“New Army light tank under construction” – TTG

General Dynamics Land Systems began assembling the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower system in November, after being selected in June to build the light tank. The first new combat vehicle to join the force in nearly four decades, the MPF system is meant to improve mobility, protection and direct-fire capabilities on the battlefield, originally reported by Army Times sister publication Defense News. The system includes a new chassis – or base frame – design. The turret is new, said Kevin Vernagus, the GDLS director for the MPF system, while working to maintain an interior and controls like an Abrams tank.

The service expects to spend about $6 billion over the course of MPF’s procurement process. Estimates suggest that the total life-cycle cost of the program will total around $17 billion. The first production of MPF will be delivered to the service in late 2023, with an initial delivery of vehicles. However, the contract stipulates that the Army is allowed to purchase up to 70 more over the course of early production for a total of more than $1.1 billion.

Beating out competitor BAE Systems, GDLS delivered 12 prototypes to be evaluated by soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division. Despite positive marks compared to its competitors, GDLS is coordinating with the Army to fix some issues with overheating experienced at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. Army leaders plan on buying 504 vehicles meant to be in the service’s inventory for at least 30 years. Most of the procurement should be finished by 2035.


Comment:  This armored vehicle is to function as an infantry support vehicle rather than a light tank. The 105mm gun is not meant to take on main battle tanks (MBT), although it could probably do well against many of them. Its armor protection is certainly no match for the guns of enemy MBTs or the more advanced ATGMs on today’s battlefields. But it will be a welcome sight to the infantrymen of airborne and light infantry battalions. But don’t mount ERA (explosive reactive armor) or an active protective system like Trophy on these new armored vehicles. The accompanying infantry will not appreciate it. These mobile protective firepower systems do have telephones on the rear of the vehicles so infantry can talk directly with the vehicle crew during combat. That’s not something new, but I’m glad to see it’s included on this vehicle. 

The 82nd Airborne had a tank battalion for as long as I can remember. I went through Jump School in 1973. I wondered why three armor lieutenants were in the class. They told me about their M-551 Sheridans. I was intrigued by this air droppable tank. The only Sheridans I ever saw were the three in the ground cavalry troop of the 3/4 Cavalry Squadron of the 25th ID. They were always used to aggress against us during exercises in the Kahuku Mountain training areas, certainly not ideal tank country. I was close enough to one to have the whip antenna of a PRC-77 I was carrying run over on a greasy, muddy jungle track.

The Sheridans fired the  Shillelagh ATGM as an anti-tank round as well as 152mm conventional HE rounds. I saw them at the range firing those conventional rounds one day. One Sheridan fired a round and then sat there deader than Kelsey’s nuts. A second Sheridan fired a round and the turret began spinning uncontrollably. That was the end of that day’s range firing. Needless to say, the Sheridan’s electrical systems had a lot of problems. 

The Sheridans were used in Viet Nam where the aluminum hull armor’s vulnerability to RPG fire was quickly discovered. They weren’t any better than the M113 APCs in that respect. Although it was always referred to as an “Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle” rather than as a light tank, it clearly didn’t do the concept of light tanks any favor. Still, Sheridans were employed in combat during the 1989 operation in Panama and again during Operation Desert Shield. The old Sheridan, warts and all, worked fairly well in both those conflicts, especially in Panama where “tank fright” among the Panamanian troops was a real thing.

Both the Army and the Marine Corps fiddled with the light tank/mobile gun concept for years looking for a suitable replacement for the Sheridan. It looks like this new MPF system (good lord this thing needs a new name badly) will fit the bill. The grunts and tread heads who worked with the initial batch of prototypes were very pleased with it.




This video does a good job in explaining how the Army will organize and employ these new MPF systems.

This entry was posted in The Military Art, TTG, weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to “New Army light tank under construction” – TTG

  1. KjHeart says:

    Col. Lang

    I am wondering of the PRC-77 was repairable after its encounter with the Sheridan?

