Emirates eye Oshkosh combat vehicles

Sept. 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM
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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates is considering buying a new batch of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles by U.S. maker Oshkosh.

John Bryant, Oshkosh vice president and general manager for Marine Corps programs, told Defense News in an interview that "significant foreign military sales" were in the works with the Emirates.

The mine-resistant vehicle was developed in recent years to meet urgent requirements in combat, at the request of U.S. forces deployed in Afghanistan. There are currently 8,108 vehicles on contract with the company for the U.S. military, Oshkosh says.

Bryant indicated to Defense News that two other foreign military sales were being negotiated in addition to that by the United Arab Emirates. He refrained to disclose further details.

Together with Saudi Arabia and Israel, the United Arab Emirates make up the region's biggest spenders of defense hardware. Last year alone and despite the global economic downturn, the Emirates poured some $4 billion into its military, about one-third of what Israel paid.

Saudi Arabia, alternatively, is expected to pay at least $36 billion annually over the next five years.

"The financial muscle of countries like Saudi Arabia and the (Emirates) is enabling them to keep spending a huge chunk of their (gross domestic product) on defense," Frost & Sullivan analysts reported recently.

Bryant said Oshkosh was expected to complete production of its order of 8,108 mine-resistant vehicles by the end of November, allowing the company to "address the needs of other countries."

The need for such equipment comes at a time when U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have intensified combat operations against Taliban insurgents who have equally been increasing their attacks against foreign troops.

The Defense News Web site reported that more U.S. contracts could be in store for Oshkosh as the Pentagon focuses on urgent operational needs for a so-called M-ATV-like ambulance.

Bryant said Oshkosh believed the U.S. Marine Corps was also in need for "a reconnaissance variant."

The so-called M-ATV program has produced the most military vehicles in a single month since World War II, Oshkosh contends. It says the company has rolled out more than 1,000 such vehicles per month, with a total 7,089 produced within a span of a year.

"Oshkosh's exceptional execution of the $6 billion M-ATV program has enabled it to repay the substantial majority of JLG-related debt and offset the $1.2-billion JLG write-down in fiscal 2009," the International Business Times reported.

"After cresting above 97 percent in second quarter of 2009, Oshkosh's fourth quarter of 2010 debt to total capital ratio should be less than 40 percent as net debt declines about $1.4 billion in one year," it said.

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