The U.S. subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems Plc won a potential $1.2 billion contract from the Army to build a replacement to the Vietnam-era M113 armored personnel carrier.
The initial phase of the agreement is valued at $382 million over four years to build 29 prototypes of the so-called Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV, under engineering and manufacturing development, according to a Dec. 23 announcement from the service.
Once the vehicles are tested "to ensure they are effective," the company would be eligible for an option to build another 289 production models under low-rate initial production for a total contract value of $1.2 billion, according to the document.
"Today’s announcement sets in motion a long-awaited and important modernization effort for the Army," Brig. Gen. David Bassett, the Army's program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said in the statement. "The AMPV family of vehicles will fill critical force protection, survivability and mobility capability gaps inherent in today’s Armored Brigade Combat Teams."
The Army in 2007 canceled the M113 program, which dates to the Vietnam War, due to its inability to protect troops from modern threats such as roadside bombs, incorporate future technologies and keep pace with faster vehicles in the service's armored brigade combat teams.
The M113 was developed by Food Machinery Corp., or FMC, then United Defense, which in 2005 was acquired by BAE Systems. Some 80,000 of the tracked, 12-ton vehicles were built for countries around the world, though there are less than 5,000 today in the Army. The latest version, known as the M113A3, has a top speed of about 40 miles per hour and range of about 300 miles.
The AMPV program aims to replace about 2,900 M113 vehicles at the brigade level and below within the armored brigade combat team, according to the release.
It will support the M1 Abrams tank and M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles "to supply to formation, conduct battle command functions, deliver organic indirect fires, provide logistics support and medical treatment, perform medical and casualty evacuation, and, most importantly, function as an integral part of the ABCT formation," Col. Michael Milner, who manages the program for the Army, said in the statement.
What will happen to the M113s at the echelons above brigades (known as EAB in Army parlance)?
"The EAB level replacements may have different requirements than the current procurement, and have not yet been developed," Milner added. "The Army is currently assessing how it will address these emerging requirements."
So perhaps stay tuned for another competition on that front.
General Dynamics Corp. earlier this year backed out of the AMPV competition after concluding the requirements were biased toward a Bradley-style vehicle (BAE also makes the Bradley). General Dynamics instead pitched for the service to pursue a mixed fleet that includes medical evacuation versions of its Stryker wheeled vehicle. The ambulance platforms were tested in Iraq in 2010 with 3rd Infantry Division units that weren't designated Stryker units.
BAE's AMPV is based in part on the company's Bradley and M109A7 howitzer designs.
"This award represents a significant milestone for the U.S. Army and BAE Systems," Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of Combat Vehicles at BAE Systems, said in a separate statement. "It also confirms BAE Systems' role as a leading provider of combat vehicles."