    As I often have to look up some of your phrases, I found a very nice write up on ‘Kelsey’s nuts” – seems there was a real person



    • Pat Lang says:

      and I are not the same person.

      • KjHeart says:

        my Apologies – I did not read the author line carefully – I have an eye nerve injury and the bright white background on your web page causes a difficulty as the lines can jumble for me.

        No offense intended and YES – I knew you are not the same person =)


    • TTG says:


      This was just the tip of the 3 foot whip antenna of the radio that went under the Sheridan’s tread. It was in my rucksack on my back while I was laying in the roadside ditch. Never wanted my skull that close to a tank tread again.

      I first heard the Kelsey’s nuts phrase decades ago by an old Irishman and took a shine to it. It was also used in Clint Eastwood’s “The Eiger Sanction.” It was much later when I read about the Kelsey Wheel Company. It made sense to me since I grew up with the phrase “make it dead” when referring to making a secure or tight connection.

      • KjHeart says:


        Thank you

        the “Make it dead’ or that phrase ‘dead to rights’ would then also go toward specs and torque… it is a useful saying.

        And just so you know I am visually impaired and even I DO KNOW that you are Col Lang are not the same person.

        You BOTH use jargan and phrases that I am not familiar with… I Am learning though –


        • KjHeart says:


          …and YES – I shudder to think how close your skull was to a tank tread… so the Radio still worked after the antenna was run over by a tank??? Sweet!


        • Pat Lang says:

          You have to learn our vocabulary. Otherwise, you will never really comprehend what we are talking about.

          • KjHeart says:

            Col. Lang

            Absolutely – I keep looking up military vocabulary sites – none are comprehensive but a few are good (I think).

            I spend anywhere from 2 to 7 hours per week learning about what I read here. You give me lots of homework and I do not mind that.

            I hope you will forgive my errors and know that I am grateful when you take time to offer correction.

            Thank you


  2. KjHeart says:

    doing my due diligence and further researching I found a great euuutube video


    Being a bit of a motorhead I thought the electrical problems you mentioned sounded an awful lot like typical GM electrical problems… Turns out my instinct was correct. Early GM Cadillac military vehicle division designers. Yup. GM.

    This was a nice overview and some good footage for a person like me – the Tank Enthusiast discusses the criteria that lead to the turret spin. This Tank Enthusiast has a lot of followers who were in the service and had personal experience- there is some rich information in the comment section as well.

    As always, I learned something. Thanks.


  3. LeaNder says:

    The Sheridans were used in Viet Nam
    We had a NAM veteran poet on SST once upon a long time ago, who, if I recall correctly, published a great story there which prominently featured a Sheridan. Wrong? Forget his name.

    Colors can be adjusted for the field of action?

  4. LeaNder says:

    TTG, how many years had you spent in the military before you entered jump school? They seem to come from all over the the army and navy.

    • TTG says:

      I went to jump school in the summer of 1973 after my 1st year in college. It was my introduction to the Army. I walked into the ROTC armory at RPI before Christmas vacation in 1972 and told the sergeant major I wanted to join. I took military science 101 the following spring semester, joined the drill team and the ranger platoon and found some literature on jump school. I told the sergeant major I wanted to go. He was good friends with the Airborne Department’s sergeant major and arranged for me to get a slot. This was before I signed any ROTC enlistment papers. That was the way the Army worked back then. I got a 3 year ROTC scholarship in the fall and signed my Army Reserve enlistment papers at that time. That’s when I met MSG Albert H. Rivers, newly returned from 3 years in MACVSOG.

  5. Thomas says:

    The other thing to use 152mm guns, the M60A2s had poor reliability with their electronics and guns too. I’ve heard of their electronics shorting out after firing, or having to boresight the gun again after firing a round because everything got knocked out of alignment.

  6. Leith says:

    Hope they name it after the old M3 Lee. Tell the press it is for Lighthorse Harry and not Robert E in order to fend off any complaints on the name.

