Murray: One MPF prototype potentially airdrop-capable

By Ethan Sterenfeld / June 21, 2021 at 4:22 PM

One of the two competing designs for the Mobile Protected Firepower, the Army's new light tank, might be light enough to be airdropped, the leader of Army Futures Command told a Senate subcommittee June 15.

"Airdrop is not one of the requirements that we're currently pursuing," Gen. John Murray told the Senate Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee. "One of the vendors is significantly lighter than the other, and there could be potential there, but that's not an Army requirement."

BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems, the dominant players in the American combat vehicle market, are competing to build the MPF for the Army. Murray did not say which design could be airdropped.

BAE's design is derived from the 1990s-era M8 Armored Gun System prototype, which was designed to be an airdrop-capable light tank. A BAE spokeswoman declined to comment on the weight of its MPF prototypes and whether they are airdrop-capable.

General Dynamics' prototype is derived from the British Ajax scout vehicle and the turret from the M1 Abrams main battle tank, and it is heavier than BAE's prototype. A General Dynamics spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether the tank could be airdropped.

The Marine Corps has not shown any interest in purchasing the MPF, Murray said in response to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who asked whether the Marines might purchase the light tank now that they have divested the Abrams.

The Army is currently testing the prototypes as it seeks to choose a single vendor and enter production by June 2022. General Dynamics delivered all 12 of its MPF prototypes by the end of 2020, while BAE delivered its first prototype in March.

Competition and efficient program management last year reduced the planned acquisition costs for the MPF by $40 million, the Government Accountability Office found in a report released earlier this month. But schedule risks have grown at the same time, as contractor delays during the coronavirus pandemic have compressed testing schedules.