The Buzz

The Army Is Closer to Getting a Deadly New 'Tank'

The US Army is taking a substantial next step in the accelerated development of a new Mobile Protected Firepower lightweight armored vehicle - designed to support infantry combat teams in fast-moving combat situations.

The service, which plans to build prototypes in the next several years, is now beginning to evaluate industry proposals for the new vehicle which seeks to combine rapid deployability, maneuverability and maximum survivability for crew members in combat.

Army developers tell Warrior Maven the new armored vehicle is expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.

Senior developers with the Army Research Laboratory have told Warrior Maven about cutting edge efforts to both lighten weight of combat vehicles while simultaneously emphasizing mobility. In fact, as part of this effort, two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

"Making a vehicle lighter weight and more capable requires a multi-function effort. For instance, you can integrate an antenna into the armor protection," Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

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Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.

“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get off road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an prior interview on the subject..

BAE Systems is a major player among a handful of industry developers submitting proposals; BAE tells Warrior Maven they have succeeded in submitting a proposal for consideration by the Army.

General Dynamics Land Systems and SAIC are also among major vehicle manufacturers planning to compete to build the vehicle.

BAE has developed and built a vehicle that is currently going through internal testing. The company will submit the vehicle to the Army on April 2 to undergo additional U.S. government testing as a part of the bid assessment process, company developers said.

“We worked closely with our manufacturing and supply network to identify modern technology that has already been fielded or has been through qualification testing,” said Jim Miller, director of Business Development at BAE Systems’ Combat Vehicles business, told Warrior Maven. “This allows us to integrate new technology into a proven design to help meet the Army’s capability and schedule requirements.”

Specifically, BAE developers have explained a few detailed elements of their proposal, to include modifications to a type-classified M8 Armored Gun Systems. The effort, company officials describe, seeks to build upon prior investments in the weapon.

Army plans for the vehicle emphasize expeditionary warfare as part of the services' broader pivot to ongoing preparations for major power, large scale mechanized force on force warfare. While this type of training and preparation has always been a key part of the Army calculus, major land war against a near peer adversary is taking on newer urgency in light of today's threat environment. This includes efforts to update traditional Combined Arms Maneuver tactics in response to rapid Russian and Chinese military modernization.

As part of this, the Army is now putting a much higher premium on rapid deployability as both a deterrent and modern combat tactic, should the service need to quickly mobilize to address threats. Countering Russian aggression on the European continent, for instance, is a primary example of current Army efforts to strengthen its force posture and train with allies in the region.

With this in mind, the vehicle is intended to be lighter weight and therefore able to keep pace with advancing infantry units. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight, but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.

The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005.