    I note the Corps is getting rid of their tank battalions. The Abrams is just too dam heavy. With the success of ATGMs in Ukraine that may be a good move. IMHO they should replace those tank battalions with anti-tank armored units. Need to come up with a small lightweight armored vehicle carrying a dozen or so ATGMs. But keep it tiny like the old ’ONTO’ that carried six 106mm recoilless rifles. Those ONTOs had little or no protection and the crews called them “spam in a can”. But they were fast, agile, and a small target.

    • RHT447 says:

      That would be Ontos (Greek for “thing”). I went through Small Arms Repair School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in ’74 and was trained on the M40 106mm and M8C .50 cal spotting gun. I maintain that the Ontos is the most bad ass six-shooter ever. The USMC made good use of them in Vietnam.

      • TTG says:


        Those jeep-mounted M40s were still going strong in the Lebanese 8th Brigade in 1983. We acquired one for the defense of our team camp.

      • borko says:

        That Ontos thingy reminds of this:


        lightweight but lots of firepower

        Maybe that’s the future. With much, much better batteries, a wearable, lightly armored, but heavily armed exoskeleton is very doable. You could have various types for various roles. Manned or unmanned.


        • Pat Lang says:

          The ONTOS carried several recoilless rifles, each of which is a weapon aimed at a point, It was Not an area weapon. Why just nor reload one recoilless?

          • Leith says:

            Designed primarily as a helo-liftable antitank platform. It’s six recoilless rifles “could be fired in rapid succession against single targets to increase the probability of a kill.” It made some kills against light tanks in the Dominican Republic in ’65.

            In Viet-Nam it was used to take out NVA that were in fortified buildings & bunkers in the Battle of Hue City. It was the only support weapon available light enough to get across the Perfume River bridges. They were also airlifted to Khe Sanh for a static defense role, using HE against bunkers and caves plus beehive rounds against NVA infantry. Too bad the ARVN did not have some Ontos in 1975 against the two + NVA brigades of T54s and PT76s.

          • TTG says:


            The Marine brigade at Kaneohe still had mechanical mule mounted 106 recoilless rifles when I was with the 25th ID. I always thought they were kind of nifty. The 25th ID was exchanging their jeep mounted 106s for TOWs as I arrived in 1977. We used the same jeeps, just exchanged the 106s for the TOWs. Each rifle company had a section of 2 TOWs with 2 ammo jeeps. The weapons company had another platoon of TOWs. We retained 2 90mm recoilless rifles in each rifle platoon, although they were to be eventually swapped out for the Dragon ATGM sometime after I left. With a choice of HEAT, flechette or HE rounds, I thought they were far more versatile than the Dragon. I ran the qualification range for the battalion several times as the poor bastard gunners road marched out to the range carrying those buggers. But they all looked forward to the live firing after the sub-munition device qualification.

          • Leith says:

            TTG – Loved those old mechanical mules. They could carry a big load. We need an up to date replacement. I’ve heard there is a militarized version of the John Deere Gator. Hope it is working out for heavy burdens of wpns and ammo.

          • TTG says:


            It appears those militarized Gators and other brands have been in the inventory for quite a while. I knew JSOC units and SF were using them, but other units also used them in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also remember the 9th ID experimenting with light rail dune buggies back in the day. I’ve seen the stories of their use in Ukraine by tank killing and recon teams. They remind me of the original 1/4 tons or Willys jeeps before they enlarged into the M-151 version and then replaced by the massive HMMWV. And they’re not as disconcerting as those robotic mules. Those things give me the creeps.



          • Leith says:

            TTG –

            The Corps also experimented with dune buggies back in the late 1970/early 80s. That was at 29 Palms training center in the Mojave Desert just north of Joshua Tree National Monument. But the brass cancelled the program. I heard it was because the young lieutenants and corporals running the experiment were having too much fun and tipped a couple of buggies belly up.

