OTTAWA — Textron Systems said it has solved the mobility problems that had plagued the armored vehicles it will deliver to the Canadian Army, the result being a more advanced product that will be offered to the international market.
The Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) to be delivered to Canada early next year is now the most advanced of Textron's Commando series, said Michael Gelpi, vice president of land systems for Textron Systems. The company is starting to market it to other nations, he added.
Defense News reported in April that Textron's TAPV failed a series of tests last year, forcing the company to go back and make design changes to the wheeled vehicle it is offering Canada.
"We did a true bottom-up systems engineering look and evaluated every single aspect," Gelpi acknowledged said. "We're confident we have all of the issues licked."
The testing at the Nevada Automotive Test Center ended in late May, although additional tests are expected in coming months.
Canadian Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said deliveries of the first TAPVs are expected to start in early 2016. Gelpi said that should occur in March but could begin sooner.
Canada awarded the TAPV contract to Textron in June 2012. The company, based in Slidell, Louisiana, is to produce 500 armored vehicles, with an option to build another 100.
The vehicle deal would be worth up to (CAN) $600 million (US $534 million) for Textron. The firm has also been awarded another (CAN) $105 million contract for in-service support for the TAPVs for an initial five-year period.
In 2014, pre-production TAPVs experienced a number of significant technical issues, which particularly affected vehicle mobility, according to an Aug. 22, 2014, briefing report for then-Canadian Defence Minister Rob Nicholson. That two-page briefing, obtained under the Access to Information law, pointed out those problems included issues with suspension and steering.
Textron implemented a number of design changes and modifications to address the problems but the issues continued. The problems were related to the vehicle's ability to travel distances on medium cross-country terrain.
The Canadian Army is acquiring the TAPV because it needs a well-protected vehicle capable of negotiating tough terrain and providing troops with a cross-country capability.
Gelpi said the test vehicle has been operated during testing for 13,000 kilometers during testing.
The Canadian TAPV is known as the Commando Elite, the top of the line of Textron's Commando vehicle family. It has increased blast protection, a remote weapon station, an improved drive train, and what Gelpi called a "digital backbone" for vehicle systems monitoring and additional electronics if needed in the future.
He noted that since the US market has slowed down, the company is focusing on international sales.
"We're getting a lot of interest in the Canadian version," Gelpi said, although he did not provide names of the specific the countries that have expressed interest. "It is by far the most modern [vehicle]. As a result of this experience, Canada is getting a very reliable vehicle."
More than 8,000 Commando armored vehicles are in service worldwide, including with militaries from Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
In addition, Gelpi said the company is expecting more orders for armored vehicles to come from Iraq's government as it builds up its forces to battle the Islamic State group. Gelpi said that Iraq currently has 324 Commando variant vehicles and "they are interested in buying more," he added.
The coming months will see more testing for the Canadian TAPVs focused on reliability, availability, maintainability and durability.
The TAPV will replace the Canadian Army's wheeled Coyote light armored vehicle and RG-31 patrol vehicle.
The issues with the TAPV's problems have delayed the Army's fielding of the vehicles. Deliveries were originally expected to begin last in September 2014, and be completed by mid-2016, Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Blouin said.
Gelpi said initial operating capability for the Army's TAPVs is now expected to be in June 2016.
He said Canada is putting in place a significant logistics and sustainment chain that would cover the next 25 years. Thus For that reason, Gelpi noted that it would make sense for Canada to consider other variants for certain missions. For instance, in 2013 Textron introduced its Commando mortar indirect fire vehicle.
Gelpi said the Army has not outlined yet any specific requirements for such a capability.
But in an April 7 briefing for industry representatives in Ottawa, Lt. Col. Rob Dunn, of the Army's directorate of land requirements, noted that the service is now starting work on the requirements for an indirect fire modernization project.
Funding for such a project is expected to be available starting in 2019, he told industry officials.