US approves new design for heavy weaponry

Some $1.14 billion of taxpayers’ money will be spent on light tanks produced by General Dynamics Land Systems

The US Army has approved a new design for a light tank, and contracted up to 96 of them to be produced by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), marking the first time the Pentagon is acquiring such vehicles since the Cold War.

The Michigan-based defense producer was awarded a $1.14 billion contract to produce a batch of armored fire support vehicles, the army announced on Tuesday. 

Days earlier, the GDLS Griffin II tank was declared the winner of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program, an attempt to create a new vehicle of a class that the US military launched in 2015. The previous competition was canceled in 1996.

“MPF represents a new capability for the Army, allowing our light maneuver forces to overmatch adversaries,” said Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team. The Pentagon praised the MPF as “a benchmark program”.

The GDLS Griffin II design was one of two selected in December 2018. The firm’s rival, British defense giant BAE Systems, was reportedly disqualified after failing to keep up with the schedule to deliver prototypes for testing. A total of 24 Griffin II prototypes took part in the trials.

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The MPF was described by the US military as the spiritual successor to the Vietnam war-era M551 Sheridan, a vehicle that was retired in 1997, according to automotive news website The Drive. 

The new GDLS product is armed with a 105mm XM35 gun, originally designed for the scrapped 1990s program, mounted in a turret derived from a variant of the GDLS’ M1 Abrams main battle tank. Unlike the Sheridan, it’s not air-dropped, but can be airlifted, with two vehicles transported by a single C-17A Globemaster III cargo aircraft.

The new light tank is set to receive its official name during the main annual convention of the Association of the US Army in fall this year.

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