The worldwide market for military ground combat vehicles and tanksBlog
June 29, 2023
WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG. In our last adventure, we explored the worldwide military markets using three recent reports, and integrated those into the TAM-SAM-SOM model (total addressable market, serviceable addressable market, and serviceable obtainable market). That expedition gave us a macro-view of things. Now, it’s time to put on our rubber gloves, get out the sharp knives, and carve the military market into edible segments. The most objective way to dismember this massive creature is to cut it up by platform, so we’ll start with the largest volume segment: ground combat vehicles (GCV) and tanks.
Let’s start at the top. According to sources on the web, the Pentagon operates more than 420,000 ground vehicles. About 170,000 of those are non-combat vehicles (staff cars, delivery vans, box-trucks, pick-up trucks, fuel trucks, water trucks, dump trucks, fire trucks, buses, etc). The remaining 250,000 are armored or weaponized to some degree, for use in expeditionary operations and combat zones. Nobody gives us an accurate count of all the ground combat vehicles in the world (all the reports count things differently), so we are forced to derive an estimate from other published data. According to Global Firepower, the U.S. operates 34.7% of all ground combat vehicles, so that suggests there are roughly 720,500 GCVs in the world today. (250,000/0.347=720,461). However, these numbers are moving around. More than 2,600 GCVs have been donated to Ukraine, along with about 230 tanks. And, Russia has lost over 3,000 tanks and 7,000 ground vehicles in the war so far. There are more than 70,000 tanks in the world today and the U.S. operates 5,500 (with another 3,500 in storage). Of the 195 countries in the world, 114 countries operate some version of the tank. About 50 military contractors build tanks or their parts. On the other hand, 145 countries operate a version of the GCV. Over 90 military contractors make GCVs or their parts.Since non-combat military vehicles are basically commercial vehicles painted green and not very interesting, we'll focus on the tactical vehicles used in combat here. The highest volume vehicle for that environment is the Humvee. Since 1983, more than 175,000 have been built and shipped by AM General, to the U.S. military services and to 50 other countries. The U.S. Army (and National Guard) bought about 120,000 Humvees. Many of those are older models that will be replaced when they wear out, by a new series of combat vehicles in the future. Humvees cost just over $200,000 each. There are seven new tactical vehicles being deployed by the U.S. Army today. Over 18,500 JLTVs (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) have been built and shipped to the U.S. Army by Oshkosh since 2005 to replace the Humvee, at a cost of about $250,000 each. In February, the contract was won by AM General, and the Army ordered another 20,682 vehicles. The plan is for the Army to buy 49,000 of these vehicles and the Marines will buy 9,000 (58,000 total). That number will rise as the Humvees remaining in service are retired.
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The Army has purchased 300 ISVs (Infantry Squad Vehicle) from GM Defense. Only 177 have been transferred to infantry units for testing and evaluation and the remaining units (123) will be deployed to combat units later this year. The Army plans to buy a total of 649 of these vehicles by 2025. The ISV is built on the Chevy Colorado midsize pick-up truck chassis and cost about $175,000 each. In the future, the Army wants 2,593 of these vehicles. In March, the first 20 AMPVs (Armored Multi Purpose Vehicle) made by BAE Systems shipped to infantry units for testing and evaluation. This vehicle will replace the old M113 APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). More than 80,000 M113s have been built since 1960. The present plan is to build and deploy about 2,907 AMPVs in the near future, at a cost of $1.8 Million each. About 450 older M113 APCs have been shipped to Ukraine by the U.S. and other countries. GDLS (General Dynamics Land Systems) has been making the Stryker armored fighting vehicle since 2002, and 4900 have been built at a cost of about $4.9 million each. As of March 2023, 90 of those Strykers were shipped to Ukraine. Production ended in 2014, but many Strykers have been upgraded with new electronics and weapons packages over time. These vehicles have been up-armed with new electronic warfare packages, a 30mm cannon, and a 50kW laser (to shoot down enemy drones). Another version (SHORAD: short range air defense) has been outfitted with Hellfire and Stinger missiles. At this point, Strykers will be upgraded here and there instead of being replaced by another platform. This is where the MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) vehicle shows up. About 28,000 of these were built by multiple manufacturers since 2007, at an average cost of about $750,000 each. Reportedly, 24,059 of these vehicles were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Production was terminated in 2012. Out of the 20,000 MRAPs left, 6,000 will be used as transport