Canada’s C$ 1+ Billion Competitions for Medium Trucks
Just before Canada Day 2006, Canada’s minority Conservative Party government outlined a C$ 1.2 billion (USD $1 billion) RFP for new medium-sized logistics trucks and associated equipment. These Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS) trucks will become the new backbone of the Canadian Forces’ land transport capabilities, replacing the MLVW (really, US M-35/M-36 designs with some modifications) 1950s designs, built by Bombardier in the 1980s.
The MLVWs are reaching the end of their service lives, and can’t carry all of the extra armor required for survival in places like Afghanistan. This may explain why the Canadian forces in Afghanistan are relying on their HLVW heavy trucks instead, a set of 10-ton capacity Steyr vehicles related to the smaller US FMTV medium truck family.
Under the new plan, the Canadian Forces will purchase up to 2,300 new medium trucks. What are the requirements? The configurations and numbers? Is this a welcome arrival that fills a critical gap? A mistake that will leave Canada out of step with shifting trends? Or a politically-driven move that falls into the “something, and hence better than nothing” category? Or all 3? As of 2012, MSVS has made 1 truck purchase, bought containerized modules, and is still waiting on the contract for front-line military trucks.
If You Could Read My Mind: Medium Truck Requirements
A competitive procurement process will select the contractor for the new truck fleet, with requests for proposals being released to industry for all elements of the project. The acquisition contracts will also have economic offsets – for every contract dollar awarded, the contractor will be expected to commit a corresponding dollar in economic activity in Canada.
Overall, Canada’s Department of National Defence expects to 2,300 vehicles, plus associated components, logistics and training support at a cost of approximately C$ 1.1 billion. It is estimated that 20 years of contracted in-service support will cost an additional $100 million.
The project aims to buy several kinds of equipment.
MilCOTS for Domestic Use
1,300 commercial vehicles adapted for military use (raised from original 800). Navistar’s Workstar 7400 series was picked for this MilCOTS(Military Commercial Offf the Shelf) role, for use in Canada by the Reserves, and for training and administrative support functions. Maintenance and repair will be supported commercially through Navistar’s well-established local dealer network, providing both Canadian industrial offsets and distributed convenience.
The Workstar 7400 series is a popular commercial truck, with onboard diagnostics, a wide-track axle, and a number of engine options. It is in military use with the Afghan Army and the US Army, among others. Under the multi-year contract, 6 vehicle variants will be provided including General Troop Transporters, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) container transporters, fuel carriers, and specialty vehicles designed to work with equipment like augers and cranes.
Canada was to take delivery of the 1st Navistar 7400 SFA 6×6 trucks in the summer of 2009, with all the trucks to be delivered within 18 months of the contract award (June 2010). Deliveries began in June 2009, but the last truck delivery took until March 2011.
SMP Front-line Trucks
1,500 standard military pattern vehicles designed specifically for military use, with up to 300 load-handling system companion trailers. Variants will include Cargo, Cargo with material handling crane, Load handling system (LHS), Mobile repair truck (MRT), and Gun tractor. Trailers will also be supplied under this award. A support contract will be awarded at the same time as the truck contract, but will be negotiated separately. It will be a 5-year contract, renegotiated in year 4, with a total expected run period of 20 years.
Reported contenders in the SMP segment include:
- BAE Systems – FMTV
- Daimler AG – Zetros
- Navistar/ Tatra – ATX8
- Oshkosh – MTVR
- Renault Trucks – Kerax 8×8
- Rheinmetall/ MAN – HX77 8×8
DND will also buy key add-ons, including:
- 300 SMP armor protection systems. Every SMP truck must be able to accept the up-armoring kits, even if only a small percentage of them can be armored at any one time.
- 895 Specially Equipped Vehicles kits (such as mobile kitchens, offices and medical or dental stations): 145 for the MilCOTS 7400s, and the rest for SMP. DEW Engineering will lead the base SEV contract, and as of April 2012, Navistar reports that they had installed 35 SEVs on their 7400 series trucks.
- There’s also a separate contract for “kitting” (modifying) the SEV base shelters. The RFP was released in October 2011, and an award is now expected in Fall 2012, with deliveries beginning in Summer 2013 and running to Summer 2016.
