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Oshkosh to Build MRAP Vehicles for the UAE

Air shows and exhibitions are often times when new contracts are announced. At the Paris or Farnborough shows Boeing (BA) and Airbus take it in turns to say who bought what aircraft. There are also military contracts. At the recent IDEX 2013 in Dubai the UAE government continued its practice of doing this with some major contract awards.

One of these was reportedly for 750 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from the U.S. company, Oshkosh (OSK). Oshkosh has made trucks for the U.S. military for some time even though its primary markets are construction and emergency vehicles.

Due to the mine and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat in Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. military and some of its allies invested heavily in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from a variety of suppliers. These were heavily armored trucks designed to resist mines and were used for troop transport and route clearance. They were not primarily tactical vehicles.

In 2008 Oshkosh won a contract to build a lighter, more maneuverable MRAP for use in Afghanistan called the MRAP-AT After building several thousand of these the contract is basically over as the U.S. reached its acquisition goal. This means that Oshkosh needed to look to other customers for this product.

The announcement of the UAE deal worth over $350 million is a major sale for the company. Often times with these programs the first sale is the hardest and once others start using a system it becomes easier to sell. As with any vehicle contract Oshkosh stands to make further revenue off of spares, engineering support and maintenance services.

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U.S.M.C. Relies on Navistar to Upgrade MRAP Vehicles

When the U.S. began to understand the complexity and lethality of the mine and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat to its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan it reacted by investing billions in a mixed fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from a variety of suppliers. These were large, wheeled armored trucks designed to channel mine blasts and were used to move troops and supplies primarily on roads. They were used to replace unarmored HUMVEE and trucks that the U.S. military had relied on for decades to be their prime movers of men and materials.

Many of these vehicles were evolved out of experience the Israeli and South African military had gained by operating in areas where insurgent movements targeted them with comparable threats. Different companies were able to come up with designs that where quickly purchased and deployed. These included commercial truck companies like Navistar (NAV) and Oshkosh (OSK) as well as traditional defense contractors such as BAE Systems (BAE:LSE) as well as new start ones similar to Force Protection.

With the end of fighting in Iraq and transfer of the main effort to Afghanistan MRAP vehicles were considered too unwieldy and roadbound to support tactical operations. This led to the development of Oshkosh’s MRAP-AT designed for more off road actions.

At the same time the Army, Navy and U.S.M.C. possess large numbers of MRAP vehicles that now must be fitted into tactical organizations and doctrine. With that in mind the Marines just awarded Navistar a contract to upgrade almost 3,000 of their systems with new “rolling” chassis to improve their off-road capability. The contract has a value of $880 million.

Similar efforts will have to be made to improve other MRAP vehicles to make them a more tactical system rather then just a logistics support vehicle. Billions have been invested in them, their support and training. The U.S. will possess a large number for years to come and cannot guarantee that they will be in situations or environments that their features are best for. If not they will have to maintain a fleet of different vehicles and organizations to utilize them which is not only inefficient but expensive in a time when budgets will be declining and must be made more effective.

Photo from Tumbleweed:-)’s Flickr Photostream.

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MRAP-ATV Contract Spills Over To SCHOTT North America

Oshkosh Defense was awarded the contract to build the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected – All Terrain Vehicle (MRAP-ATV) earlier this year for use in the rougher terrain of Afghanistan. Under this contract several thousand vehicles will be built for use by the Army, Marine Corps and other services. As with any contract of this size there will be large orders placed with the necessary sub-contractors.

For example Plasan in Vermont will provide armor plate for the vehicles as they have for other MRAP and up-armored trucks and HUMVEES. Now SCHOTT North America located in Indiana announced that they have received a contract from Oshkosh to provide armored glass for the MRAP-ATV.

The contract will be require over a hundred more workers to be hired and the company to invest about $7 million in their plants. This contract illustrates how large defense contracts while seemingly being awarded to only one company spread across the U.S. and foriegn suppliers as parts and components are produced.

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Unmanned Ground Vehicles As An IED Defense

The U.S. Army is investing heavily in all sorts of unmanned aerial and ground vehicles for a variety of missions. The ones entering service so far have been used to collect intelligence and deal with mines, Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) or unexploded ordnance. The systems to defeat the IED threat exist to minimize the exposure of personnel.

The Army is now also looking at autonomous vehicles that could be used to support logistic operations. In Iraq and Afghanistan there is a requirement for a great deal of vehicle activity to move men and supplies. There are just not enough helicopter or tactical transports to go around which forces a reliance on traditional road based truck traffic. These convoys provide a tempting target and as originally the vehicles tended to be lightly armored casualties were significant. That is why the U.S. invested heavily in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and up-armored trucks and HUMVEEs.

Now Cnet reports that Oshkosh Corporation took one of their new unmanned ground tactical trucks to Fort Hood for a demonstration of its capabilities. The vehicle was outfitted with several different systems including drive-by-wire, scanning lasers for obstacle detection and a one that feeds data back to human operators.

If the systems are developed and work safely they will reduce U.S. casualties by forgoing the need to have the vehicles crewed. Of course as with everything there is a cost associated with this and the use of unmanned driving systems will increase the cost of what is a fairly cheap truck to move supplies a great deal. It is another example of the U.S.’s willingness to spend money to save lives.

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Israel Buying Armored Trucks In The U.S.

Arotech Corporation of Michigan reported their recent quarterly earnings. The company still performed at a loss but compared to the same quarter last year saw strong improvement. The company almost halved its loss from $1.9 million to $1 million on revenues that were up almost $3.5 million.

One of the prime reasons for this growth in revenues was the sale of armored trucks, the David, to Israel. The company also makes simulators and armored plate for the military market as well as some commercial products. It’s subsidiary, MDT Armor Corp, makes the David in Alabama.

Israel like the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq faces a significant mine and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat. The provision of a armored truck makes sense as they must move supplies and troops by road along dangerous borders with the Gaza Strip or West Bank. The David is considered an “ultra light armored personnel carrier” that can defeat small arms and grenades as well as lighter IED attacks. The market for these kinds of vehicles is fairly significant as they can be used for internal security missions as well as light combat duty.

Unfortunately there are many parts of the world where military and police face these kind of threats from terrorist and insurgent groups. The David is one of several kinds of vehicles that would be useful in these kind of situations to move small groups of troops or supplies.

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