In a press release, the U.S. Army announced that initial Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) prototypes arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The preproduction MPF vehicles will be put through their paces by paratroopers from the Army’s 82 Airborne.
“We are incredibly excited to see the MPF platform entering into this phase,” an Army Ground Combat Systems official stated, explaining that the “MPF represents an innovative and aggressive approach to system acquisition. The beginning of our SVA (soldier vehicle assessment) in January illustrates how hard the teams are working to keep the major events of this program on schedule,” despite the ongoing pandemic.
The Army awarded two initial prototyping contracts to both BAE Systems and General Dynamics back in 2018. The contracts, worth $376 million each, covered a total of 504 final production Mobile Protected Firepower vehicles, with initial deliveries scheduled for 2025.
In an effort to get final production vehicles to the Army as quickly as possible, the MPF program stipulated that existing technology and off-the-shelf components should be used when possible, rather than starting completely from scratch with a new platform design. And, here’s what we know about the two contenders.
BAE’s prototype builds upon their M8 Armored Gun System, a replacement for the Vietnam-era Sheridan light tank. Though the M8 AGS program was canceled by the Army in the 1990s, BAE does not have to start from scratch and can modernize the older M8 design while fulfilling the Army’s requirement for use of preexisting technologies when possible.
Their bid features a 105mm main gun, and scaleable armor on a low-profile platform with an auto-loading system that allows for a rate of fire of 12 rounds per minute. Their vehicle is designed to support light infantry and, according to the company, a total of three MPF vehicles can be transported by C-17 at a time. BAE also says that their bid offers the same level of protection as their Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
General Dynamics (GD)
GD’s bid appears to be the larger of the two prototypes and is a mix of several of previous platforms. The chassis is based on the AJAX armored fighting vehicle, a General Dynamics product that is in service with the British Army, whereas the turret is a modified M1 Abrams turret and sports a smaller, 105mm main gun.
Company information touts their MPF prototype’s high power-to-weight ratio supplied by an “ultra-modern diesel engine,” and hydraulic pneumatic suspension that offers excellent mobility over a variety of terrain. Interestingly, the GD bid is to have a crew of four, forgoing an automatic loading system for a dedicated loader and may be a contributing factor to the platform’s larger size.
Initial Soldier Vehicle Assessment trials are scheduled for January 4th, and will continue until early summer. Rather than an actual test event, the trials provide soldiers the opportunity to provide feedback for MPF improvements and will serve to improve MPF tactics and techniques. The winner of the MPF competition should be elected by the end of 2022.
Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.