| WASHINGTON, June 25
WASHINGTON, June 25 The Pentagon is nearing a
contract award to one of four teams bidding to build thousands
of armored off-road vehicles for use in Afghanistan, a program
potentially worth billions of dollars to the winner.
An award for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All
Terrain Vehicle (MRAP-ATV) is expected within days, probably
early next week, said one industry executive, who asked not to
be named because the competition was still ongoing.
U.S. defense officials have already said that the winning
bidder should expect to share its design and subcontract with
at least one losing bidder to quickly build vehicles for a U.S.
military buildup in Afghanistan, said the executive.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is a big fan of the MRAP
armored vehicles, which feature a V-shaped hull to deflect
roadside bombs, but the earlier versions are not maneuverable
enough to deal with Afghanistan's difficult, mountainous
terrain so the Pentagon is racing to buy a lighter version.
BAE Systems (BAES.L), Oshkosh Corp (OSK.N), Navistar
International Corp (NAV.N) and Force Dynamics LLC, a joint
venture between Force Protection Inc (FRPT.O) and General
Dynamics (GD.N), are competing for the lucrative contract.
The Pentagon appears likely to meet its goal of awarding a
contract by the end of June, said defense consultant Jim
McAleese. He said the Pentagon expected to buy 5,244 vehicles
for $12 billion in fiscal 2009 and 2010.
The Pentagon already has $1.7 billion in funding for the
program from the fiscal 2009 budget, plus an additional $4.5
billion included in a supplemental war spending budget, which
would allow quick orders of a large number of trucks, he said.
McAleese said the Pentagon decided to pick just one winning
design to streamline logistics, given difficulties in getting
weapons and supplies into Afghanistan, a land-locked country.
He said the Pentagon could stave off potential protests by
ordering more trucks up front so that the winner bidder could
award a sizable subcontract to one or more of the losing
The Pentagon's request for proposals said technical factors
such as vehicle survivability and mobility would be the most
important evaluation criteria in the competition, followed by
delivery schedule and production capability, pricing and past
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gary Hill)