General Dynamics said today it will not bid for the Army’s largest combat vehicle program, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Nor will GD take the government to court to try to change the terms of the competition, despite having denounced them as intolerably tilted towards competitor BAE Systems and protested, unsuccessfully, to the Army. With bids due today, this double withdrawal on both the business and legal fronts leaves BAE unchallenged.
Congress could intervene, although so far it’s taken mostly symbolic action; the Army could theoretically have a last minute change of heart, though that’s surpassingly unlikely; or AMPV could ultimately get cancelled altogether, which is all too plausible given the budget cuts known as sequestration and the Army’s long and sorry track record of botched and canceled programs. But the odds now are that the service’s thousands of aging, vulnerable M113s will be replaced in a range of support roles, from troop carrier to armored ambulance to mobile command post, by a turretless variant of BAE’s Bradley, already the Army’s mainstay combat vehicle.
Here’s the official statement I got from General Dynamics when I asked about their decision:
“General Dynamics Land Systems did not submit a proposal for the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program. The requirements and other provisions of the request for proposal (RFP) do not allow the company to provide a competitive solution. The company will not pursue the matter in Federal Circuit Court so as not to hinder the ability to continue to pursue its options to participate in the program.”
Meanwhile, BAE broadcast a release touting its Bradley-based design. “BAE Systems [has already] built and demonstrated prototypes for each of the five [AMPV] variants in order to provide the best solution for the Army,” the company said, issuing a photo of its armored ambulance variant (pictured above). “Given the maturity of our design and the commonality both within the AMPV and ABCT [armored brigade combat team] fleets” — i.e. between the Bradley-derived AMPV, the existing Bradley fleet, and the M109 Paladin howitzer, which is being refitted with Bradley automotive components — “we feel this offers significant opportunity to accelerate the program’s schedule.
Acceleration is going to be a hard sell if sequestration cuts return, as scheduled in 2016. Having already sacrificed higher-profile, higher-tech, and higher-cost programs like the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Armed Aerial Scout, the Army will fight hard to keep AMPV alive.