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By Debbie Gregory.

The Army picked General Dynamics and BAE Systems to build contending prototypes for its Mobile Protected Firepower light tank. The Army plans to choose a winner in fiscal 2022 and have battle-ready tanks by 2025. The service branch has plans to field some 500 of the armored vehicles.

The Army turned to its traditional vendors, with a $375.9 million award to BAE and $335 million to General Dynamics Land Systems. The Mobile Protected Firepower project is in preparation for wars against peer competitors, such as China and Russia. The vehicle is essentially a 30-ton light tank to accompany airborne troops and other light infantry where the 70-ton M1 Abrams heavy tank can’t go. Therefore, two of them must be able to be transported aboard a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, which has a capacity of about 80 tons.

“Currently, the Mobile Protected Firepower capabilities do not exist in our light formations,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team. “The requirements associated with this will enable U.S. forces to disrupt, breach, and break through those security zones and defensive belts to allow our infantrymen and women to close with and destroy the enemy on the objective.”

Soldiers will test the vehicles during the Army’s trials. The tanks will be fired upon to determine how they stand up to enemy weapons and driven over the types of terrain that troops tend to travel over.

General Dynamics Land Systems’ vehicle is the Griffin, a modified version of the British Army’s new Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicle equipped with a version of the M1A2 Abrams tank turret.

BAE will produce an updated version of the M8 Buford, an air-droppable light tank the Army flirted with buying in the 1990s but ultimately cancelled.

A third competitor, designed by SAIC, was not chosen to proceed in the competition

By Debbie Gregory.

Four firms have been selected by the Marine Corps to help develop a new handheld targeting system that will provide assistance in firing at the enemy more accurately.

The Marine Corps awarded four “Other Transaction Authorities” or OTAs. OTAs are a procurement tool approved by Congress in 2016 to pay for prototypes and to hire non-traditional defense companies to spur innovation,

The companies are:

• BAE Systems
• Elbit Systems of America
• Fraser Optics
• Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation

These companies will assist in to produce Next Generation Handheld Targeting System or NGHTS is a lightweight, man-portable system that helps Marines to quickly acquire target location data from the battlefield. The goal of the NGHTS is to replace four systems that are currently used. These systems that will be replaced are the Portable Lightweight Designator Rangefinder, Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Laser Target Designator and the Thermal Laser Spot Imager.

NGHTS is important because it is planned to reduce the current weight of the laser designation and laser spot imaging capability by 60 percent, which will increase the mobility and lethality of our fire support-focused Marines,” Maj. Nathan Morales, targeting systems project officer for Program Manager Fires, said in the release. Phase One includes exploring potential system capabilities and providing an in-depth study of the best solution for the best price. Megan Full is the contract specialist supporting PM Fires at MCSC. They plan to collect the findings by the second quarter of 2019 and select at least one vendor to move into Phase Two to develop and demonstrate prototypes.

The areas of focus are:

• System’s overall ergonomics for supporting forward deployed, foot mobile users
• Target recognition, location and designation ranges during day and night operations
• Ability to integrate the system with the Target Handoff System Version 2 to view and manipulate target information
• Technological maturity, manufacturability and value engineering
• Sustainability at the operational user level

The end game is for NGHTS to combine all of the legacy capabilities into one system that is compatible with both current and future fire support systems and will support the Marine Corps for the next 15 to 20 years.

By Debbie Gregory.

British defense contractor BAE Systems has been awarded a $198 million contract to deliver an initial 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV), with options for a total of 204 vehicles. The total contract could be worth up to $1.2 billion.

The vehicles will replace the current fleet, which has been in service since the 1970s.

BAE was chosen over Virginia-based SAIC, which had teamed up with Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

“We are well positioned and ready to build the future of amphibious fighting vehicles for the Marine Corps, having already produced 16 prototypes,” said Dean Medland, vice president and general manager of Combat Vehicles Amphibious and International at BAE Systems. “Through this award, we are proud to continue our partnership with the Marine Corps by providing a best-in-class vehicle to support its mission through mobility, survivability and lethality.”

ACV1.1 provides exceptional mobility in all terrains, and blast mitigation protection for all three crew and 13 embarked Marines, along with other improvements over currently fielded systems.

BAE conducted its own extensive risk mitigation testing and evaluation for land mobility, survivability, and swim capabilities that proved its vehicle’s performance prior to delivering the first 16 prototypes to the Marine Corps in 2017.

The initial production vehicles will be delivered to the Marine Corps by the fall of 2019, with the Marines conducting initial operational test and evaluation in late 2020.

The 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion on the West Coast will be the first unit equipped with the ACV 1.1, Marine Corps officials said.

After purchasing the 204 vehicles in the initial phase, the next phase will see BAE’s development of the ACV 1.2, an upgraded platform that will hopefully be a replacement for the fleet of 870 amphibious assault vehicles.

Work on the program will be performed at the company’s facilities in Aiken, South Carolina; Sterling Heights, Michigan; Minneapolis; Stafford; San Jose, California; and York, Pennsylvania.

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $4.2 million contract to BAE Systems to develop specialized software that will aid military planners in understanding and addressing the dynamics that drive conflicts around the world.

The idea is to use technologies to “model different political, territorial and economic tensions that often lead to conflicts” and will help “planners to avoid unexpected outcomes,” according to the BAE website.

BAE is developing software called Causal Modeling for Knowledge Transfer, Exploration, and Temporal Simulation (CONTEXTS). The CONTEXTS software , the first-of-its-kind, is intended to create an interactive model of an operational environment, allowing planners to explore the causes of a conflict and assess potential approaches.

“Military planners often conduct manual research and use limited modelling tools to generate models and evaluate conflict situations, which are extremely time consuming and labor intensive,” said Chris Eisenbies, product line director of the Autonomy, Controls, and Estimation group at BAE Systems. “To break down these barriers, CONTEXTS will use reasoning algorithms and simulations with the goal to give planners a quicker and deeper understanding of conflicts to help avoid unexpected and counter-intuitive outcomes.”

BAE Systems, Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, an international defense, aerospace and security company.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, BAE Systems, Inc. provides support and service solutions for current and future defense, intelligence, and civilian systems; designs, develops and manufactures a wide range of electronic systems and subsystems for both military and commercial applications; produces specialized security and protection products; and designs, develops, produces, and provides service support of armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, and munitions.

DARPA’s mission is to invest in breakthrough technologies. Working with innovators inside and outside of government, DARPA has repeatedly delivered on that mission, transforming concepts into reality. Besides game-changing military capabilities, the results have included the Internet, automated voice recognition and language translation, and consumer-friendly Global Positioning System receivers.

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