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U.K. Picks Light Patrol Vehicle

The Ocelot, developed by Force Protection and British
automotive engineering company Ricardo, beat a bid from
Supacat to build a new generation of heavily protected,
lightweight and mobile vehicles intended for patrol work in
urban and other areas. (Force Protection)

LONDON – Force Protection Europe has been named preferred bidder to supply the British Army with a new light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV) to equip troops fighting in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence said the number of vehicles to be ordered is subject to negotiation.

The Ocelot machine, developed by the U.K. arm of Force Protection and British automotive engineering company Ricardo, beat a rival bid from local supplier Supacat to build a new generation of heavily protected, lightweight and mobile vehicles to replace the much-criticized Snatch Land Rover for patrol work in urban and other areas.
MoD officials declined to give any numbers for the initial purchase, and said that a further buy will be subject to the confirmation of a wider requirement that is being assessed as part of the strategic defense and security review expected to be published late next month.

The British previously said they would initially purchase about 200 LPPVs as an urgent operational requirement, followed by 200 more later. Industry executives originally put the price of the first batch, including some support, at around 100 million pounds ($156 million).

Industry executives last month said that the first 200 would likely be funded by the Treasury by money set aside for urgent operational requirements, but that subsequent purchases might have to come out of the MoD’s core budget.

Gen. Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, the chief of defense materiel, said the LPPV will “offer huge benefit to the troops in Afghanistan, as well as being a valuable asset to the armed forces in the future.”

The upcoming contract could create 600 new jobs in the U.K., Force Protection executives said.

Final assembly of the Ocelot will be undertaken at Ricardo’s facility in Shoreham-by-Sea in southern England. Other major suppliers include QinetiQ, Thales UK, the Defence Support Group and Formaplex, which is manufacturing the Ocelot’s composite armored pods.

MoD officials hope to conclude negotiations for the first 200 vehicles next month, with deliveries complete and the machine in theater during the fourth quarter of next year.

A launch order for the machine is expected to pave the way for exports. Ocelot has already been short-listed to meet part of the Australian Land 121 requirement.

Losing bidder Supacat said it intended to continue developing its SPV400 vehicle to meet international demand for the new class of vehicle for military and non-military markets.

The LPPV program was begun by the previous Labour government after heavy criticism about deaths and injuries caused by the inadequate protection against roadside bombs offered by the Snatch Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ocelot can carry a crew of two and four dismounted troops.

The large-scale use of composite armor allows it to offer what the MoD said in a statement here today was “unprecedented levels of blast protection for a vehicle of this size.”

The vehicle’s gross weight is around 7.5 tons; width is 2.1 meters; length, 5.3 meters. It has a turning circle not far off what a London taxi can achieve.

Force Protection has already supplied many high-protection vehicles to British forces in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Mastiff, Ridgback, Wolfhound and Buffalo machines have been purchased by the British in the last few years.

The Snatch Land Rovers the Ocelot will replace have been largely withdrawn from frontline duties in Afghanistan; the gap is being filled by larger but better-protected machines.

By coincidence, Marshall Land Systems unveiled a new use for the now-discredited Snatch Land Rover at its factory in Petersfield in southern England on Sept. 21.

The company showed a remote-controlled version of the Land Rover created by its Marshall’s SDG arm to assist with duties such as route clearance, convoy protection and base perimeter protection. The vehicle can carry a variety of sensors.

The work was originally funded by the British MoD, but Marshall has used its own money to continue development since government funds dried up.

A similar development by another unknown U.K. company has already been used in Afghanistan for route clearance work by the British Army, other industry executives said.

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