EFSS: USMC Gets 3rd Leg of Expeditionary Fire Support Triad
Major article upgrade, incl. recent ammo production launch. (Jan 31/11)
The U.S. Marine Corps sees the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) mortar as the 3rd leg of its triad of land-based fire support for expeditionary operations that includes the lightweight M777 155mm howitzer, and the truck-mounted M142 HIMARS rocket system.
Accompanying Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) in expeditionary operations, EFSS will be the primary indirect fire support system for the heliborne element of the Ship-To-Objective Maneuver (STOM) force. As such, the EFSS launcher, the Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) that tows the launcher, a portion of the basic load of ammunition, and a portion of its crew must be transportable by a single CH-53E Super Stallion or future CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, and/or a single MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
- EFSS and ITV [updated]
- Contracts & Key Events [updated]
- Additional Readings [NEW]
EFSS and ITV
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems will play the prime contractor role for the EFSS program. They are cooperating with General Dynamics Canada for the EFSS ballistic fire control computers, Tec-Masters for integrated and contractor logistics support, and the Thales-EADS Deutschland joint venture TDA Armaments SAS for their RT 120 Rifled Mortar System and ammunition. The November 2004 contract includes options for initial production and fielding that potentially could raise its value to approximately $300 million.
The EFSS weapon system will consist of 2 tow vehicles, the RT 120/ M327 “Dragon Fire” rifled mortar, an ammunition trailer, and fire control equipment. One vehicle will tow the RT 120 mortar, and the second vehicle will tow an ammunition trailer which holds up 36 mortar rounds in factory-recyclable steel containers.
The 1,798 pound RT 120 is a French-designed 120 mm mortar that can fire smoothbore or rifled ammunition. It has a range of 8.2 km/ 5 miles, or 17 km/ 10 miles with rocket assisted projectiles currently under development. The MO 120 RT is currently in service with the French Army and other 23 armies worldwide, including 3 NATO countries.
The new PERM (Precision Extended Range Munition) 120mm rifled mortar round aims to give the EFSS a reach of 17 km/ miles, with CEP accuracy of 20m at full range. That requires a guidance system of some sort, unspecified in documents, though the US Army’s parallel APMI effort to field GPS-guided 120mm mortars is worthy of note. As a Navy weapon, the PERM round must also be qualified by the Naval Ordnance Security and Safety Activity (NOSSA) for transport aboard ship, and must meet US Navy insensitive munition and WSESRB requirements. In order to meet those requirements, GD-OTS modified TDA’s base ammunition to obtain the required certifications before Q2 2009.
The ITV jeeps are manufactured by American Growler, Inc. of Robbins, North Carolina. The company moved its 40-employee facility from Ocala, Florida to North Carolina in early 2007 to begin building test vehicles for the program. The ITV will fill light strike and utility roles in support of the Ship-To-Objective Maneuver force. It is replacing the USMC’s Interim Fast Attack Vehicles (IFAVs, the Mercedes G-Wagen), providing EFSS towing services and some ground mobility to heliborne elements of the MAGTF. The 4,000 pound vehicles are intended to have 2,000 pounds of carrying capacity.
The ITV is not cheap, and one reason is a sophisticated suspension system that drops the chassis low to the ground for more convenient transport, then jacks it up more than a foot at the flick of a switch. V-22s have 5’6″ ceilings that are low even in comparison to many helicopters, and this change was necessary in order to fit. The ITV “Growler” vehicles also added automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes, heavier engines, and can switch to rear-wheel drive to help maneuver them within a V-22. The wheel base is narrow, which helps on narrow pathways, but also makes a vehicle “tippy” on turns.
The ITV has come in for sharp criticism on 2 fronts.
One is protection – they have almost none, and their design is completely vulnerable to the IED land mines that have become such a frequent feature of modern warfare. While carriage inside an MV-22 is a useful feature, the question is whether, as with the now-canceled EFV, the Marines have gone too far in trading a certain kind of mobility for a lack of protection in a combat vehicle.
The other big issue with the ITV is cost. The original Growler was made partly from salvaged M151 jeep parts – a vehicle that is reportedly available in several versions for as little as $7,500 in kit form, or $14,500 for an upgraded “tactical dune buggy.” In contrast, the ITVs reportedly cost over $200,000 each, which is over 80% growth from the original contract – and some reports place the cost at up to $273,000 each. Is the Corps really getting its money’s worth? Or did it end up paying vast sums, and offering little protection, because they were hemmed in by the MV-22 Osprey’s limitations?
Contracts and Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, the EFSS/ITV contracts are awarded to General Dynamics – Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) in St. Petersburg, FL by the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA.
Jan 31/11: A $198.7 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 120mm mortar ammunition for the USMC EFSS.
Work will be performed in La Ferte, Saint-Aubin, France (50%); St. Petersburg, Fla. (22%); Camden, Ark. (18%); Lexington, Ky. (10%); and is expected to be completed by January 2016. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured, under FAR 6.302-1a2 (M67854-11-D-1011).
