LIMA, Ohio — Bad news on top of bad news.
That is how Mayor David Berger described reports of Israel slashing its contract for Namer heavy armored personnel carrier kits, a key to keeping Joint Systems Manufacturing Center employees on the job in Lima for the next few years.
The United States and Israel have negotiated a $281 million contract for General Dynamics to build the kits that would be assembled into 386 Namers in Israel. The United States and Israel anticipated General Dynamics could eventually win more than $800 million in orders for Israeli Namers.
DefenseNews.com reported the contract will be cut short at $150 million. Israel has drastically reduced the number of Namers to be purchased, at most now 170.
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, which also builds Abrams battle tanks, is building the Namer chassis.
The JSMC completed five prototypes structures last year and began a low-rate production phase at a rate of three per month for a total of 30 Namer armored personnel carriers to be delivered by October, General Dynamics Plant Manager Keith Deters said. General Dynamics operates the government-owned JSMC.
“Our contract is 110 Namers with options for another 276 vehicles, dependent on follow-on Israeli Ministry of Defense awards,” Deters said. “Our contracted work for 2014 is the focus of the attention at the plant. I cannot speculate on news reports of what the Israelis might decide on their program next year and beyond.”
Local officials and a bipartisan group in Congress disagrees with the notion, but the Pentagon has said foreign sales should be enough to sustain the factory until an updated version of the Abrams is needed.
Foreign sales contracts are notorious for taking much longer to negotiate than originally anticipated and also for shifting like sand under feet.
“Unfortunately, the Namer cuts are not the first of the foreign military sales prospects that have not worked out as hoped. Many of the other FMS opportunities that were hoped for in midsummer 2013 have not moved ahead as expected,” Berger said. “So this is bad news on top of other bad news.”
The two-part contract stated General Dynamics would invest in tooling and perform work at the JSMC for an initial 110 vehicles, with firm price options for 276 more, DefenseNews.com reported. The contract is funded with United States military aid.
The Army wants to stop Abrams production in 2016 to save money and resume work in 2019, when it will start building its next-generation Abrams tank, which it is developing with General Dynamics. A bipartisan group in Congress and Task Force LIMA have advocated to maintain minimal production until then. They believe it would actually cost more in the long run to close and then restart the program, and also jeopardize national security interests by losing the local skilled industrial workers in the meantime.