vehicles for brigades and 2,000 will be used for training, but only on perfectly flat ground. The remaining 12,000 will be mothballed and sold off to other countries. MRAPs are very top-heavy and will flip over on their sides when driven on uneven terrain. Next on the list is the OMFV (Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle), to replace the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Since 1981, 4,641 Bradleys have been built by BAE Systems, at a cost of about $2 million each. Five companies have been awarded contracts to build OMFV prototypes in 2023: GDLS, Oshkosh, BAE, American Rheinmetall, and Point Blank Enterprises. How many manned and unmanned versions the army wants has not been released, but it’s probably several thousand of each. Sometime later this year, GDLS will deliver their first MPF (Mobile Protected Firepower) light tank to the Army. It will weigh just 38 tons versus 73 tons for an M1 Abrams tank. The U.S. Army has ordered 96 MPFs at $13.8 Million each. The plan is to buy 504 MPF vehicles in the near future. Since 1980, about 10,400 M1 Abrams tanks have been produced at a price of about $10 Million each. Reportedly, 31 older Abrams tanks have been shipped to Ukraine. The next step in the plan is called "Abrams-X." That’s a 60-ton version of the Abrams tank in the design phase now. The Army has not released how many of those platforms they want to buy. There are more than 25,000 mobile rocket launcher trucks in the world, according to Global Firepower. The U.S. operates about 1,700 in two different versions: the M142 HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system) and the M270 MLRS (multiple launch rocket system). The launchers are mounted on heavy trucks the can carry 5 tons. I didn’t find any major new orders for these platforms, except for Poland buying 18 HIMARS trucks with launchers. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are also planning to buy the HIMARS systems. Then, there’s the RCV (Robotic Combat Vehicle) program. Contracts were awarded in 2020 to Qinetiq for 4 RCV-L (the light-weight version weighing less than 10 tons) and to Textron for 4 RCV-M (the medium-weight version weighing between 10 and 20 tons). There is also an RCV-H (heavy version), weighing more than 20 tons but less than 30 tons, but no contracts have been issued for that variant. GDLS has introduced their TRX 10-ton RCV-L prototype for this program, to replace some of the Stryker vehicles used for short-range air defense missions (SHORAD). Oshkosh has also submitted an RCV prototype for evaluation and have an interesting Youtube video on the web. These RCVs will be autonomous, go into the combat zone ahead of any manned vehicles, and carry a variety of weapons and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) packages. The Army plans to buy 211 of these vehicles initially, but volumes could go up in the future. The U.S. Army plans to spend $3.8 Billion on ground combat vehicles in 2024. As for the Marines, about 200 ACVs (amphibious combat vehicle) have been delivered by BAE Systems. They plan to buy about 400 of these vehicles at about $1.6 million each. The ACV will replace the 877 AAVs (amphibious assault vehicle) made since 1972. One version, the ACV-C (command and control variant), contains 7 radios inside but that takes us into a future article on the market for military communications systems. There are several other platforms in the mix. Northrop-Grumman is delivering nine “agnostic gun trucks” to Ukraine soon. They are Ford F-250 pickup trucks with radar and a 30mm cannon mounted on the bed, to destroy enemy drones. The U.S. Army has ordered 624 SMET vehicles (squad multi-purpose equipment transports) from GDLS, and the British Army is testing two of the new MUTT (multi utility tactical transport) vehicles from GDLS-UK. Additionally, the Marines are playing with 13 USAAC (unmanned swarming amphibious assault craft) vehicles. They are jet skis with wheels on them, to storm beaches with weapons and ISR sensors before an amphibious assault. Now, let’s look at ground combat vehicles in Europe. Lithuania is buying 500 JLTVs. They are also buying 100 Vilkas infantry fighting vehicles from KMW-Rheinmetall. The Czech Republic is buying 246 CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles from BAE-Hagglunds. Poland is buying 1,400 Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles from Hota Stalowa Wola. Latvia bought 200 CAVS (armored personnel carriers) and Finland bought 160 CAVS from Patria. Sweden bought 20 CAVS from Patria. France bought 364 Servals (armored combat vehicles) from Nexter & Texelis and expects to buy 978 more. France will also buy 1,872 Griffon APCs from Nexter. Belgium is buying 417 Griffons and 60 Jaguar combat vehicles. Germany bought 50 Puma fighting vehicles from KMW-Rheinmetall with an option for 179 more. The United Kingdom (UK) is testing the H-UGV (heavy uncrewed ground vehicle). Countries in the Middle East use Toyota Hilux pickup trucks as GCVs: they bolt an old Russian 12.7mm machine gun on the bed and drive it away for about $25,000 or less. There are probably smaller GCV orders placed from other EU countries that I missed in my research here. Back in 