This week saw KONGSBERG Defence & Aerospace announce that it had signed a contract with General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada for delivery of the PROTECTOR Remote Weapon Stations (RWS) to the Canadian Army valued at USD$50 million. The PROTECTOR RWS will be integrated on Canada’s fleet of Armored Combat Support Vehicles (ACSVs). As noted, Canada signed its first PROTECTOR RWS contract in 2005 followed by additional contracts in 2012 and 2014.
The announcement of the huge Canadian follow-on award, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, comes on the heels of news that KONGSBERG had been selected by BAE Systems, Inc. to design and manufacture the remote Medium Caliber Turret (MCT) for the United States Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) -30 program.
KONGSBERG’s BAE Systems / USMC contract — which will see the company deliver up to 150 Johnstown, PA-manufactured MCTs in a phased program to commence in Fiscal Year 2021 — is not a follow-on contract, but rather breaks new ground for the company, as the KONGSBERG MCT-30 is the first remotely operated 30mm turret to be qualified and fielded in the US. The U.S. Army, in 2015, chose KONGSBERG’s MCT-30 to increase the lethality of the Stryker Brigade in Europe.
In addition to securing follow-on contracts (Canada’s ACSVs), and winning more open competitions (the USMC’s ACV) not to mention recent RWS awards in Denmark and Germany and Switzerland (all announced December 2019), KONGSBERG’s RWS and MCT have been designated as the “lethality” Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) by the U.S. Army for the Light (L) and Medium (M) variants of the Service’s nascent Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) program.
It is this development — having its products spec’ed in as GFE wherein all candidate RCV systems must use KONGSBERG’s hardware for the lethality component in all of their competing RCV-L and RCV-M offerings — that is perhaps most significant for the company moving forward, not only in the U.S., but internationally.
In a recent interview with this publication, Scott Burk, Vice President, Business Development USA, KONGSBERG Defence & Aerospace, expressed the company’s “tremendous appreciation” for the Army’s decision and called the designation of KONGSBERG’s RWS as a common lethality solution for the RCV platforms — and prospectively as a common lethality solution for the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) — a “favorable end state” for the company.
Burk, who began our exchange by noting that the company has not experienced significant production or delivery challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., explained that KONGSBERG, over the past 24-36 months, has been squarely focused on enhancing its RWS fire control architectures and, in particularly, on ensuring their scaleability and growth potential. He offered that the company’s designation as GFE for the two RCV classes reflects the U.S. Army’s confidence that the company’s systems and systems architectures are proven both low-risk and open to growth.
Ahead for KONGSBERG in the U.S. market is the goal of upgrading three Army Stryker brigades with the KONGSBERG MCT-30 system that the company provided to upgun the Army’s Stryker Brigade in Europe. Burk notes that the Army’s Strkyer lethality initiative could extend to as many as 700 Stryker platforms.
Also, a company priority, according to Burk, is increasing user appreciation of the full mission/weaponization set of KONGSBERG’s RWS turrets to include integration of missiles such as STINGER, ATGMs including JAVELIN, and Counter-UAS systems on both manned and unmanned platforms. Related, Burk believes that integration of a range of RWS-mounted systems on unmanned ground vehicles will be a significant part of the market moving forward and he said that he was not surprised to see that C-UAS was among the first capability sets identified for the Army’s new Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport (SMET).
Burk explains that KONGSBERG’s recent run of success can be explained by the company’s one-task focus. “What sets us apart from the competition is that remote lethality is all that we do. We are 100% focused on that business, our supply chain is committed, and that focus makes us a very favorable solution. ”