BAE Systems and General Dynamics have been tapped by the US Army to each build 12 prototype medium-armor vehicles. Part of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program, the two US$376-million contracts aim at developing an agile, multi-terrain platform for Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT).

Light infantry units are intended to travel fast on missions where heavier units would have trouble getting to the front. The problem is that a US Army IBCT as currently armed lacks in both firepower and armor, with the average unit having to rely on Humvees towing light artillery pieces.

To remedy this, the MPF program has awarded contracts to BAE Systems Land & Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems to create prototype medium armor vehicles that are compatible with IBCTs. The Army says that the winning vehicle will protect its crew; provide direct, offensive fire to neutralize dug-in enemy and bunkers; defeat heavy machine guns and armored vehicles; and maintain defensive operations against an attacking force.

According to BAE, its design is based on 30 years of work on a rapidly deployable, light combat vehicle and will take its cues from the US Army's M8 Armored Gun. The new vehicle will have scaled armor and survivability subsystems, situational awareness systems, a low-profile silhouette, and a M35 105mm cannon. The latter will incorporate an auto-loading ammunition system that can operate at a fire rate of 12 rounds per minute. In addition, it will have a "roll-out" power pack to make it easier to work on the engine and gearbox.

General Dynamics has yet to release details of how its prototype will proceed. As the prototyping phase continues, the Army will evaluate each company's vehicle before deciding which one will enter production.

"Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach," says Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems. "We're confident our design meets the requirements and the unique capabilities the IBCT needs."

In a separate statement, Don Kotchman, Vice President and General Manager of General Dynamics Land Systems US Market said, "We are excited about this opportunity to provide the US Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams. We are especially proud of this new opportunity to serve in the Infantry Brigade Combat Team formation."

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