Mobile Protected Firepower Is Coming Soon: The first batch of the U.S. Army’s new Mobile Protected Firepower system will begin production next month. General Dynamics Land Systems is producing the first new land combat vehicles to enter service with the U.S. military in nearly four decades.
In June, the Army announced that General Dynamics had been selected to build a light tank to improve mobility, protection, and direct-fire capabilities for Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. The service’s “Mobile Protected Firepower” (MPF) program explored how light tanks could be used in the 21st century, and General Dynamics will produce up to 96 new vehicles under the $1.14 billion contract. The production deal was also seen as a crucial step forward for the Army Futures Command, which has promised faster and more successful modernization programs through a competitive prototyping approach.
GDLS will initially deliver just 26 vehicles, but the Army can buy 70 more over the course of low-rate initial production. According to Defense News, at least eight of the 12 prototypes used during the competitive evaluation will be retrofitted for fielding to the force.
The total lifecycle cost of the program is reportedly $17 billion, and that will include sustainment, military construction, and personnel. The Army’s long-term goal is to procure upwards of 504 MPFs by 2035, while those vehicles are expected to remain in its inventory and in service for at least 30 years. GDLS beat out BAE Systems to obtain the contract for the new vehicle. BAE reportedly struggled to deliver prototypes on time due to issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The defense contractor touts the mobile direct-fire combat vehicle as highly lethal and survivable, noting that it made use of new concepts as well as battle-tested designs to dominate ground threats on the multi-domain battlefield. The MPF features a new chassis design, but it drew from other GDLS programs to reduce risk. The turret is also a new design, and it makes use of different materials.
In addition, the vehicle employs a four-person crew and features an enhanced thermal viewer, a large-caliber cannon, and a lightweight hull. These are paired with a modern diesel engine, transmission, and suspension system. The light tank, whose interior look, feel, and controls recall an Abrams main battle tank, was designed from the ground up to support capability upgrades, and it is based on future operational needs.
The first vehicles are set to begin production in November, while the first low-rate initial production MPF will head to the service by the end of fiscal 2023. The new light tanks are currently projected to be in the inventory for at least 30 years – yet given how long the M1 Abrams has remained in service, it could be far longer.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.