LADSON, S.C. – Force Dynamics, the recently joint venture formed between Force protection and General Dynamics Land Systems, is off to a fast start.

The U.S. Marines this week awarded the venture a $67.4 million contract for 125 high-tech armored vehicles designed to protect Marines from explosive devices, such as land mines and improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

IEDs are currently the most deadly weapon being used against U.S., allied and Iraqi forces in Iraq.

Force Protection, which is based just north of Charleston, designs and builds the so-called mine resistant ambush protected, or MRAP, vehicles. Hundreds of its heavily armored vehicles are in use in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The S.C. firm recently formed the joint venture with General Dynamics, a multi-billion dollar defense contractor, in part to increase its vehicle production capabilities.

The Marine contract calls for a mixture of Buffalo and Cougar model vehicles.
Force Dynamics officials see the contract as just the start for the joint venture. The U.S. military could order as many as 4,100 vehicles with a value of some $2 billion.

“It’s the first of what we expect to be successive delivery orders toward what is becoming a very large requirement,” said Mike Aldrich, a vice president at Force Protection, in an interview with WRAL Local Tech Wire. “There are likely to be in excess of 4,100 vehicles ordered. It’s clearly going to be several billion dollars.”

For the initial Marine contract, much of the work will be done at the Ladson facility, Aldrich added.

“We’ll touch everyone of them,” he said, “but as the numbers increase you will see us spread out and use production facilities all over the country.”

The United Kingdom’s military has also purchased Force Protection vehicles.

General Dynamics produces armored vehicles such as the M1-A1 Abrams tanks for the U.S. military.