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Army’s Plans to Halt M1 Abrams Refits Portend Fights Ahead

The U.S. Army has proposed to halt work on M1 Abrams tank refits in 2013 for a period of three years. This means that rather then spending about $500 million a year in the Warren, Michigan area it will use the money for other means. The local government and members of Congress are not happy about the decision. The major contractor involved, General Dynamics (GD), is also ramping up their lobbying to protect the work.

The M1 has been in production for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Allies since the 1980′s. Now the major work for the U.S. is upgrading, modifying and refitting the vehicles as they return from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. GD is also building the system for several foreign customers. Much of the work is managed from Michigan and done in various places including Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.

The Army has proposed a three year stop to production and work as they feel the current fleet of tanks meets their needs. The goal is to save over a billion dollars in the proposed FY12 budget which would be reprogrammed for other uses. This proposal has met with criticism as a blow to the U.S. industrial base as it would be the first gap in U.S. production of such systems since the 1930′s.

Congress of course has the final say in the proposal being able to write into the Defense Budget money to keep the line open and work continuing. The House has kept about $250 million in the budget for sixty tanks which is less then the current average funding but it would keep the line open. A three year stop would require layoffs by GD and also may require work to re-certify the line and the ability to bring back workers to meet the needs in 2016 when the Army plans to restart production.

It would not just be GD that would be affected but also all of their various sub-contractors and suppliers. The gap may require GD to find new suppliers able to build the parts as some companies may stop making or keeping the ability to produce the parts needed as they turn to other markets. In today’s economy it is hard to just stop work for three years and then be expected to start it up again. There would be an economic cost to all of this some of which would be paid for by the Army offsetting the savings to the budget due to the halt.

All this portends many other battles if and when the U.S. military begins to make similar cuts across their budgets. Every program cancelled or scaled back will have an economic effect on some Congressional district, companies and employees. All three groups will fight to keep it even if the Defense Department and Obama Administration claim there is no need for it. This small battle – and $1 to 2 billion is a small part of a $700 billion budget – will occur again-and-again as the U.S. tries to deal with its budget crisis and the winding down of Iraq and Afghan operations.

Photo from Michigan Municipal League Flickr photostream.

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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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Earmarks Keep Flowing From Congress

Limo-Reid Technologies of Deerfield, MI will receive a two million dollar earmark in the 2010 Defense Budget if it stands. Right now it is included in the House and Senate versions of the bill thanks to Senators Levin and Stabenow as well as Congressman Schauer. The company is developing a hydraulic based hybrid transmission system for heavy vehicles. The goal is a system that is more efficient and durable. Higher mileage is expected with this transmission as well.

Because it is for such a small amount and has the support of a senior Senator like Levin the chances are good that it will make its way through the whole process and be contained in the final budget. The money will be very helpful to the company and might have potential. The problem with earmarks like this is that while they seem small there are several hundred of them and they ad up. One of the services might think pursuing this technology is worthwhile but not to the point of including it in their prioritized budget. The Department of Defense has a great deal of R&D money to throw at problems but cannot obviously fund everything.

Many earmarks are for things like this: One contract for a company working on something that nobody else may be. They bring jobs to the locality and it makes the legislators look good and shows they are helping out the community. It is also true that Michigan needs all the jobs it can get right now with the collapse of the U.S. auto industry. That does not mean this is necessarily the best use of two million of the taxpayers dollars. The money either has to come from taxes or be borrowed. The U.S. right now has massive debt and it is getting worse and this amount doesn’t seem like much but every bit helps.

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Follow On MRAP-ATV Contract Awarded To Oshkosh

At the end of June Oshkosh won the initial MRAP-ATV contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. This one billion dollar contract was for over two thousand of the lighter and more maneuverable Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for use in Afghanistan. The DoD conducted a contest between a variety of companies that included a “drive off” to demonstrate capability. While it was thought that more then one company would win contracts only Oshkosh received an order.

Now it was announced today that Oshkosh won a follow on order for another seventeen hundred vehicles for another billion dollars. The company already had to invest in expanding its workforce and capability to meet the first one. Part of any contract award by the Defense Department is based on the winner’s demonstration that they are able to meet the production and quantity requirements so Oshkosh should be able to build these. The follow on award though will deal a further blow to Navistar, BAE Systems and Force Protection efforts in the MRAP business.