Waiting for You…
The only thing missing from this list has been a sense of urgency. The 2006 DND background materials added that:
“The requirement for this equipment is urgent. Delivery is expected as soon as possible and will continue until the requirement is fully met.”
Despite these claims, by January 2009 – 2 1/2 years after the initial announcement – Canada’s Department of National Defense had not even issued a formal RFP for the front-line SMP trucks. That took until December 2011. MSVS-SMP is heading toward tests in early summer 2012, with each manufacturer submitting 2 trucks and a trailer. A decision is now expected in March 2013, with deliveries to run from December 2014 – June 2016. Or, to put it another way, the “urgent” buy would begin deliveries of front-line vehicles about 8.5 years after the initial announcement.
Beyond the decision delays, one might ask why it takes 14 months from a decision to 1st delivery, when countries like the USA have experienced much shorter time frames? The answer is that Canada will conduct blast & ballistic tests, and finalize and approve all variants, after the contract is awarded. Countries like the USA will award up-front contracts for test vehicles, but Canada has chosen to trade time and some risk, in order to pay for fewer test vehicles.
Go-Go Round: Contracts and Updates
“The Defence Department had received government approval in 2009 to move forward with the $430 million purchase of 1,500 off-the-shelf medium-sized trucks. But in subsequent years department and military officials began adding more capabilities to what they wanted in the vehicles, bumping the estimated cost to between $730 million and $800 million… in an unprecedented move DND officials continued on with the acquisition without going back to Treasury Board for approval to cover the extra $300 million to $370 million… When… officials discovered what was happening they intervened, shutting down the project last week just minutes before bidding was to close.”
That will be a blow to the Army, but if no-one is fired for this, it won’t really change anything at DND.
May 7/12: Navistar on SMP. Discussions with Navistar provide an MSVS SMP update. Overall, the firm has been working toward MSVS bids of various types for about 6.5 years. That certainly adds a lot of expense for bidders, which must be recovered somehow.
Navistar’s alliance with the Czech Republic’s Tatra will offer the ATX8 8×8 heavy truck, powered by Navistar’s MaxxForce D 12.4 engine and Allison 4500SP transmission. There had been some thought given to offering the 6×6 ATX6, if Canada wanted a split buy of up-armored vs. unarmored vehicles. Since the requirements are that every vehicle must be able to take additional armor, and that the same vehicle must be used for both standard cargo and specialty load handling variants, the ATX8 is their offering. The truck includes the Tatra Tactical Chassis Technology suspension system, whose central backbone tube houses driveline components, and provides an anchor for independently driven half-axles. The independent suspension at each wheel position is air spring, and leaf springs can be added if exceptionally high payloads are required. Maximum payload is 21.1 tonnes/ 23.25 tons.
Navistar representatives told DID that they’re seeing very similar specifications in other competitions around the world, and they expect to bid slight variants of their Canadian SMP offering in a number of countries.
Dec 19/11: SMP RFP, at last. MERX solicitation #W8476-06MSMP/J covers Canada’s MSVS-SMP competition for front-line military trucks. It details the 5 variants (cargo, cargo MHS, LHS, mobile repair, and gun tractor), and says that bidders must provide one 1 Cargo Variant, 1 LHS Variant with APS, and 1 LHS Trailer for evaluation. If a design fails this evaluation, the bidder has 10 days to make any required fixes, and re-test.
DND had issued an SMP Statement Of Interest and Qualification in October 2010, but rescinded it in November 2011, after all evaluations were done.
Nov 24/11: SMP stopped. A MERX announcement delivers the bad news:
“Further refinements in the technical specification since the issuance of the results [in March 2011] has prompted the decision to rescind the SOIQ results [of 6 pre-qualified companies] and re-open the SMP requirement to competition. The refinements in the requirement were necessary to identify the interface control constraint between the vehicle and the payloads it must carry.”
June 13/11: SEV Kitting. Prequalified bidders are announced for the Special Equipment Vehicle (SEV) Kitting competition. they are:
- Armatec Survivability Corp.
- DEW Engineering & Development ULC
- Gichner Shelter Systems
- Marshall Specialist Vehicles Ltd.
