MADRID — The new armored infantry fighting vehicle of the Spanish Army is on the way. The Spanish government has approved a first research and development (R&D) contract of €89.2 million (US $99 million) to develop an eight-wheel-drive 8x8 wheeled prototype with Santa Bárbara Sistemas, a Spanish branch company of General Dynamics European Land Systems, and the apparent favorite as clear favorite to gain the final contract. The Ministry of Defense plans to sign a later agreement to construct 400 units in Spain.

This is one of the three new military programs boosted by the Spanish government, together with the new F-110 frigate project for the Navy and the acquisition of four US Reaper surveillance drones for the Air Force.

The R&D contract announced by the Council of Ministers stresses the need necessity of this new wheeled vehicle to replace the existing American-built M-113 personnel carrier and the national Spanish-built six-wheel-drive 6x6 BMR vehicle.

As revealed in combat in Afghanistan, this 6x6 vehicle is more vulnerable in asymmetric scenarios than the future 8x8 will be.

"The purpose of this R&D contract is conducting six programs of technological studies to develop future vehicle prototypes," a Ministry of Defense official sources reported. The final decision about who will build the vehicle the final platform constructor will be adopted "at the end of August or September." 

The Spanish government launched this program five months before the general elections and after eight years of economic crisis.

6 Candidates, Only ONE en vez de A) A Favorite

Six defense industries companies have offered their vehicles for the program: to the Spanish government: the US-based General Dynamics with the Piranha vClass 5 design; the French GTD-Nexter with the VBCI; Italy's Iveco-Oto Melara with the Centauro Freccia; Finland's the Finnish Patria with the Patria AMV; the German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall with the Boxer; and the Swedish SEP developed by BAE Systems.

However, the prototype bid of General Dynamics is the clear favorite. Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenés said it clearly in the national Parliament: "All the 8x8 armored vehicles must be constructed in Spanish factories." Only two of the five companies fulfill this requirement — General Dynamics with Santa Bárbara Sistemas factories, and Iveco-Oto Melara.

According to industrial sources aware of the program, the Spanish government will adopt "a solomonic decision": General Dynamics will build the platform of the vehicle as main constructor, and Oto Melara will be chosen for the mobile gun system production. Other Spanish companies such as defense systems producer Indra will also be involved in the prototype project to be finished, in this first stage, between 2015 and 2017.

Officials from General Dynamics and Oto Melara said they were unable to comment.

What kind of 8x8 armored fighting vehicle is the Spanish Army looking for?

"The future 8x8 vehicle must provide the firepower, mobility, protection and projection needed for all types of scenarios, either high, medium or low intensity," a Spanish Army source reported said. 

From 2018, the new vehicle will share the land protection force of the "new" Spanish Army with the main battle tank Leopardo 2E, the armored vehicle Pizarro and the 4x4 mine-resistant RG-31 vehicle, after following budget cuts of 30 percent in the last eight8 years.

"The Army will move its priority in the next decade toward a multipurpose role with a high-speed capability of projection," the same military source said. "This is the other reason we need an 8x8 vehicle."

Piranha V, Same Family as Stryker

General Dynamics is already working on the prototype required by the Spanish Army that will be based on the Piranha V. Theis vehicle ishas been designed by Mowag, the Swiss branch of the US defense company, which has built constructed Piranhas for more than 20 armies. The US Army's Stryker vehicle is also inspired by the Piranha family.

Piranha V has an estimated cost of €3.8 million to €5.5 million ( US $4,2-6,1 million) per unit each, according to the request for information process of the bid.

One novel feature of the Piranha V will be consist on economic fuel-efficient drive train system and a high-performance diesel engine. The gross vehicle weight is 30 tons (17 tons empty), and 13 t. of payload), with a number of seats for 3+8 troops.

The baseline of the vehicle is designed for the highest level of protection against mines and IED threats improvised bombs, an . This is one of the essential requirement for the s of the Spanish Army after its the experience of 13 years of experience in Afghanistan. 
 
HEADQUATERS IN MADRID
This vehicle contract is also vital for the Spanish factories of General Dynamics European Land Systems,  whose headquarters in Europe is located in Madrid. The European business unit also has presence in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. 

General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic visited Madrid last November. During her stay in Spain she met with the King of Spain Felipe VI and different authorities of the Ministry of Defense officials.