LONDON – Armored vehicle companies are to submit bids to the U.K. Ministry of Defence later this month in a three-way competition to complete the line up of a new family of protected mobility vehicles destined for the British Army.
General Dynamics, Mercedes-Benz Defence and Thales are all expected to deliver proposals to the MoD’s procurement agency by Sept. 28 to supply the troop carrying and battlefield ambulance elements of the Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected, or MRV-P, program.
The MRV-P program is split into two packages, which between them will provide two basic types of general purpose vehicles for command and logistics duties in support of the development of a more capable fighting division and the formation of strike brigades for the British Army by 2025.
The British are already deep into negotiations with the U.S. government over a Foreign Military Sales purchase of the Oshkosh Defense JLTV in the first of the packages and procurement of the second package is underway with a winning contractor set to be selected next year.
A spokeswoman for the MoD said, “We are investigating a Foreign Military Sales purchase of the U.S. DoD Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. We anticipate a decision on this proposal in early 2018.”
“A second package aims to procure, through competition, troop carriers and ambulances that will share a common base vehicle. We anticipate a decision on this proposal in mid-2018, with the competition winner planned to be on contract in 2019,” she said.
At the request of the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support arm, the companies have already submitted rough pricing estimates ahead of the formal delivery of bids, said industry executives with knowledge of the program.
Cost will be a key issue in keeping the program on track.
The British Army budget is under considerable pressure, and cuts and delays to capabilities and programs are a possibility if tough financial efficiency targets are to be met over the next few years.
Industry executives, though, say they are confident the funding is available and MRV-P will go ahead, but with the government in the midst of what some are calling a mini-strategic defence and security review and a difficult fiscal year for the MoD to navigate, there are no guarantees the program will stay on track.
Programs like the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle, the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle update, Challenger 2 main battle tank life extension program and the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle would all likely come ahead of the MRV-P in the pecking order for funds.
The MoD declined to respond to a question about funding.
The MoD has form when it comes to cutting protected mobility programs, having abandoned a similar requirement to MRV-P when it first deferred, then dropped, the Operational Utility Vehicle System program in 2011 in favour of buying individual vehicle types to meet urgent operational requirements in Afghanistan.
Despite any concerns generated by the outcome of the government review, the companies vying for package two of the MRV-P program will be trying to catch the eye of senior MoD and British Army officials at the DSEI military exhibition which opens in London on Sept 12.
General Dynamics is offering the 6x6 Eagle vehicle. Thales’ contender is the Australian-developed Bushmaster platform already in service with the British and other countries. Mercedes-Benz is thought to be competing with a vehicle based on a Unimog chassis.
The military here will get a closer look at the contenders later this month when the rival companies each deliver three vehicles for evaluation of mobility, blast protection and other trials likely to run until the end of the year. None of the companies were prepared to discuss their bid for the program.
The British are already well advanced in negotiation with the U.S. government over a likely deal to become the first overseas customer for the JLTV.
In July the U.S. State Department said it had approved a $1.03 billion deal with the British for up to 2,747 JLTVs along with training and a spares package.
Actual numbers of JLTVs purchased are likely to be considerably less than the figures used in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement.
A U.K. Parliament’s Defence Committee report published in April said it expected 750 JLTVs to be purchased.
The committee said the second package of vehicles could initially involve 150 troop carriers and 80 ambulances “later rising to 300 of each if the money is available.”