The U.S. had rapidly purchased a variety of different MRAP vehicles for about four years to provide protection for troops as they moved around Iraq. There is an on-going struggle how to fit these vehicles into their tactical formations now that those operations are winding down. The MRAP are big, road optimized vehicles and are not designed for use in rough terrain or combat. This is part of the reason that the Future Combat System (FCS) vehicle portion was canceled. There may soon be an end to the purchase of any large numbers of MRAP as future more tactical combat vehicles are purchased.

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Michingan Economy Losing Defense Dollars As Well

Michigan is seeing its car based economy erode quickly with the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors and now word is that the defense dollars flowing to the state are down as well. Crain’s Detroit Business is reporting that defense contracts fell by almost a third compared to the same period last year. One of the problems faced seems to be that the U.S. Defense Department is putting work out to bid but then not awarding the contracts. This may be due to a reassessment of needs by the new Administration, or just changing the timing of the work.

Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country with no real changes on the horizon that will turn that around. Defense dollars were offsetting some of the losses in civil industry and the state has aggressively gone after them. It is expected that in the next few years to be some major cuts to defense spending and this may exacerbate the problems the state is experiencing.

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Altair, TARDEC Emphasize Need for Increased Modeling and Simulation in the Development of Military Ground Vehicles — Press Release

Altair, TARDEC Emphasize Need for Increased Modeling and Simulation in the Development of Military Ground Vehicles

AIM FIRE Military Day event draws key engineering leaders to discuss modeling and simulation tools and their impact on the evolving military vehicle development process

altair-twoTROY, Mich. – May 15, 2009 – The role of modeling and simulation in tomorrow’s defense engineering industry was a focal point for some of the top experts in military and software engineering at the Advanced Innovative Methods for Improved Reliability & Efficiency (AIM FIRE) Military Day, a program co-hosted by leading global technology provider Altair Engineering, Inc. (www.altair.com) and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

More than 170 military personnel, military engineering professionals, and prime/sub contractors, as well as a member of U.S. Senator Carl Levin’s staff, participated in the May 14 event at Altair Engineering’s World Headquarters in Troy, Mich.

Altair has provided simulation software and consulting to TARDEC and its customers for more than 10 years, and AIM FIRE Military Day was designed to extend that relationship to the most current and urgent needs of America’s military forces.

Dr. David Gorsich, TARDEC’s chief scientist, delivered the keynote, “Reliability and Efficient Military Ground Systems,” which focused on the simulations being used to drive vehicle systems development and the need for more simulation in the testing of these crucial systems.

“Efficiency and reliability are key to improving the robustness of the U.S. military’s fleet of ground-wheeled vehicles,” Dr. Gorsich said. “We must leverage simulation methodologies in the design of combat vehicle systems to achieve the Army’s goals of technologies superiority and readiness.”

The AIM FIRE Military Day event served as an important showcase of new and highly balanced design approaches for military ground vehicles, including Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicles – also known as M-ATV vehicles – which are meant to increase force protection, fuel-efficiency, survivability rates associated with attacks from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and more. A key change in the way these vehicles are being designed is the use of advanced computer simulation methods that help ensure improved reliability and efficiency of the vehicles and their armor and reduced total life cycle costs.

Computer-based programs, employing Altair software, can simulate IED blasts and their potential impact on vehicles of various designs. Data gathered from these simulations may lead to the production of vehicles that weigh less without sacrificing structural reliability and therefore can be equipped with more protection without increasing total weight. Lighter vehicles are operationally more efficient, thereby allowing longer periods between refueling and overall energy and fuel savings. These simulations ultimately create lifecycle cost savings that result from “up front” vehicle optimization design.

“Simulation techniques have immensely improved the efficiency with which we design safer cars and trucks, and similar design tools are making ground-wheeled military vehicles more effective in protecting our troops,” said Jason Napolitano, regional managing director for Altair Engineering, Inc.

Currently, six contractors provide MRAP vehicles, but no single vehicle solves all the potential issues that fighting and peacekeeping forces confront. Altair is working with TARDEC to recommend ways to use computer simulation to standardize a design that meets all of the military’s needs, which results in a more efficient use of defense dollars as well as supports Michigan’s high-tech/defense industry.

