07.01.09

New Armored Vehicle Contract For Bennington Firm Means Hundreds Of New Regional Jobs And Safer And More Agile Armored Vehicles For U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

. . . Leahy Led In Securing $1.9 Billion For New All-Terrain Armored Vehicle

BENNINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy Wednesday announced that Bennington-based Plasan North America will help build a new agile armored vehicle that will help protect troops and create more than 100 jobs throughout the Bennington area, under a contract partly funded by a Leahy-led plus-up in an appropriations bill signed into law last month.  On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a $1.05 billion contract to a team led by Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corporation and Plasan North America to produce 2,244 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain-Vehicles (M-ATV).

According to Leahy, the M-ATV is a smaller version of the life-saving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle that has already been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Leahy said the new M-ATV is being designed specifically to negotiate the difficult terrain and dirt roads of Afghanistan without compromising the protective nature of the design of the vehicle and the armor supplied by Plasan.  He said the Defense Department anticipates this contract could eventually reach $3 billion for more than 5,000 vehicles.

Leahy is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of its Defense Subcommittee, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the Pentagon’s budget.  Earlier this year Leahy spoke with the Defense Department’s top leadership to ensure that the M-ATV was deployed to Afghanistan as quickly as possible.  During the Senate’s consideration of the supplemental war spending bill in May, Leahy led in including a provision to accelerate the development and deployment of the M-ATV with $1.9 billion in additional funding for the program, on top of the Administration’s initial request of $1.5 billion, for a total of $3.4 billion.  President Obama signed the bill into law in mid-June. 

Leahy, who visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in late May, saw first-hand the need for these vehicles in rugged Afghanistan.  When Leahy returned he assured Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie that Leahy would do all he could to make sure the Vermont Guard has the resources they need for their upcoming deployment.  “Vermonters will be building state-of-the-art vehicles that will protect soldiers in Afghanistan who may include friends, neighbors or relatives deployed with the Green Mountain Boys next year,” said Leahy.  “The Defense Department chose Oshkosh’s proposal partly because Plasan’s armor has been battle tested and has already saved lives.  The war in Afghanistan is being fought in the mountains and on back roads that our current equipment was not specifically designed to handle.  This vehicle is a better match for some of the toughest terrain in the world.  I hope it will be fielded widely in Afghanistan before, during and after our Vermonters begin arriving there.”

Plasan North America President Eyal Banai estimated that this contract will mean his plant will need to hire 80 people in the coming two weeks to two months.  In addition, Eyal reports that another 100 to 200 jobs will be created by area subcontractors, including Bennington’s armor finishing company J.B.M. Carmel. 

Banai said, “All of us here at Plasan are excited and proud to have been selected to contribute to the safety of our men and women in uniform.  We are equally delighted to be working in partnership with our friends at Oshkosh on this outstanding tactical vehicle which we are confident will serve and protect our troops well in Afghanistan.”

Banai said Plasan and Oshkosh anticipate delivering the first M-ATV by the end of July. 

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You can view a high-resolution Oshkosh company photo of the M-ATV here.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693