A Royal Danish Army M113 APC in Afghanistan. (Danish Ministry of Defense)
LONDON — With 17 weeks of arduous trials in Denmark coming to a close, four armored-vehicle makers are set to put away their wrenches and heading to the negotiating table as the region’s largest armor competition heads into the next phase.
Interest may have been diverted from the Danish requirement over the summer by German land systems successes in Qatar and uncertainties surrounding the Canadian close combat vehicle competition, but the Nordic nation’s plan to replace aging M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) will come into focus in the coming months as the program transitions toward contractor selection.
The competition pits tracked vehicle suppliers BAE Systems Hagglunds‘ CV90 Armadillo, FFG Flensburger’s G5 and General Dynamics European Land Systems’ ASCOD against 8x8 wheeled rivals Nexter with its Vehicule Blinde Combat Infanterie and the Piranha V, also from General Dynamics.
The Danish competition is part of a European market that US-based analysts Forecast International estimate will lead world armored vehicles demand in the next 10 years with the region accounting for a third of requirement.
Not surprisingly, armored vehicles will be among the stars at DSEi, Europe’s largest defense exhibition of the year, which runs this week at London’s Excel Centre.
A spokesman for Denmark’s Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization (DALO) said officials hope to have “final offers [from manufacturers] by late this year or early next year and if things go to plan announce a winning contractor by the middle of 2014.”
Deliveries of 206 to 450 machines covering six configurations are planned to start in 2016.
Programs in Play
Forecast International said the region’s dominant manufacturers will be the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall consortium, which produces the Puma infantry fighting vehicle for the German military, Italy’s Iveco, BAE and Turkey’s FNSS, according to a recent report on the European armored vehicle market.
Germany will be the largest armored vehicle purchaser by value over the next 10 years, the report said.
Puma numbers have been cut from 405 to 350, with the first production model due for delivery to the German Army next year.
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall are also partners in the German-Dutch Boxer multi-role armored vehicle program. They have been contracted to produce 472 machines for the two nations.
Iveco’s position in the top four is bolstered by deliveries of the Freccia armored vehicle to the Italian Army. The military is expected to receive the last of its 249 vehicle order in 2014, sufficient for a brigade.
Should further funds be forthcoming, the Army would move to order a second batch of around 250 Freccias to equip another brigade, an Italian industrial source said.
Funds permitting, Italy will also order the Centauro 2 tank, an update on the in-service Centauro wheeled tank. The vehicle, like the Freccia, is built by a joint venture of Italian firms Iveco and Oto Melara.
The source said export opportunities for Italian producers were more likely to come from the former Soviet republics than in Poland or the Baltic states.
The consortium is awaiting results this month of tests carried out by Russia on the Freccia and the Centauro, although Russian officials this year have played down the idea of purchasing the vehicles as political opposition to buying foreign products grows.
Elsewhere in Europe, much of the attention is focusing on a big Polish requirement for tracked and wheeled armored vehicles and the French Army’s 6x6 Engin Blinde de Reconnaissance (EBRC).
Requests for proposals are expected to emerge in the next 12 months or so for both programs.
Smaller requirements are also surfacing in places such as the Baltic. BAE said in an in-house magazine that it had briefed Latvia on the CV90 and the BvS10 armored vehicles.
Neighboring Estonia has a 10-year armored vehicle capital investment program that will likely include procurement of infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery.
Industry executives also say Lithuania is interested in new vehicles.
In France this year, Nexter took the wraps off the T40 turret it expects to fold into an EBRC competition against Renault’s Panhard Defense arm.
The EBRC program is part of the wider Scorpion armored vehicle modernization program planned by France.
In Poland, a concept demonstrator developed by Obrum, which is part of Polish Defence Holding, will be unvieled at the MSPO show opening Sept. 2 in Kielce, Poland.
The light tank features a 120mm low-profile unmanned turret of Polish design on a chassis drawing on BAE CV90 technology.
BAE teamed recently with Polish Defence Holding, formerly the Bumar Group, to compete for the upcoming requirement for light tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
A program to replace Soviet-era BRDM 4x4 scout vehicles, with a 6x6 or 4x4, is also getting underway.
Also in Northern Europe, Norway’s future procurement needs in armored vehicles will produce a number of new contracts for light armored vehicles as part of its Land Systems and Force Protection materiel acquisition programs, which will run to 2020.
Europe’s defense spending may be shrinking fast, its armored vehicle market is fragmented and its supply base is too numerous and in need of restructuring, yet figures from Forecast International identify that “over the next ten years (2013-2022) Europe will represent 33 percent of the entire global end-user armored vehicle market. By our projections that makes Europe the most lucrative region for armored vehicle producers.”
The figures do not include the numerous upgrades of existing armored vehicles being undertaken or planned around Europe. That’s big business in its own right.
The British, for example, are spending around £1 billion (US $1.55 billion) upgrading their Warrior infantry fighting vehicles.
Major programs are also in the works to upgrade Challenger II main battle tanks and reset a host of vehicles purchased for the Afghanistan conflict but now expected to come into the core Army program as the British withdraw combat forces from Helmand Province.
Britain’s other major vehicle program centers on General Dynamics development of a new scout vehicle family based on the ASCOD.
Armored wheeled logistics vehicles represent the highest volume of production for the Europeans at 2,545 units, Forecast International said.
Finland, for example, is set to mount a competition this year for light armored logistics vehicles.
Dan Darling, the Europe military markets analyst at Forecast, said that overall European forces are moving away from heavy armor and scaling back other armored capabilities.
“As a whole, Europe is continuing the transition to lighter, more deployable forces, although Turkey, Greece and — somewhat — Poland are the exceptions,” he said.
“In the face of ongoing financial pressures, countries are also scaling back force structures, resulting in the retirement of existing capabilities, as the Dutch have done in retiring their entire main battle tank fleet, and the renegotiation or scaling back of existing orders.
“Portugal has declared its intention to cancel a portion of its Pandur II 8x8 wheeled vehicle contract and Slovenia cut its order of 135 Patria armored modular vehicles down to just 30,” Darling said.
Tom Kington in Rome, Albrecht Müller in Bonn and Gerard O’Dwyer in Helsinki contributed to this report.