Exclusive: Japan's MHI U.S. Army vehicle suspension may mark milestone for defense exports

Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:19am EST
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By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) (7011.T: Quote) has designed a new suspension for the U.S. Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, potentially the first Japanese defense hardware built for export in decades.

The design is for an upgrade of the mainstay infantry carrier proposed by Britain's BAE Systems (BAES.L: Quote). If adopted, it would be the first Japanese component designed specifically for a foreign military to be exported in seven decades.

MHI and other Japanese defense companies are seeking overseas sales after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a ban on arms exports two-and-a-half years ago. However, no significant export deals have been secured yet.

"It could be a pretty good deal for Mitsubishi Heavy," said one of the sources who know about the partnership with BAE, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. Army currently has around 6,000 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and has asked BAE and rival General Dynamics Corp (GD.N: Quote) to submit proposals for new or upgraded vehicles to improve mobility, fire power and survivability.

The sources did not say how much the Japanese suspension will cost. Twelve of the suspension components would be needed for the twelve road or "bogie" wheels per vehicle to cushion its tracks.

BAE displayed a prototype upgraded Bradley for the first time at the Association of the United States Army exposition in Washington in October, where it also displayed a mock up of MHI's suspension.

“It was simply displayed alongside the vehicle and at this time remains an early prototype, not a part of the vehicle,” said a spokesman for BAE Systems.   Continued...

U.S. servicemen drive Bradley infantry fighting vehicles during the joint U.S.-Georgian exercise Noble Partner 2015 at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi, Georgia, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili/File Photo