May 11/10: A $9.7 million cost reimbursement contract modification for continuation of the 120mm precision extended range munition (PERM) Phase III technology demonstration, as part of the EFSS/ITV program. This continues a previous 2005 contract for “Extended Very Long Range Mortar ammunition” development efforts (J&A 11,402), which had a funding ceiling of $21 million and used about $8 million. This new contract covers completion of that effort, and was pursued as a new contract because of the amount of time since J&A 11,402 was signed.
It was pursued as a sole-source contract under FAR 6.302-1a2: “Only One Responsible Source and No Other Supplies or Services Will Satisfy Agency Requirements.” A review found that TDA is the only manufacturer making rifled 120mm mortar ammunition (most mortars and ammo aren’t rifled), the required projectile body and propellants are TDA designs, and GD-OTS/ TDA own the rights to the technical design package. MARSYSCOM estimated that a full and open competition would have taken 24 months, and cost $20 million. More to the point, a USMC order for 66 mortars is too small, and so TDA’s economies of scale in producing 120mm rifled mortars for all of its worldwide customers was seen as far more efficient in the long run.
Work under this award will be performed in Redmond, Wash. (23%); Minneapolis, MN (23%); Valencia, CA (18%); Red Lion, PA (18%); St. Petersburg, FL (10%); and Mesa, AZ (8%), and is expected to be completed by August 2011 (M67854-05-D-6014). See also FedBizOpps announcement.
March 25/10: EG&G Technical Services, Inc. in Germantown, MD receives a task order for $6.5 million, in order to provide on-going technical, program, and logistics support for MARSYSCOM’s Armor and Fire Support Systems, Fire Support Systems (FSS) program office. Current FSS programs include the expeditionary fire support system (EFSS); the precision extended range munitions for EFSS; the M142 HIMARS; the common laser rangefinder; the True North module; the Portable Lightweight Designator Rangefinder; the thermal laser spot imager; the modeled meteorological information manager; the ground counter fire sensor; and several other legacy systems. The scope of requirements includes providing support to the FSS program management office, as well as supporting the three FSS sub-teams (weapons team, target acquisition team, and the program support team) and supporting the Internally Transportable Vehicle program’s fielding efforts.
Work will be performed in Marine Corps Command organizations at Quantico, Va., and is expected to be complete in April 2011. $3,185,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (M67854-02-A-9011, #0092).
March 22/10: A $20 million delivery order under previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (M67854-05-D-6014) for the Production Lot 3 (PL3) procurement of 20 full-rate production EFSS systems, together with their corresponding basic issue item kits, and additional authorization list hardware.
GD-OTS will perform the work in St. Aubin, France (63%), Robbins, NC (20%), and Forest, VA (17%), and expects to complete it by April 22/12.
Feb 12/10: DoD Buzz reports that:
“Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway has made no bones… he intends to slim down the Corps’ battle fleet… The Marines want to pay General Dynamics $37 million to buy somewhere around 140 Internally Transportable Vehicles (ITV), what it calls “a highly mobile, weapons-capable, light strike vehicle platform that is transportable in CH-53E and MV-22 aircraft.”
Feb 2/10: Defense Tech reports:
“According to the budget submission, the Corps wants to pay General Dynamics of St. Petersburg, Fla., $28 million to purchase 73 ITVs in the Light Attack Vehicle configurations — in other words, not the 120mm towing version.
Funds will support procurement of 73 ITV Light Strike Vehicles (LSV). The vehicles will be fielded to support upcoming Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployments to OEF [DID: Afghanstan]. The procurement will also support production line activities used for the Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS). The combined procurement of the ITV and EFSS prime mover platforms will allow production line operations to continue until the EFSS needs are fully satisfied. The unit costs for the ITV variants are impacted based on quantity differences and the negotiated prices derived from the negotiations.
I know there’s a lot of caveats here, but that comes out to around $380K per vehicle. Some of the money is being used for spares and other support costs, but if I’m reading the documents right (page 285) it looks as if the base cost for each ITV is around $273,000. That’s a lot of jack for an unarmored max-4-man minijeeep.”
Jan 5/10: SNAFU observes that the TV is not the first time the USMC has tried something similar, The last time did not end well. The M422 Mighty Mite was developed with a similar requirement. From Wikipedia:
“At over US$5,000 per unit, it was relatively expensive , and by the time the ‘Mite’ went into full production, the military’s helicopters had become so much more powerful, that the vehicle quickly became obsolete. The Marine Corps’ Sikorsky H-19 with its 2,650-pound (1,200 kg) cargo limit (including crew and fuel), for which the M422 had been developed, was being superseded by the Vietnam era UH-1 “Huey”, that could carry more than 1½ times that load. These factors may account for the small production total, as well as the short production time period.”
Dec 30/09: A $6.1 million contract modification for EFSS/ITV calendar year 2010 contractor logistics support. An option also exists for an additional increment of 12 months, to cover fielding and associated training requirements for EFSS-ITV systems.