The AIM FIRE event covered a wide range of technical issues, from designing a hull that better protects occupants to using simulated field situations for designing and testing vehicles. In addition to Altair and TARDEC, representatives from BAE Systems, Force Protection, Inc., General Dynamics Land Systems and Realtime Technologies, Inc., delivered presentations. The modeling and simulation technologies and strategies discussed at the conference are drawing increased attention from the defense industry, and the AIM FIRE event is expected to set the stage for future industry discussions on using simulation to speed improved vehicle design.

About TARDEC

TARDEC, part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), is headquartered at the Detroit Arsenal, Warren, Mich. It is the Nation’s laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. TARDEC’s mission is to provide full service life cycle engineering support to the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems, the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, and the Program Manager for Future Combat Systems Brigade Combat Team. TARDEC supports more than 2,800 Army systems and many of the Army’s and DOD’s top joint warfighter development programs. To learn more, please visit www.tardec.army.mil.

About Altair Engineering

Altair Engineering, Inc. empowers client innovation and decision-making through technology that optimizes the analysis, management and visualization of business and engineering information. Privately held with more than 1,400 employees, Altair has offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and Asia/Pacific. With a 20-year-plus track record for product design, advanced engineering software and grid computing technologies, Altair consistently delivers a competitive advantage to customers in a broad range of industries. To learn more, please visit www.altair.com.

# # #

All information contained in this document is protected by United States copyright law and is considered the proprietary property of Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. Any display, publication, duplication, or distribution without the express written consent of Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. is strictly prohibited. Copyright Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. 2009. All Rights reserved.

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Navy Awards Advertising Contract

The Navy continued its relationship with advertising firm Campbell-Ewald by awarding a $800 million five year contract. This is the second largest account the company handles next to its Chevrolet advertising. With the recent report that the Obama administration cut the Chrysler advertising budget as part of the bankruptcy deal it may be that Campbell-Ewald best customer will be the Federal government.

As reported with the Army National Guard that despite meeting recruiting goals the Navy will keep advertising. The current economy is credited with much of the recent performance of the services meeting their recruiting goals. While this plays a role a good consistent advertising campaign helps the military keep up the high quality of recruits.

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Altair Engineering and TARDEC to Host AIM FIRE Military Day May 14 to showcase how simulation will be a key driver in vehicle development – Press Release

Event Advisory: Altair Engineering and TARDEC to Host AIM FIRE Military Day May 14

Interview opportunities with engineering executives and military officials and photo opportunities of Golden Humvee and MRAP vehicles

WHAT: Altair Engineering, Inc. (www.altair.com), in conjunction with The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), is hosting AIM FIRE Military Day: Advanced Innovative Methods for Improved Reliability & Efficiency. The event will bring together military engineering professionals to discuss trends and advancements in simulation methods crucial to the development of military ground-wheeled vehicles. These developments focus on such issues as survivability, weight reduction and robotics.

Industry presentations by Altair Engineering, TARDEC, General Dynamics Land Systems, BAE Systems, Force Protection Inc., and Realtime Technology Inc. will cover advanced simulation methods to improve the reliability and efficiency of military ground-wheeled vehicles while boosting power and mobility.

WHO: Dr. David Gorsich, chief scientist of TARDEC’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), will deliver the keynote, “Reliability and efficient military ground systems,” and will discuss how simulations are being used to drive the development of vehicle systems.

Nearly 150 attendees are expected, including military personnel, military engineer professionals, prime/sub contractors and congressional representatives

WHERE: Altair Engineering
1820 E. Big Beaver
Troy, MI 48083

WHEN: May 14, 2009, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

PHOTOS: Military vehicles on display will include a Golden Humvee from TARDEC and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

INTERVIEWS: Executives will be available for interviews, including:

  • Dr. David Gorsich, chief scientist, RDECOM TARDEC
  • Jason Napolitano, managing director, Altair Engineering Anthony J. Norton, practice leader, Land Vehicle Development, Altair ProductDesign Inc.
  • Brett Chouinard, executive vice president of Americas, Altair Engineering Inc.
  • Mike Heskitt, vice president of Global Engineering, Altair ProductDesign Inc.

MORE INFO: Visit www.altair.com/aimfire.

