US Army approves Milestone C and awards LRIP contract for MPF new light tank

The U.S. Army announced on June 28 the award of a $1.14 billion contract to General Dynamics Land Systems for the production and fielding of up to 96 Mobile Protected Firepower, or MPF, light combat vehicles dubbed "Griffin II". The award comes just days after the Army closed out the MPF middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping phase and transitioned to a major capability acquisition program with a favorable Milestone C decision — an incremental step in the Department of Defense’s acquisition process that moves into the production and deployment phase.
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MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams greater survivability, and the ability to identify threat systems earlier and at greater distances (Picture source: General Dynamics Land Systems)

MPF will provide infantry brigades greater survivability, the ability to identify threat systems earlier and at greater distances, and will not restrict movement in off-road terrain. MPF will also allow soldiers to move at a faster pace, protecting the assaulting force.

“The MPF program did exactly what the Army asked, which was to complete a competitive and accelerated rapid prototyping effort with Soldier touchpoints,” said Mr. Doug Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and the Army’s acquisition executive. “MPF is a benchmark program, as the acquisition and requirement communities worked together to complete the [middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping] phase and move this system into production in just under four years.”

The Milestone C decision came on schedule and was underpinned by strong support and overwhelming commitment from Army leadership. “MPF represents a new capability for the Army, allowing our light maneuver forces to overmatch adversaries. Through multiple Soldier touchpoints, our soldiers have operated the prototypes and provided crucial feedback to the design team, ensuring our forces will have the asset they need on the future battlefield,” said Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team.

During the middle-tier acquisition rapid-prototyping phase, the Army successfully tested and evaluated 24 prototypes during a pandemic. Middle-tier acquisition authorities allow the Army to have the flexibility to get prototypes into Soldiers’ hands quickly to enable fidelity on known risks and develop informed plans moving forward.

“Congress has provided us with flexible [middle-tier acquisition] legislation that allows for accelerated prototype delivery and Soldier operational feedback, which expedites the fidelity on technical and programmatic risks to better inform program acquisition decisions,” Bush said.

The MPF will be the U.S. Army’s first new design vehicle fielded in over four decades, with the first unit equipped planned for the late fiscal year 2025. “Today’s announcement sets in motion an important modernization effort for the Army. As a team we’ve worked diligently to make certain we’ve taken the right steps early on to accept risk where appropriate and move faster,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, ASA(ALT)’s program executive officer for ground combat systems. “The Army is committed to delivering the MPF capability to the infantry brigade on an accelerated schedule with incremental improvements over time.”

During the low-rate initial production phase, the Army will take delivery of MPF vehicles and conduct production qualification testing to include lethality, mobility, survivability, full-up system live-fire, and reliability, Availability and maintainability testing. Additionally, an initial operational test and evaluation will also be conducted, all leading to the first unit being equipped. The award of subsequent low-rate initial production vehicle options will be based on the review of cost, schedule and performance metrics defined in the acquisition program baseline.

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The turret architecture is based on the M1 Abrams tank using the M1A2 Sep V3 fire control system and CITV (Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer) (Picture source: General Dynamics Land Systems)

What is the MPF vehicle?

MPF is a 38-ton tracked armored vehicle capable to provide soldiers with speed, protection, lethality and the ability to wage a multidomain battle, working in concert with other ground forces to overwhelm the enemy with multiple simultaneous challenges. The new “light tank” is armed with a 105 mm main gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. MPF’s turret is somehow a scaled-down version of the M1A2 Abrams’one.

According to a report released by Army News Service, the U.S. military expects to receive about 500 MPFs, which it will start fielding in the fiscal year 2025. Each infantry brigade combat team will get their own 14-vehicle company for armor support. The targeted fielding for the First Unit Equipped is Fiscal Year 2025.

The design of the General Dynamics MPF light tank is conventional. The turret has a crew of three: commander, gunner and loader. The turret architecture is based on the M1 Abrams tank using the M1A2 Sep V3 fire control system and CITV (Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer). A 12.7mm heavy machine gun is mounted on the commander’s hatch.