US Army soldiers are preparing to start evaluations of the first pre-production light tank prototypes developed as part of the service’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program.
Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne will get the chance to employ a dedicated mobile, direct fire vehicle platform against hardened positions, dismounted personnel and light armored vehicles.
For this purpose, the first of several pre-production MPF ground combat platforms are being delivered to Fort Bragg, N.C. to be used in the soldier vehicle assessment (SVA).
“We are incredibly excited to see the MPF platform entering into this phase,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems. “MPF represents an innovative and aggressive approach to system acquisition. The beginning of our SVA in January illustrates how hard the teams are working to keep the major events of this program on schedule.”
Currently the Army’s Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) do not have a combat vehicle assigned that is capable of providing mobile, protected, direct, offensive fire capability. To fill that capability gap the Army is using a competitive acquisition approach to provide IBCTs with their own organic lethality platforms to ensure overmatch against peer and near peer threat.
The two prototypes that will be evaluated were developed by BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems under a contract from December 2018. GDLS used the UK’s Ajax armored fighting vehicle chassis in combination with an M1 Abrams tank turret. The BAE Systems prototype is based on M8 armored gun system with a range of innovations.
The evaluation starting on January 4, 2021, and will run through June 2021. During that time, soldiers will use the MPF prototypes to conduct a wide variety of operational scenarios.
The SVA is an operational assessment rather than a formal test event, the service said in an announcement. It will directly inform the development of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) of this new capability for the IBCT.
“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 MPF,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the Army’s director for the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team. “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.”
The competitive phase of the program is scheduled to conclude with the selection of a single solution and transition into production near the end of fiscal year 2022.