Britain takes Force Protection’s Ocelot for test drive

Charleston Regional Business Journal
Daniel Brock
April 30, 2010

The race for a massive European military vehicle deal has kicked into high gear.

Force Protection Europe, a subsidiary of Ladson-based armored truck maker Force Protection Inc., has signed a contract with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense to deliver a pair of Ocelot vehicles that the military agency will test as it seeks to find a replacement for scores of light-armored vehicles currently in service, the company announced this week.

But the Ocelot has competition. Company officials confirmed that they’re facing a challenge for the full contract of up to 400 vehicles from Supacat and NP Aerospace’s SPV400.

The ministry has also purchased a pair of SPV400s for testing, according to reports out of the U.K.

If selected, Force Protection said it could have 30 to 40 of the vehicles ready by mid-2011, officials said. A final decision is expected this summer, and Force Protection officials feel they are in good position.

“We expect what we would deliver would meet requirements that they (the Ministry of Defense) would set forth,” said Tommy Pruitt, Force Protection’s senior communication director.

The Ocelot, designed by Force Protection Europe and automotive engineering company Ricardo plc, features a V-shaped hull that can be topped with role-specific pods for various configurations, such as troop transport, fighting and logistics. The armored hull houses the main fuel tank, drive line, batteries and generator as well as the power pack, which includes the engine, gearbox, auxiliary fuel tank and electronic controls.

The vehicle can be used in a range of scenarios, including patrol, fire support and protected logistics. It’s also suited for operations in desert, jungle, mountainous or urban environments, among others, according to the company.

“We are very pleased with how our own testing and development schedule has been progressing. Ocelot has been performing well in tests since the middle of last year,” Force Protection Europe’s Managing Director David Hind said in a statement.

Force Protection will release its first quarter financial results on May 4, after the market closes. A conference call to discuss the results will be held at 4:30 p.m. the same day and will include comments from top-ranking Force protection officials, including Michael Moody, the company’s chief executive.

The question-and-answer session of the call will be limited to institutional analysts and investors, but retail brokers and individual investors can listen to a live webcast. It can be accessed via the home page of Force Protection’s website. Registration should be completed 15 minutes before the call. A replay will be available on the company’s website.

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