Anglo-US defence giant BAE Systems has brought to market a new light mine resistant armour protected (MRAP) vehicle that was designed and built in the US and could, potentially, compete against its established range of SA-engineered vehicles.
The company unveiled the Caiman Light five-person 4×4 at this year`s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition that has just ended in Washington DC.
BAE Systems says the Caiman is a member of its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and “offers protection comparable to the 18 ton Caiman at two-thirds the weight.”
Caiman Light comes standard with electronic stability controls and can be built with rear steering, which gives it a less-than 20-foot turning radius.
The vehicle hulls will be built at BAE Systems` Fairfield, Ohio, facility before being shipped to the company`s Sealy, Texas, facility where further assembly takes place.
The company says a “full 85%” of the parts of the FMTV are interchangeable. “This high percentage of common parts significantly reduces the logistics burden and operating and support costs for the US Army.”
BAE Systems` SA operation, Land Systems OMC, manufactures the RG31 and RG32 MRAPs in Benoni. The RG31 is also built under licence in Canada. OMC also assisted BAE Systems` US operations to develop the RG33, a slightly larger version of the RG31. Both vehicles have seen extensive service in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are credited with saving many lives.
Over a thousand (1388) of the 7mt RG31s are currently in service and 984 more are on order. The type serves with 12 countries and the United Nations. Over 400 (442) 4.4mt RG32 vehicles are currently serving with 10 countries and the United Nations. Total RG33 orders to date – for both the 14mt 4×4 and 24mt 6×6 versions are 2300.
The RG33 is built at York in Pennsylvania at a former United Defense facility, acquired by BAE Systems in 2005 when it first aggressively entered the US defence market.
Unlike the RG-family, the Caiman has a totally non-SA lineage. The wikipedia notes the FMTV was initially developed by truck company Stewart & Stevenson. The company was in 2005 acquired by Armor Holdings that was itself bought by BAE Systems in 2007.
Orders for MRAP vehicles may be cut back as the global financial crisis bites in the US and the war in Iraq winds down. RG-31 sales may also be imperiled by its failure to qualify for the MRAP II programme. Only an upgraded Caiman and the Ceradyne Bull made the cut.
The US Marine Corps` (USMC) MRAP II programme is seeking to develop a new class of vehicle that offers better protection than the current MRAPs – particularly from threats such as explosively formed penetrators.
However, the RG33 has been chosen as the US Army`s Medium Mine Protected Vehicle (MMPV) in parallel to the USMC MRAP II programme. This may see the US Army buy up to 2500 of the vehicles – if current planning holds.