UPDATE 2-Pentagon OKs plans to buy more armored vehicles

* Decision adds 1,460 truck orders for Oshkosh

* Navistar, General Dynamics and BAE also get orders

* Pentagon added up to 4,000 vehicles to requirement
(Adds additional data from Pentagon)

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (BestGrowthStock) – The Pentagon’s weapons chief
has approved plans to buy more than 2,800 additional armored
vehicles for use in Afghanistan, including 1,460 all-terrain
versions made by Oshkosh Corp (OSK.N: ).

Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter signed a memorandum on
Jan. 29 boosting the total number of Mine Resistant Ambush
Protected (MRAP) vehicles to be bought to 25,700, according to
a copy of the document obtained by Reuters.

He approved specific orders of 1,460 MRAP-All Terrain
Vehicles (M-ATV) made by Oshkosh; 1,050 Dash MRAP versions with
independent suspensions built by Navistar International Corp
(NAV.N: ); 250 RG-31A3 versions built by General Dynamics Corp
(GD.N: ) and 58 RG-33 MRAPS made by BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L: ).

The U.S. Central Comman, which runs the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, requested the additional vehicles, Carter said in
the memo. More could be needed later, he said.

“It is not known and will not be known soon, how many
vehicles will ultimately be required,” Carter said in the memo,
which was first reported by trade publication Inside the Army.

“While these assessments are going on, it is important to
begin production and initial fielding since otherwise needed
vehicles will be unnecessarily delayed,” he wrote.

Carter’s memo followed a Jan. 4 decision by the Pentagon’s
Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to add up to 4,000
more trucks to its MRAP requirement, boosting that number to
26,882 vehicles.

Defense consultant Jim McAleese said the orders should
provide a short-term boost for the four companies, but probably
represented the tail end of the MRAP orders for Afghanistan.

“These represent the majority of the final orders to
support the war in Afghanistan,” McAleese said, although he
noted Central Command still had the option to ask for about
1,200 more vehicles, if needed, given the JROC decision.

In addition, he said the companies would be vying for work
upgrading the vehicles and supporting them in the field.

The U.S. military had a total of 4,170 MRAPs in
Afghanistan, including 575 of the Oshkosh all-terrain models,
as of Jan. 21, said Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year said U.S. plans to
increase troops in Afghanistan would likely require an
additional 4,000 to 5,000 all-terrain MRAPS built by Oshkosh.

The U.S. military has spent more than $12.5 billion in
recent years to speed the blast-proof MRAP trucks, first to
Iraq, and now to Afghanistan.

The vehicles have a v-shaped hull that helps to protect
troops against roadside bombs and other threats that have been
blamed for killing U.S. troops in less armored Humvees and
other land vehicles.

Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, told reporters on Monday the Pentagon’s fiscal 2010
supplemental war budget includes more than $1 billion to
complete the MRAP program and $3.4 billion in the fiscal 2011
budget to sustain it.

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(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Gerald E.
McCormick, Andre Grenon, Leslie Gevirtz)

UPDATE 2-Pentagon OKs plans to buy more armored vehicles