The USA’s Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) program has been a long road for BAE Systems. In the wake of the US Army’s belated realization that mine protection was critical for vehicles in theater, BAE’s designs, long-standing experience in the field, and production capacity had made them an early favorite. Early results were a deeply humbling experience for the firm, but a combination of acquisitions, persistence, and product development combined to recover 2nd place status by the time MRAP orders ceased.
This in-depth, updated DID feature shines a spotlight on BAE Systems’ family of MRAP offerings, order record, and associated contracts. That includes its RG-33 family, the derivative MRRMV recovery vehicle, and the FMTV-based Caiman family, but not the RG-31s offered in partnership with General Dynamics. The MRAP program appears to have reached its vehicle limit, but upgrades and maintenance contracts are still a significant source of business.
Desk Iron Dome. Make it happen. Ash is going to be SO jealous!
If you throw pens at Leon Panetta’s desk, the small Iron Dome replica he received as a gift from Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak won’t shoot to intercept. Panetta hid his disappointment gracefully but he would not say whether the anti-rocket system (marketed at full size by Raytheon in the US) would end up on the FY14 budget request. Joint press conference transcript.
Sikorsky remains upbeat on the chances that the Pentagon will fund Combat Rescue Helicopters as well as a “Future Vertical Lift” combat helo program. US Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall told investors gathered at a Credit Suisse event that he would indeed like to fund at least initial development work in that area, if only to sustain the industrial base.
China’s Wanxiang Group would like to acquire A123 Systems Inc, a bankrupt manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries that can be used in civilian and military vehicles. But they are facing objections from several sources, from the US federal government – because of pending grants to the company – to the Strategic Materials Advisory Council, an advocacy group for the American industry which fears [PDF] that dual-use technology will end up being reverse-engineered in China.
In late November 2012, Raytheon announced a $600+ million contract to deliver a national-level Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Network Centric Systems was awarded the deal as a Direct Commercial Sale, which means that the Saudi Ministry of Defense will manage the buy and the implementation project themselves. This is in contrast to the Foreign Military Sale process, which routes contract negotiations and management through a selected department of the US military.
None of this is any kind of magic. Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time. Having said that, a system that removes some of the “fog of war” can help a force possessing basic or better competence, and national-level C4I is critical to any nation considering missile defense. So, what do the Saudis want?
The US Department of Defense released directive 3000.09 [PDF] stating that autonomous weapon systems are to be designed in a way that ensures humans call the shots:
“Semi-autonomous weapon systems that are onboard or integrated with unmanned platforms must be designed such that, in the event of degraded or lost communications, the system does not autonomously select and engage individual targets or specific target groups that have not been previously selected by an authorized human operator.”
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) think tank ran a series of budgeting simulations last summer that required its participants to make meaningful choices and tradeoffs in a way that tries to preserve strategic interests within budget constraints. Navigating Austerity [PDF]. Their tool was set up to force the consideration of weapon systems and force structure elements to be funded (or not). Too often budget discussions are either too broad (procurement vs. R&D vs. maintenance as if they were lump sums) or too granular and parochial (don’t you dare touch this program in my county!).
Nov 26/12: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s intent to buy blanket order requisitions, under a Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Agreement (CLSSA). The Government of Saudi Arabia wants to be able to issue these blanket order requisitions under the CLSSA for spare parts in support of its M1A2/S Abrams Tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), construction equipment, and support vehicles and equipment in the inventory of the Royal Saudi Land Forces Ordnance Corps.
The US Army is working on a draft RFP for Land Mobile Radio Systems (LMRS) for a maximum combined value of $228.6M over 3 years. No industry day is planned, rather interested contractors can book a teleconference with the contracting officer by December 3rd. ASFI | FBO.
Debate on the US Senate floor to consider the FY13 defense authorization bill may finally start tomorrow, as Republicans sort out their differences on the detention of US citizens accused of terrorism. Roll Call.
General Dynamics is one of the biggest suppliers of land equipment to the US Army and Marines, alongside firms like BAE and Oshkosh. As IED land mines became an unmistakable trend in modern warfare, however, the company had nothing of its own to respond with. To fix that, they fell back on a focused partnership with BAE and the Canadian government, and created another limited partnership with newcomer Force Protection. Those kinds of partnerships can be preludes to an acquisition, and that was true in this case as well. In late 2011, the firm bought Force Protection, bringing all of its vehicles, technologies, and experience in house.
General Dynamics Land Systems is now a legitimate player in the global marketplace for blast-resistant vehicles. The long-term question involves competitiveness, as both the RG-31 (BAE) and Cougar (Force Protection) faded in the face of newer MRAP competitors. GDLS will reap maintenance and upgrade contracts for the RG-31s and Cougar in the US fleet, and consolidating accountability may strengthen their position if the Army decides to rationalize its MRAPs. That cash flow buys time; beyond, exports beckon. The Cougar family has a strong customer in Britain, where General Dynamics is supplanting BAE as a major land forces supplier, and it is used by several NATO and Middle Eastern countries. The Buffalo heavy mine-disposal vehicle has a unique niche, and offerings like the Ocelot and Jamma light patrol vehicles may yet pick up. Will it be enough?
Germany’s Bundestag approved the country’s federal budget for 2013 for a total of 302 billion euros, with around 33.3 billion euros for defense (~$43B), a slight increase above 2012. The country will spend as much next year servicing its sovereign debt as the defense ministry will receive. France is already there. Deutsche Welle | Das Parlament [in German].
Our big recommendation: if you’re deep-frying your turkey, be safe. Hundreds of years ago, boiling oil was a weapon we would have covered. Treat it accordingly. Common tips include making 100% sure that adding the turkey to the oil will not cause an overflow or near-overflow. The turkey has displacement, and on top of that, oil will boil up a bit when the moisture of the turkey skin hits it. So test displacement first to figure out the fill line, then make sure the bird is fully thawed, and pat that bird dry inside and out. Fire Marshals also advise people to set up the fryer away from one’s house, on a flat, non-wooden surface, and have oil-rated fire extinguishers handy as you monitor the frying. Keep your home safe, and don’t forget to take precautions for yourself and your family, too.
DID offers thanks to all of our readers, and to all American and allied soldiers in uniform. We’ve added a few stories and updates for our international readers today, but won’t be publishing again until Monday.