

The soldiers will go through a wide-variety of operational scenarios with the two prototypes to help develop the tactics and techniques that will be needed to use it in combat, Army officials said.

“Once they are able to begin interacting with these prototypes, I know that our soldiers are going to come up with the best ways to utilize MPF in our light formations,” Brig. Gen. Coffman said.

The company with the winning prototype is expected to transition into production near the end of fiscal year 2022, Army officials said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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