The collapse of the Soviet Union triggered a twin collapse for Russia’s vast arms industries. On the one hand, revelation of the state’s bankruptcy collapsed domestic arms spending. As a follow-up punch, it also collapsed aid-financed exports to dependent Soviet client states. Russia’s arms industry has been clawing its way back ever since. During the 1990s, China effectively replaced Russia as the industry’s core domestic market, underwriting the R&D base and creating a springboard for further exports.
Letterkenny Army Depot recently chose VSE Corporation as its prime contractor for a $194 million contract to maintain and modernize Route Clearance Vehicles (RCVs). These vehicles serve as convoy leads and advance scouts over roads that might be mined, inspecting them and sometimes transporting specialized engineering teams who will remove any land mines found. RCVs include vehicles bought under the mine-resistant MRAP program, as well vehicles purchased beforehand (RG-31s, Cougars) or even outside of MRAP altogether (Huskies). Many are being modernized to incorporate design improvements, and uprated armor, or simply need depot-level maintenance after being used so heavily in difficult conditions.
The effort will be managed by a Letterkenny Army Depot team, and VSE Corporation will the a new facility in Kuwait that will be operational in early 2009. This facility will allow the Army to repair and modernize the RCVs in theater, eliminating the need to ship the vehicles back home and leaving a higher percentage ready for duty at any given time. Repairs and modernization will include Army, Marine corps, Navy, and USAF vehicles. The operation is completely funded by the Program Manager – Assured Mobility System (PM-AMS) and supports the Army Central Command (ARCENT) efforts to modernize all Route Clearance Vehicles being used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
VSE’s Team includes Boeing, McLane Advanced Technologies, LLC (MAT), ManTech Telecommunications and Information Systems Corporation (MTISC); PWC Logistics Services Company, KSC(c) (Agility); and Quality Enterprise Solutions Trading and Contracting Company (QUEST). VSE CEO Mo Gauthier had nice way of putting it in their release:
“We are pleased and humbled by the confidence our TACOM customer has placed in us.”
Western militaries are quickly coming to the realization that the light Land Rover, G-Wagen, and HMMWV type flat bottom vehicles deployed as light troop transports are no longer adequate on a non-linear battlefield with no defined front lines, in a world where the technology for making improvised and professional land mines is proliferating globally. Spain has been late to this realization, and the Ministerio de Defensa has been the target of criticism for that lateness. Spanish soldiers have also been targets: 4 successful land mine attacks in the 16 months leading up to Spain’s MRAP decision had killed 10 soldiers and a translator (6 in Lebanon, 5 in Afghanistan).
In November 2007, with 4 months to go before elections, the situation in Spain shifted. The Spanish Council of Ministers announcement amounted to a major MRAP(Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) Class I and Class II program for Spain. The program will replace/supplement its VAMTAC (Vehiculo de Alta Movilidad Ta¡ctica, a licensed HMMWV) and recently-acquired Anibal (Land Rover derivative) vehicles by 2009. Over the longer term, Spain will also replace its 6×6 BMR(Blindados Medios de Ruedas = Armored Medium Wheeled) Armored Personnel Carriers. The 575+ vehicle acquisition program is sketched out, the finalists are lined up, and a program to buy wheeled APCs will follow.
While the winners for the first 2 phases are clear, purchase and delivery are taking a long time. The winning vehicles have yet to be deployed to the front lines, and the issue has become a political controversy in Spain. Meanwhile, the government has signed a contract now for RG-51 Mk5E stretched vehicles. They’ve also started deploying the Iveco MLV to Afghanistan…