CONTACT: To schedule interviews, contact Jennifer Ristic, Airfoil Public Relations, at 248-304-1421, [email protected]; or Jenn Korail, Airfoil Public Relations at 248-304-1429, [email protected]

# # #

All information contained in this document is protected by United States copyright law and is considered the proprietary property of Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. Any display, publication, duplication, or distribution without the express written consent of Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. is strictly prohibited. Copyright Airfoil Public Relations, Inc. 2009. All Rights reserved.

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Force Protection Looks at Expansion in Michigan

Force Protection which had ridden the boom in the demand for MRAP vehicles from the U.S. military had its struggles in the past two years. See this previous article for more. Recently the company had bid on the new MRAP-ATV requirement for lighter, more maneuverable MRAPs for Afghanistan along with several other companies. In preparation in case it wins one of the multiple development contracts that are part of this plan the company as reported by Crain’s Detroit Business is looking at more space in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Other companies who bid include Oshkosh and BAE Systems. The contract announcements are expected in April.

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U.S. Buys More HUMVEES

The U.S. Department of Defense executed an option to buy 1,700 more HUMVEE vehicles as part of an existing contract with AM General. WNDU.com reports the award is worth over $250 million. The U.S. military will soon be moving to replace the HUMVEE with the JLTV vehicle, but there is still requirements for thousands of these vehicles. Iraq and Afghanistan have been especially harsh on the modern jeep and versions with more and better weapons and armor have been developed.

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L-3 Wins Bradley Maintenance Contract

The U.S. Army awarded L-3 Communications Systems a follow-on contract to run the M2 Bradley transmission maintenance facility in Michigan. Mlive.com has the story. The contract is worth over $50 million and will last five years. L-3 also expects to receive further contract extensions on other work they are doing with military vehicles.

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Michigan economic development wars

As we have previously mentioned here and here Michigan has set up various entities to promote the state’s companies for defense contracts. According to this article though the head of the state organization is upset with one of the regional ones for not doing enough. The state hired a retired USMC general to run their organization and now he is raising a dispute over the efforts of one setup for the Western part of the state to the point where he wants to establish his own organization to do the work of the existing one. I guess when you are going out for Federal dollars no effort is wasted.

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BRAC moves cause BAE to plan expansion in Michigan

This article describes how BAE plans to expand its facilities and hire more workers at its Land & Armaments group. Under the most recent BRAC the Army will move its unmanned vehicles program offices to Warren, MI from Huntsville, AL. This leads BAE to believe that work will be coming with them. The state of Michigan has also assisted BAE by providing tax credits and training funds for the expansion. The Michigan economy has taken many recent hits with the decline of the US auto industry.

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Company to expand in Michigan

Ace Electronics, a maker of wiring for military vehicles, plans to expand it facilities in Michigan. See a story here. This is due to an increase in the orders they are getting from the US military. The company made automotive wiring products but now are doing a substantial expansion to support their military contracts. Military vehicles, even the humble HUMVEE, are getting more and more complicated electronics to include remote control turrets that are requiring more sophisticated wiring harnesses and installations. These are much like those for aircraft and since most of them are almost handmade they require skilled labor. Ace feels that this is available in Michigan due to the downturn in the auto business.

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BAE may expand Michigan facility

This story is about how BAE Systems possible expanded production of MRAP’s and their submission of a bid for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) contract may allow them to enlarge their Michigan facility. Right now no production is done there, but the demand for the MRAP or JLTV may lead that to be done at their Sterling Heights facility. While there has been consolidation in the US defense industry since 1990, the demands of the current budgets have made it possible for the companies to invest in physical plant to increase production and repair of key items. Read more

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Michigan company develops portable power conditioning system

February 20, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: Contract Awards, development program, logistics, Michigan 

The Newkirk Electric Associates of Michigan has developed a prototype system that is portable and allows multiple types of electrical generation to be combined and conditioned. See mlive.com for more on this. The system is funded through a contract worth $1.4 M to NextEnergy, a non-profit alternative electricity generator. Read more

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Defense budget flows to economicly hard off Michigan

January 14, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: BAE Systems, Federal Budget Process, Michigan 

According to this article in Crain’s Detroit Business the economically depressed state Michigan is seeing some gains from the increases in the defense budget due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has a large presence in Michigan due to its activities in Warren, MI which include track and wheeled vehicle development. BAE Systems which manufactures M1 and M2/M3 systems is also building up its group there .The service is also planning on moving its robotics efforts there as well.

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