They may respond to the RFP, which is released on Oct 28/11. Source.
March 30/11: MilCOTS all delivered. Final delivery for Navistar’s 7400 series MilCOTS trucks. Source.
March 9/11: The Oshkosh Defense/ General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada team announces that their response to Canada’s MSVS-SMP solicitation of interest and qualifications has been approved. At this point, it just means they can continue in the competition. Oshkosh Defense.
March 8/11: SMP bidders. The Department of National Defense (DND) has released information about the pre-qualified bidders for the Standard Military Pattern (SMP) logistic truck segment component of MSVS. See above. Ottawa Citizen Defence Watch | Aviation Week.
Feb 15/11: Oshkosh Defense plans to leverage its Canadian subsidiary’s facility for its MSVS and TAPV bids. London Machinery Inc. i London, ON makes concrete mixer trucks for customers throughout North and South America, and has been added to the Oshkosh Defense and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada teams. The 140,000 square-foot LMI facility is up to date, and was designed with capacity for future programs. Oshkosh Defense | UPI.
March 22/10: Oshkosh Defense and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada announce that they’ll offer Oshkosh’s blast-resistant M-ATV for the TAPV patrol vehicle competition under Canada’s FLCV program, and Oshkosh’s Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) trucks in Canada’s Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS-SMP) truck program as the “standard military pattern” offering. Both vehicle types use Oshkosh’s proprietary TAK-4 independent suspension system, for off-road mobility.
Oshkosh will serve as the prime contractor for both programs. General Dynamics Land Systems Canada will provide systems integration and testing support for the vehicles, as well as the complete spectrum of in-country sustainment support. Oshkosh uses Valley Associates to provide marketing and business development in Canada, which is why the vehicles display in the Valley Associates booth during CANSEC 2010 in June. This consortium is considered to be a leading contender, in part because of GDLS’ existing armored vehicle plant in London, ON. Oshkosh | CANSEC announcement | Defence Watch.
Aug 11/09: SEV contract. The Government of Canada awards New Brunswick’s DEW Engineering and Development ULC in Miramachi, NB a C$ 130 million contract for Special Equipment Vehicle (SEV) Baseline Shelters. These shelters will be used with MSVS trucks, offering mobile, transportable facilities that will include mobile repair workshops, command posts, medical and dental facilities, and possibly even roles like radio rebroadcast, decontamination, etc.
DEW Engineering will provide 895 Baseline Shelters, which will have their own power, heating and cooling systems, and be transportable by land, sea or air for rapid deployment. The contract includes the option for 110 more shelters, bringing the contract to 1,005. This contract award under the SEV Baseline Shelters project will create and/or maintain about 230 jobs among DEW and its subcontractors in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. See also: Canada’s DND: release and backgrounder | The Canadian Press | DEW Engineering: Specially Equipped Vehicles.
Jan 9/08: MilCOTS contract. The Canadian government announces a contract for 1,300 Militarized Commercial Off-the-Shelf (MilCOTS) vehicles, to be used during domestic operations. These vehicles are the first element of the Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS) project. The $274 Million contract was awarded to Navistar Defence LLC, following a competitive procurement process.
Canada’s Industrial and Regional Benefits Policy applies to this contract, which means that Navistar Defence LLC will generate one dollar of economic activity in Canada for every dollar it receives from the contract. Maintenance and repair will be supported commercially through a Navistar Canada, Inc’s network that includes 93 dealers. On the other hand, the buy has attracted some criticism, as it comes on the heels of 2 recent layoffs that reduced staff at International’s Chatham, ON truck plant from 1,000 employees to about 300. DND | Navistar | FXStreet | Globe & Mail | CASR.
Jan 6/09: SMP LoI, v3. The MSVS program issues its second revised MERX Letter of Intent, and 3rd notice overall, as a result of “industry feedback.” The solicitation still seeks “military standard pattern” (MSP) vehicles with at least 4.5 tonne/ 5 ton capacity, or 8 tonne/ 9 ton capacity for wrecker and load-handler variants. The trucks must be proven in service with a NATO ally, with at least 2 million km/ 1.25 million miles accumulated by the operational fleet.