Work will be performed in Huntsville, Ala. (60 percent), and St. Petersburg, Fla. (40 percent). Work is expected to be complete by December 2010 (M67854-05-D-6014).
July 10/09: A $10.4 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-05-D-6014) for an additional 40 full rate production ITVs together with their corresponding basic issue item kits and additional authorization list hardware. Work will be performed in Robbins, NC (42%, vehicle assembly); Forest, VA (30%, fabrication-unibodies, etc.); Columbus, OH (17%, armor and blast attenuation seats); and St Petersburg, FL (11%, powerpack integration), and work is expected to be completed by Nov 30/10.
July 10/09: A $20.8 million delivery order to make 20 EFSS and supporting equipment, part of a previously awarded contract (M67854-05-D-6014). GD-OTS will supply 20 full-rate production EFSS together with their corresponding basic issue item kits, additional authorization list hardware and mortar weapon spares. The GD-OTS subcontractor on the program is TDA Armements (THALES Group) in La Ferté-Saint Aubin, France. GD-OTS will perform the work under this task order at St. Aubin, France (63%); Robbins, NC (22%); and Forest, VA (15%), and expects to complete it by Dec. 30/10.
May 22/09: A $18.6 million delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-05-D-6014) for the procurement of 70 full rate production ITVs together with their corresponding basic issue item kits and additional authorization list hardware. Work will be performed in Forest, VA (19%); Robbins, NC (26%); Columbus, OH (11%); and St. Petersburg, FL (7%), and work is expected to be completed by May 21/10.
March 23/09: GD-OTS announces that it successfully fielded EFSS with USMC Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment located at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Each battalion in the 10th Marine Regiment received 6 EFSS systems comprising a pair of prime mover vehicles, a 120mm M327 mortar weapon, ammunition family and trailer.
Feb 3/09: A Washington Post report offers details regarding the overall program, and its status. The first 6 mortar and ammunition systems have been sent to Marine units, as have about 20 ITVs. The Army has 81 ITVs under contract and is awaiting bids on 70 more; there are 12 mortar and ammunition trailer systems under contract and 20 more out for bids.
It also quotes USMC program manager John Garner as saying that:
“…you can’t run it up the highway in an urban area such as Iraq. But it could accompany foot-mobile Marine infantry in a not-built-up area such as Afghanistan.”
That’s unfortunate, because urban warfare, and urban transits, and expected to be a growing aspect of all future wars,even for the Marines.
Jan 14/09: The US DoD’s Inspector General issues [PDF] an audit on the EFSS/ITV contract that was awarded to GD-OTS in 2004 (see Nov 10/04 entry). An investigation was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The audit concludes that the contract competition did not conform to US federal regulations, and recommended that the Marine Corps Systems Command tighten its internal contracting and acquisition controls. It also said that the average cost of a single Growler has risen 120%, from about $94,000 when the contract was awarded in 2004, to $209,000 in 2008. The unit cost for the EFSS/ITV combination has grown 86%, from $579,000 to $1,078,000.
Jan 8/08: Gannet’s Marine Corps Times reports that:
“By September, the Corps plans to begin fielding about 15 ITVs for each battalion, at a rate of about one battalion a month. The first shipments will go to units using Ospreys and battalions slated for deployment with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. Long-term plans call for a total of 694 Growlers, but that timeframe will hinge on annual funding levels.”
March 22/07: An $8.2 million delivery order under a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (M67854-05-D-6014) to prepare low-rate initial production and full-rate production for the EFSS/ITV. Work will be performed in St. Petersburg, FL (75%); Ocala, FL (10%); and Robbins, NC (15%), and is expected to be completed by May 2007.
Nov 10/04: A $12.1 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-05-D-6014) to supply EFSS and ITVs. The contract has a base year and up to 6 option years. The order is for 66 EFSS and up to 650 ITVs.
- US Marines (2008) – Expeditionary Fire Support System [PDF]
- US DoD Inspector General (Jan 14/09) – issues [PDF]
- Global Security – Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS)
- Thales Land & Joint Systems – Expeditionary Fire Support System [PDF format]
- Deagel.com – MO 120 RT
- Global Security – Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) High Mobility Weapons Platform
- Project On Government Oversight – Investigations: ITV
- SNAFU (Jan 5/10) – ITV! Its Already Been in USMC Service! As a very similar, and ill-fated, Vietnam-era project.
- Washington Post (Feb 2/09) – Marines’ New Ride Rolls Out Years Late
- USA Today (Dec 28/05) – Corps pays $100K for retooled jeep. Far, far more than its predecessor cost.
- DID – US Army Wants 120mm Guided Mortars for the Front Lines (APMI). This clip-on kit is an ATK project, and represents a potential competitor to PERM.
- DID (March 12/07) – Lots Riding on V-22 Osprey. A number of USMC systems have had to fit within its limitations.