Morocco has requested an FMS sale of 200 refurbished US Army M1A1 Abrams tanks upgraded to SA configuration, and related kit, at a cost of just over $1 billion. (US Army photo)
WASHINGTON --- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for enhancement and refurbishment of 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks and associated parts, equipment, logistical support and training for an estimated cost of $1.015 billion.
The Government of the Kingdom of Morocco has requested a possible enhancement and refurbishment of 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks, provided as part of a grant Excess Defense Article (EDA) transfer notified to Congress on 27 April 2011, to the M1A1 Special Armor (SA) configuration.
The possible sale will also provide 150 AN/VRC-87E and 50 AN/VRC-89E Exportable Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), 200 M2 Chrysler Mount Machine Guns, and 400 7.62MM M240 Machine Guns. The possible sale also includes 12,049,842 Ammunition Rounds (including 1400 C785 SABOT, 1800 CA31 HEAT, and 5400 AA38 SLAP-T), 200 M250 Smoke Grenade Launchers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, communication support, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support. The estimated cost is $1.015 billion.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major Non-NATO ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in Africa.
This package of M1A1 tank enhancements will contribute to the modernization of Morocco’s tank fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats. These tanks will contribute to Morocco’s goal of updating its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the U.S. and other allies. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The prime contractor will be General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Refurbishment work will be performed at Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to Morocco involving up to 64 U.S. Government and 13 contractor representatives for a period of up to five years to manage the fielding and training for the program.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. (ends)
LIMA, Ohio --- Tipping the scales at nearly 70 tons and sporting a sinister 120mm cannon, the M1 Abrams tank is a core weapon in the U.S. military's formidable ground force.
The battle tank is also the foundation for hundreds of jobs in Lima at General Dynamics Corp. Land Systems' Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, the only place on Earth where workers build and refurbish the Abrams. But the program and the jobs it supports are again at risk, sparking a fight that has aligned Congress, General Dynamics, and Lima-area officials against the White House, the Army brass, and the Pentagon's bean counters.
For the second year in a row, the Army's budget request has included nothing for building new or upgrading existing Abrams tanks. And for the second year in a row, Congress is trying to give the program millions of dollars anyway.
It's not that the Abrams, which entered service in 1980, is obsolete. Far from it, in fact. Defense experts still consider it among the top tier -- if not the best -- of battle tanks in the world. It's so good that the Army intends to use upgraded variants of the tank until at least 2050. But for now, the Army says its orders have been filled and the current tank fleet is up to date to current specifications.
The Army originally wanted to idle its Abrams orders from 2013 until 2017, when it plans to unveil its next-generation Abrams tank. However, Congress approved $255 million last year that gave General Dynamics work to upgrade 46 tanks. The Pentagon has again this year requested no additional funding for the Abrams until 2017, meaning U.S. orders would dry up in June, 2014.
Plant supporters say that plan softens national defense, costs the Army more money than it saves, and harms the industrial base and supply chain.
"It makes no sense to stop a program for four years and start it up in 2017," Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said. "That is a draconian cut, and it essentially kills all the suppliers that create the supply chain in tank production. The accountants don't really care about that, so Congress has to look at the impact on the over-ground system and try to make other changes in the budget that yield the same result but without killing one of the Army's key programs."
Miss Kaptur's 9th District doesn't include the tank plant, but she is a member of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee and has lent heavy support to the facility.
As recently as three years ago, the plant, which also builds Stryker armored vehicles, employed about 1,250 people.
After 200 layoffs this year, that number is down to about 840. It's expected to shrink more this year as work slows.
"These are very good-paying, highly skilled jobs," Lima Mayor David Berger said. "It's a significant employer with a demand for skill sets that would not be in demand at other locations because of the uniqueness of their product. You don't go to school and get a degree in building Abrams tanks. You get your experience, your expertise, in actually building them."
Mr. Berger and others worry that laid-off workers, unable to find work that suits their skills in Lima, 75 miles south of Toledo, would leave town. They argue retraining workers after a three-year lull would be costly in time and money.
A pause in production would hurt the Abrams' roughly 880 suppliers, many of which General Dynamics says are small companies.
Bob Block, the owner of Block Industrial Service Inc. in the Toledo suburb of Northwood, supplies tooling to the Lima plant.
"I would classify them as a very good customer," he said. "They would be an 'A' category customer. If something would happen that they would close the plant, it wouldn't be a catastrophe, but we see them as a very good customer. They buy regularly, two or three times a week, and they pay well."
Mr. Block's firm supplies tooling to several machine shops in the region that make parts for the plant. Many of those shops, he said, would be endangered by an Abrams shutdown.
"Those machine shops, that's another story. They have skilled people, tool-and-die makers and programmers for CNC machines, and it's hard to find those people. That would be a problem for the machine shops in the area."
General Dynamics and the military estimate shutting down the plant would cost between $600 million and $800 million. But while the Army projects reopening the plant would cost about $400 million, General Dynamics estimates the cost would be nearly $1 billion.
That's a bill Mr. Berger thinks the Pentagon would be unwilling to pay.
"We believe it will become so expensive to restart, it won't be restarted, and instead those capabilities will be re-established somewhere else," he said.
Ashley Givens, a spokesman for the U.S. Army, said the army isn't "shutting down" the Lima plant. Rather, the Army is focusing on tank modernization and foreign military sales.
"This production 'pause' of U.S. tanks will allow the Army to focus its limited resources on the development of the next generation Abrams tank instead of building more of the same M1A2 SEPv2 tanks that have exceeded their space, weight, and power limits," Ms. Givens said in a statement to The Blade.
The Army says military sales to countries such as to Saudi Arabia and Egypt should provide enough orders to keep the line running. No one is arguing against those foreign military sales, but lawmakers and others caution against relying on them.
"We're fine with the sales. We just want to make sure the Army doesn't rely on them to keep production going because of the potential interruption," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio). "The volatility of it can go up and can go down, and we need to have something more reliable than that." (end of excerpt)
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