New bids, same contenders for CCV program

It’s Groundhog Day for the Canadian Forces’ Close Combat Vehicle (CCV) program: all three former bidders are back on track after the process was interrupted last spring.

The CCV program aims to provide the Canadian Army with a “middle-of-the-road” vehicle, between the currently used LAV III armored personnel carrier and the Leopard 2A4/A6 main battle tank, both of which encountered many limitations in Canada’s past campaign in southern Afghanistan.

“Unlike the other vehicles in the Family of Land Combat Vehicles, the CCV is not replacing a vehicle in the current Canadian Forces fleet. The CCV’s fundamental purpose is to bridge the gap between the current light (5-25 tonnes) and heavy armoured (45 tonnes +) vehicle fleets by providing the [army] with an operational capability that can predominantly operate with the main battle tanks and the other Canadian Forces armoured vehicles within a high-threat environment,” the CF said in a September press release.

The army will purchase 108 vehicles, with an option for 30 more, under four configurations: infantry fighting vehicle, artillery forward observation officer, engineer reconnaissance and tactical command.

The CCV program has seen its share of delays. The first request for proposal saw no winner. “Following the conclusion of a Solicitation of Interest and Qualification (SOIQ), a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released to the pre-qualified bidders. There were no technically compliant bids received in response to the original RFP,” a spokesperson for the CF said.

A second RFP, issued to five pre-qualified bidders in April 2012, closed on September 4. They were Germany’s Artec GmbH and Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH, Sweden’s BAE Systems Hägglunds, Canada’s General Dynamics Land Systems and France’s Nexter. Of the five, the latter three submitted bids before the September 4 deadline and will enter this next, and hopefully last, round of competition: BAE’s CV90, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada’s Piranha V and Nexter’s VBCI 25.

Tested mettle
All three comply with the CF’s primary requirement for an off-the-shelf vehicle, although only two have tested their mettle on the battlefield. With the LAV III showing some drawbacks in Afghanistan due to its wheel-based propulsion system and its increasing weight, the CV90 is the only vehicle among the three bidders that uses tracks for propulsion. A 35-ton vehicle, it is armed with either the Bushmaster II 30mm or the Bushmaster III 35mm chain gun as its primary armament, with a 7.62mm machine gun as a secondary weapon (which, in the CF’s case, would be the FN C6 GPMG), complemented by Bofors 40mm grenade launchers.

“BAE Systems has submitted its best value bid,” said Mike Sweeney of the company’s global combat systems division.”Our offer is based upon the successful CV90, which provides class-leading crew survivability, mobility and firepower for the six current user nations around the world. In all six nations, the CV90 is in service alongside the Leopard 2 main battle tank and is currently on operations in Afghanistan with Denmark, Norway and Sweden.”

A familiar design to many Canadians, General Dynamics’ Piranha V is the newest generation in the company’s LAV family, with many modifications. “Advanced suspension technology allows the Piranha V to go anywhere a medium-weight tracked vehicle can go. It provides the best of both worlds, combining track-like performance with the strategic mobility of a wheeled platform,” said Ken Yamashita, manager of corporate affairs. “It uses the latest mobility technology with a military drive train developed through 35 years of military vehicle experience, combined with two-stage hydropneumatic suspension and a height management system.”

The Piranha will come equipped with a new-generation LANCE modular turret system made by Rheinmetall, featuring a 30mm MK30-2 cannon and third-generation optical systems. The most technologically advanced of the three, it has never been deployed.

Also similar in design to the LAV III but much heavier (29 tons compared to 17), Nexter enters the CCV bidding race with its VBCI 25 (the acronym stands for Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie). The vehicle saw significant action with the French army since it was first deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010. It’s capable of speeds over 100 km per hour and is equipped with a one man turret with a 25mm M811 gun, a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun and 40mm grenade launchers, making its primary weapon compatible with the LAV III for ammunition.

“As a wheeled vehicle, its life-cycle costs are significantly lower than similar tracked vehicles and the maturity of the VBCI platform removes much of the CCV program risk and uncertainty associated with new vehicle procurement programs,” said Patrick Lier, Nexter’s vice president of business development in North America. “It is an exceptional vehicle at an affordable price, with no development required to fully meet Canadian requirements.”

Made in Canada
The CCV will also be subject to the government’s Industrial and Regional Benefits policy, meaning that the winning company must generate economic activity in Canada, dollar for dollar equal to the contract value.

“Our offer also includes a comprehensive Canada-based in-service support package, which will provide demonstrated cost-effective fleet usage and availability throughout the CV90’s service life. The third part of the bid is a well-developed Industrial and Regional Benefits proposal which includes extensive work packages such as the manufacture, assembly and integration of the turrets,” said Sweeney about BAE’s plans.

Being a Canadian company, GDLS-Canada enjoys a 35-year relationship with National Defence and the Canadian Forces. “The vehicle will be manufactured and assembled in Canada by [GDLS-Canada]. Our program is supported by a powerful Canadian team of sub-contractors and suppliers,” Yamashita explained. The LANCE turret will be manufactured at Rheinmetall’s facility in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu while Dorchester, Ontario-based Armatec Survivability Canada will provide protection systems and crew seating. Over 400 suppliers are said to be involved.

Nexter concluded deals with Bombardier, Prevost and Raytheon Canada for final assembly, powerplant and service support, respectively.

The contract should be awarded in 2013.

A retired Army senior NCO who served twice in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Martin Forgues has been a Montreal-based freelance journalist since 2011.

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