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US soldiers of 82nd Airborne to test pre-production of new Mobile Protected Firepower light tanks.

| 2020

According to information released by the U.S. Army on December 11, 2020, U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne will test the first of several pre-production Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) ground combat platforms. The first vehicles delivered to Fort Bragg, N.C. to be used in the Soldier Vehicle Assessment (SVA).
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The two candidates for the MPF program of the U.S. army. (Picture source Army Recognition)

The MPF (Mobile Protected Firepower) is a new armored light tank designed to increase the combat power of the Army’s light brigades. Unlike the Army’s armored brigades, the service’s infantry brigades lack the ability to defeat enemy tracked combat vehicles, fortified bunkers, and other armor threats. MPF provides these light brigades with the mobility and firepower capability needed to defeat current and future threats.

The final MPF light tank will consist of a 30-ton tracked vehicle that will come decked out with either a 105mm or 120mm cannon and will be small enough that two could fit aboard a C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft. The MPF program is one of the Army’s highest priority signature modernization initiatives. The U.S. Army intends to procure more than 500 MPF vehicles over the next 10 years.

In December 2018, the US Army Contracting Command awarded development contracts to BAE Systems Land & Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). Each company delivered 12 vehicles to the U.S. Army to be used to perform a full range of operational tests.

“We are incredibly excited to see the MPF platform entering into this phase,” said Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems. “MPF represents an innovative and aggressive approach to system acquisition. The beginning of our SVA in January illustrates how hard the teams are working to keep the major events of this program on schedule.”

Currently, the Army’s Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) do not have a combat vehicle assigned that is capable of providing mobile, protected, direct, offensive fire capability. To fill that capability gap the Army is using an innovative and competitive Acquisition approach to provide IBCTs with their own organic lethality platforms to ensure overmatch against peer and near-peer threat.

The MPF solution is an integration of existing mature technologies and components that avoids development which would lengthen the program schedule. The priority has always been to field this new critical capability soonest, but the MPF will also be capable of accommodating additional weight and spare electrical power to support future growth.

The competitive phase of the program is scheduled to conclude with the selection of a single material solution and transition into production near the end of the fiscal year 2022.

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The MPF light tank from General Dynamics (Source picture General Dynamics)

 The design of the General Dynamics MPF light tank is conventional with the driver and engine at the front, and the turret located at the rear of the hull. 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) armed with one 105 mm cannon. One 12.7mm heavy machine gun is mounted on the commander hatch.

The turret has a crew of three comprising commander, gunner and loader. It is interesting to notice that the U.S Army, like the German army (Bundeswehr) but unlike the Russian army with its T-14 Armata, sticks to its preference for a 4-man crew based on an operational observation: there are many tasks that require four people, like maintenance, guard duties, etc. Moreover, they state that a human loader is as efficient as a mechanical automatic loader, even if the weight of a 105mm round (shell) makes it hard to manipulate, particularly in case of a high rate of fire is needed.

The General Dynamics MPF tank is motorized with a Diesel engine. The vehicle will be also equipped with an Allison’s 3040 MX cross-drive transmission.

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The MPF light tank from BAE Systems (Source picture BAE Systems)

In October 2015 during the AUSA defense exhibition in Washington D.C., BAE Systems has unveiled a new concept of a light tank called Expeditionary Light Tank that could be airdropped from a C-130 aircraft. The company’s solution was based on the purpose-built M8 Armored Gun System, modernized with mature technologies from the CV90 family of infantry fighting vehicles and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

The BAE Systems MPF is the result of more than 30 years of research and development for an optimized, rapidly deployable, light combat vehicle designed specifically to support light infantry. The vehicle leverages investments the Army made in the M8 Armored Gun System, including its low-profile design, and proven technologies like the M35 105mm cannon, and an auto-loading ammunition system that allows the gun to fire at a rate of 12 rounds per minute. The innovative roll-out powerpack design allows for easy access to the engine and transmission without the aid of heavy equipment.

The MPF light tank of BAE Systems has a crew of three including a driver, gunner, and commander thanks to the use of an automatic loading system for the main armament.

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