Aug. 28, 2013 - By PAUL McLEARY – Defense News
STERLING HEIGHTS, MICH. — The Iraqi government is negotiating with the US government and BAE Systems to purchase 200 Bradley Fighting Vehicles sometime during the next 15 months, according to BAE officials.
The potential deal is expected sometime in 2014 and could come just before another expected agreement is reached with Saudi Arabia to buy Bradleys in 2015. The Iraq contract would provide recently upgraded M2A2 ODS (Operation Desert Storm) variants to the Baghdad government, the same vehicles that the US Army National Guard uses.
“We’ve done all the upfront work and for those sales,” said Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of vehicle systems for the company. He added that Iraq already has about 1,000 tracked M113 infantry carriers made by BAE.
Although the sale of the vehicles would be good news for the company, which has been laying off employees in its Land Armaments sector since MRAP sales dried up, the decline in overall US defense spending is all but irreversible at this point, he said.
“We’re past the point where we can avoid layoffs,” Signorelli said during an event Aug. 26 at the company’s new glass-encased facilities here.
Overall, the company has been forced to reduce staff from 650 employees to about 335 at the facility in Michigan, which mostly does prototyping and research work for ground vehicles.
If the deals eventually go through, they’ll follow on about $4.3 billion worth of contracts the Iraqi government has requested in recent weeks from the US government for 50 Stryker infantry carriers, helicopters and air defense systems.
There is also a pending $750 million deal to do maintenance work on Iraqi M113s, Humvees, M88s and other ground vehicles, which Signorelli said BAE will likely bid on as part of a team with industry partners.
The Bradley industrial base is something that BAE Systems is extremely concerned about. Signorelli said the company has reached deals with the US Army to keep the line at York, Pa., humming through 2014, but that the work will run out about halfway through 2015. “We mitigated the major risks in ’14,” he said, but “we still can’t support the entire supply base. There will be layoffs.”
The work to convert 59 Bradley cavalry scout vehicles to the newer M2A3 configuration would end about halfway through 2015, which would be the end of the line until a larger reset program begins in 2018, the company has said.