            But a friend tells me that they purchased a hundred plus utility type dune buggies a few years back. And those will be replaced in the future with the ULTV or Ultra-Light Tactical Vehicle which have more speed, better off road capability, and a lower profile. I wonder if the motivation for that program was the success that Ukr special forces had with similar vehicles. I assume they are doing that together with the Army or with SOCOM.

        • TTG says:


          That’s the theory behind the widespread use of “technicals” armed with heavy machine guns, recoiless rifles and light AA guns. Crew protection relies totally on speed, wise use of terrain for cover, good sense in choosing what target to go against and, of course, cast iron balls.

  7. Fred says:

    “Army leaders plan on buying 504 vehicles meant to be in the service’s inventory for at least 30 years.”

    Thirty years? That has to be the most ignorant desine criteria for a tank I’ve ever heard of.

    • TTG says:


      The Abrams is well into its 40s and still going strong. How about the B-52 and the m-16 rifle? Incremental improvements seems to be the smart way to go for a lot of weapons.

      • Fred says:


        Nobody has shot at a B52 since ’75(?). I don’t think that M16 you carried had two decades of wear and tear on it. While I understand the airframe basis of thearguement, they certainly could have phrased this better. However I doubt this frame line is going to be around for some low volume reconstruction over the remaining 3 decades once the first 500 are built. (If it is DOD needs to get all that cost pulled out of the work as the it should all be amortized over the first 500.) Is that the same turret as the Abrahms or just the ‘configuration’? If so it is another example of misleading by the journalists.

        • TTG says:


          We had M-16s in our arms rooms that still had the 3 prong suppressors in 1979. I don’t know if any M-16s are depot rebuilt, but that’s common for airframes, tanks and even HIMARS.

          The interior layout of this new MPF vehicle is very similar to the Abrams. That was done on purpose so tankers trained on the Abrams can transition to the new tank rapidly. That’s good as long as they don’t forget they are not in an Abrams.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      How many years has the Joe Biden doll been in the inventory?
      Can he still catch bullets in his teeth? I hear he still helps out occasionally with his old duties as strongman in the Barnum and Bailey Circus. An “elephants walk on my chest” type of guy.

  8. Pat Lang says:

    Not a tank? It sure looks like one to me. Rotating turret, armored, treads. People are going to be sure it is a tank. Name it for Lee’s father? Good. As a graduate of the wreckage that was VMI, I would applaud that.

    • TTG says:


      I think Lee, as in Light-Horse Harry Lee, would be a good and appropriate name. Harry Lee famously led a cavalry-infantry legion so the infantry connection is there. However, with the current purge of all things Confederate from the Army, Lee’s name would be a non-starter.

      I’m sure that despite the intended employment as an infantry support gun, this will be known as a light tank. It would more than hold its own against a force of T-62/64s or T-72s. As long as one keeps its shortcomings in mind, it could probably be effective against most any other tank as well. ATGM armed Ukrainian infantry mounted on ATVs take out the best Russia has to offer so why not?

  9. Pat Lang says:

    I watched a Sheridan augur in from 1000 feet once on Sicily DZ on the former Ft. Bragg. I was in the bleachers to watch. It was a splendid pile of wreckage. All the main chutes streamered. On another occasion I watched a Sheridan dragged out of a C-130 on a pallet by drogue chutes. This was at about ten feet off the ground. That worked better.

  10. Snhoj says:

    The Russians have had a comparable light tank, the 2SD24 Sprut-SD tank destroyer, equipped with a 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore gun, under development for some time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2S25_Sprut-SD . (Russian Wikipedia says over 36 were produced: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/2С25 .) Weighing 18 tons, with a welded steel turret and an Aluminum alloy hull with composite skin, it is air transportable. Some problem with fuel leakage caused production to be suspended, just resumed last August for the upgraded SD-1 model. It was initially deployed in battalions of 18 units, one per airborne division. They were reportedly vulnerable to RPG’s, artillery, and drones in the Ukraine. There was a report the Ukrainians captured one near Kherson, with a 3-man crew cobbled together from the Airborne, Army, and Naval Infantry, because of personnel shortages.

Comments are closed.