The US Army has finally chosen the preferred contractor for its Mobile Protected Firepower, or MPF, vehicles, awarding a $1.14 billion contract to General Dynamics Land Systems.
Under the contract, the company will be delivering up to 96 light tanks, with MPF representing the Army’s first new design vehicle fielded in over four decades. The service plans to have the first unit equipped by late fiscal year 2025.
The US Army plans to buy a total of 504 of the light tanks by 2035.
MPF is designed to provide infantry brigades greater survivability, the ability to identify threat systems earlier and at greater distances, and to enable movement in off-road terrain. MPF will also allow soldiers to move at a faster pace, protecting the assaulting force.
The award comes just days after the Army closed out the MPF middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping phase and transitioned to a major capability acquisition program with a favorable Milestone C decision — an incremental step in the Department of Defense’s acquisition process that moves into the production and deployment phase.
“The MPF program did exactly what the Army asked, which was to complete a competitive and accelerated rapid prototyping effort with soldier touchpoints,” said Doug Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and the Army’s acquisition executive. “MPF is a benchmark program, as the acquisition and requirement communities worked together to complete the [middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping] phase and move this system into production in just under four years.”
The service noted that the Milestone C decision came on schedule.
“MPF represents a new capability for the Army, allowing our light maneuver forces to overmatch adversaries. Through multiple soldier touchpoints, our Soldiers have operated the prototypes and provided crucial feedback to the design team, ensuring our forces will have the asset they need on the future battlefield,” said Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team.
During the middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping phase, the Army tested and evaluated 24 prototypes during a pandemic that were provided 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 was based on the M8 armored gun system with a range of innovations.
“Congress has provided us with flexible [middle-tier acquisition] legislation that allows for accelerated prototype delivery and Soldier operational feedback, which expedites the fidelity on technical and programmatic risks to better inform program acquisition decisions,” Bush said.
During the low-rate initial production phase the Army plans to take delivery of MPF vehicles and conduct production qualification testing to include lethality, mobility, survivability, full-up system live-fire, and reliability, availability and maintainability testing.
Additionally, an initial operational test and evaluation will also be conducted, all leading to the first unit equipped. The award of subsequent low-rate initial production vehicle options will be based on review of cost, schedule and performance metrics defined in the acquisition program baseline, the service explained.