The biggest change is DND’s desire to provide potential bidders with opportunities to host information sessions and presentations for DND personnel on-site at their own facilities:
“These presentations and demonstrations should include the vehicle systems, the armour protection systems, Integrated Logistics Support capabilities, life cycle support capabilities and any other areas that potential bidders may feel are important to the selection process. Ideally, on- site visits will be a maximum of 2 days in duration and take place during mid to late January 2009.”
Travel for DND personnel would appear to be required; other changes in the new LoI suggests that no Canadian truck manufacturers will be potential bidders. The MSP truck RFP is expected in summer 2009. CASR coverage & excerpts | Full MERX notice.
Dec 1/08: MSVS snafu. The Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese reports on the medium truck project – and the news is not good:
“I received this from a frustrated individual on the inside with details on the truck program:
“DND will not release detailed specifications because they’re not sure where they will deploy next and don’t want to suffer any embarrassment if they ask for something that can perform well on Afghan roads but not elsewhere. They cannot specify what level of armour protection they want, how many armoured cabs they want, and what trade-offs for mobility they are willing to accept. (Even if they were to decide tomorrow, certifying the design through destructive testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground would take 2-3 years.)
Perhaps the most egregious thing is that they cling to old paradigms. They want a 4-tonne and 8-tonne capacity vehicle because that’s what they’ve always had. But they also say that they want NATO compatibility so that when cross-loading the loads don’t have to be re-packaged into smaller shipment. A loaded 20-foot ISO container is 16 tonnes (NATO standard) but they seem oblivious to this.
The project management office is wickedly understaffed… The process is gummed up and no one seems able to cut through the illiteracy and risk-aversion, or the tendency to cling to tradition in a transformed world.”
Nov 6/08: Navistar announces that it will lay off as many as 500 workers at its truck plant in Chatham, ON, citing softening sales across North America. Canadian Auto Workers union national representative Joe McCabe angrily responds that International Truck and Engine Corp. has reaped the benefits of almost $200 million in savings at the plant since 2004, in part due to union concessions, and says that work shifted to Mexico should be returned to Chatham. Edmonton Journal.
Appendix A: It’s Too Late, He Wins – Issues and Analysis (July 1/06)
Some observers wonder if Canada might be about the repeat its past MLVW mistake by buying a design just as it nears the end of its life. The realities of modern missions around the world will include more frequent encounters with IED land mines, and a greater need for secure vehicles. This is just beginning to have significant effects on military vehicle design via elements like V-hulls et. al., and programs are in the pipe with a number of militaries to find new approaches.
A major buy at this juncture, say the critics, will lock Canada into a 1990s design just as others are moving forward, and trap Canada in that design for the next 20-30 years. Buy 100-200 hundred FMTV or MTVR medium trucks for US compatibility, use them in Afghanistan as an interim option, then wait for international developments and find a more modern and survivable bandwagon to jump on in 5 years or so.
A different view looks at the FMTV design, and sees future compatibility. Systems like the M142 HIMARS rocket launcher, and the next-generation MEADS air defense system, are based on FMTV trucks. While the FMTV design may or may not be optimal in 10 years, goes this argument, a small military like Canada’s needs maximum compatibility, and both HIMARS and MEADS are likely to be future necessities for a Canadian Forces that lacks both effective long-range punch and a viable air defense system for its forces (ADATS doesn’t qualify).
A third argument says that these previous arguments are somewhat beside the point. Canada has a minority conservative government that values the Canadian Forces and is willing to invest in them. Minority governments are unstable, and given past patterns there’s no guarantee that a Canadian government five years from now will still be interested in the Canadian Forces’ needs. While recapitalization based on military timing would be optimal, the reality is that political timing must be the dominant factor – and that political timing is now, for better or worse.
- Canadian DND – Medium Support Vehicle System Project (MSVS).
- Canadian DND – Backgrounder: “Canada First” Defence Procurement – Medium-Sized Logistics Trucks
- May 2007 Briefing to Industry
- Draft Technical Specifications.
- DEW Engineering – Specially Equipped Vehicles. Describes their shelters.
- Oshkosh – MTVR. Its most prominent customer is the US Marines.
- Defense Technology International (May 2011) – Monster Trucks. Covers SMP and TAPV.