BAE Systems makes the Paladin self-propelled howitzer. (BAE Systems)
WASHINGTON — BAE Systems got some good news on Oct. 21 when the Army announced it was awarding a low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract for upgrades to the Paladin PIM self-propelled howitzer program, which service leadership has praised for actually staying on budget and on schedule.
On Thursday, BAE added details to that announcement, explaining that the upgrades for the existing system features new chassis, engines, suspension and better survivability than legacy systems, and that the entire deal could be worth up to $688 million if the government exercises all options.
As with most other new Army programs, the service has demanded that BAE install a more capable on-board power system to accommodate emerging technologies while leaving enough space for future electronic requirements.
The Army plans to purchase 66 vehicle sets, plus spares in upcoming years.
The news comes just weeks after BAE announced it was shuttering two ground vehicle facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania, the biggest being the facility in Sealy, Texas, where 325 employees will be put out of work.
The facility at Sealy was focused on wheeled-vehicle production, and with orders having all but ended for mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles and the family of medium tactical vehicles and no new orders coming in, the company said it didn’t have enough work to keep the line open.
The first Paladin PIM vehicles will be delivered in mid-2015, with vehicle production taking place in York, Pa., and Elgin, Okla., the company said.
The Paladin is noteworthy not only for the upgrades that will keep it at the cutting edge for decades to come, but for the fact that Army leaders are so excited that their acquisition plans worked.
Speaking at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington on Oct. 23, Brig. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for ground combat systems, said “we’re really, really pleased to see a program like that make it into production,” since “I’m not sure when the last time was we had a major combat system enter into a Milestone C through the standard process.”
He called the program manager’s ability to simply stick to deadlines and budgets “a tremendous accomplishment.”
The AUSA show was hardly full of good news for Army acquisition programs. Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, said he would have to consider delaying or canceling the Ground Combat Vehicle program in upcoming budgets. Also, program managers said that unless there is a new infusion of cash, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program would run out of money next summer to continue testing the prototypes that industry delivered to the service in August.