Mobile Protected Firepower testing to begin next month

By Ethan Sterenfeld / December 11, 2020 at 2:09 PM

An operational assessment for the Army's new light tank will begin on Jan. 4 at Ft. Bragg, NC, the Army announced.

“Soldiers will use the MPF prototypes to conduct a wide variety of operational scenarios,” Dan Heaton, an Army spokesman, wrote in a statement to Inside Defense. “The feedback and observations are critical as they will directly inform the development of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) of this new capability for the [infantry brigade combat team].”

The 82nd Airborne Division will conduct the test, which lasts through June 2021, according to a Dec. 11 Army press release. A selection of one of the two competing vehicles and the beginning of low-rate production are scheduled for the end of fiscal year 2022.

“The MPF brings a new level of lethality to our infantry forces,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the next generation combat vehicle cross-functional team, in the Army press release. “Once they are able to begin interacting with these prototypes, I know that our Soldiers are going to come up with the best ways to utilize MPF in our light formations.”

Operational demonstrations were previously scheduled to begin last month. Army officials did not respond to questions about the cause of the delay.

Prototypes from BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems are competing for the program. BAE’s design is based on a modification of the M8 Armored Gun System, while GDLS has combined an M1 Abrams turret with the British Ajax scout vehicle.

“The MPF solution is an integration of existing mature technologies and components that avoids development which would lengthen the program schedule,” according to the Army press release.

“The priority has always been to field this new critical capability soonest, but the MPF will also be capable of accommodating additional weight and spare electrical power to support future growth.”

BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems were chosen in Dec. 2018 to build 12 prototypes each of the light tank. The Army planned at that time to purchase more than 500 vehicles when the tank reaches full-rate production.