2018, Italy, Greece, and Slovakia started an EU project to design the AIFV (armored infantry fighting vehicle) for all the EU countries. It will weigh between 35 and 50 tons. It’s been five years, and we have not seen a prototype. Now, let’s look at tanks in Europe. Norway is buying 54 Leopard tanks from KMW. Poland has ordered 250 Abrams tanks from GDLS, 116 used Abrams tanks from the U.S. Army, and 1,000 Black Panther tanks from Hyundai-Rotem in South Korea. Romania wants to buy 54 used Abrams tanks from the Army. The UK is upgrading their Challenger tanks. Germany bought 18 Leopard tanks and the Czech Republic is buying 70 tanks from KMW. There are probably a few smaller country purchases I missed here too. Back in 2012, Germany and France started-up their MGCS program (main ground combat system) for the next-generation "Euro-tank," to replace the Leopard (German) and Leclerc (France) tanks presently in service. The MGCS will weigh about 68 tons. It’s been 11 years, and we have not seen a prototype. That brings us to the Asia-Pacific countries and what they are buying, Japan is buying 52 AAV (amphibious assault vehicles) from BAE, to defend their outer islands from China. In addition, they are buying 250 MCVs (maneuver combat vehicles) from Mitsubishi, 29 APCs from Patria, and 33 new MCSs (mobile combat system: light tanks) from Mitsubishi. They are also looking at replacing their 1,937 LAVs (light armored vehicles) that are similar to the JLTV. The Philippines has been buying about 30 Sabrah light tanks from Elbit in Israel. They are exploring a LTV (light tactical vehicle) being manufactured locally by Anos. Thailand has been buying used M113 APCs from the U.S. Army. They also have an inventory of older Chinese tanks. Taiwan is building about 300 of their own armored combat vehicles, the CM-34. South Korea is already armed-up with tanks and GCVs, and they are selling their designs to Poland and other countries. Australia just cut their planned purchases for infantry fighting vehicles from 450 to 129 units. Looking at Malaysia, New Zealand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia, there might be some small platform purchases going on that I missed. Obviously, the big three weapons buyers in Asia-Pacific are Japan, South Korea, and Australia. If you haven’t noticed it yet, more than 50% of the GCV market is in Europe, followed by the U.S. and then Asia-Pacific. About 30% of ground combat vehicle demand is for IFVs (infantry fighting vehicles). About 70% of the GCV demand is for wheeled vehicles (6-wheel and 8-wheel), for use on roads and stable ground. The remaining 30% of demand is for tracked vehicles, for use in mud, sand, snow, and forests. The market for ground combat vehicles and tanks in 2023 is about $13 Billion, growing at about 7% according to some market research reports. The numbers from different reports are all over the place, so looking at the military budgets of all the major countries would give us a better idea. The market size in dollars is certainly questionable, but the growth rate looks reliable considering all the numbers above. If you add-up all these numbers, we might be looking at over 100,000 new or upgraded ground combat vehicles and tanks being built and deployed over the next few years. Now, consider that each of those vehicles needs a communications package (RF, satellite, 5G) and a GPS system. Many will need EW (electronic warfare) packages. Some will need radar systems. Others will need SIGINT (signals intelligence) and ELINT (electronic intelligence) intercept packages. Some of them will need targeting and fire control computers for their onboard weapons. The defense electronics market is predicted to grow at 5.6% to $289 billion by 2028, but that drags us into another segment analysis and I need to do that research. The electronic systems going into ground combat platforms are a significant percentage of the overall cost of the vehicle. Something else you may have noticed here: Ukraine has proven that any war between Russia and the NATO states is going to be a ground war using tanks and ground combat vehicles. Russia’s air force and navy have been ineffective. Consequently, European states will build or buy thousands of ground combat vehicles in the near future. On the other hand, any war with China will be a sea war, using airplanes, ships, and submarines. Consequently, we will see Pacific nations buy more ships and aircraft. The numbers revealed above seem to prove those observations. At the beginning of this essay, I said the ground combat vehicle market is the largest volume segment. But you may argue that the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market is the largest by volume. You are right, if you count all the little quadcopters, micro-airplanes, and kamikaze drones but they are a small part of the military budgets in dollars. We’ll get into that fight in a future article. So, there you have it. What I have presented here is just a cursory look at the ground combat vehicle and tank market, not an exhaustive report. You might want to explore this topic more deeply yourself. Next time, we’ll look at the second largest platform segment in the world military market: airplanes (fighter planes and bombers). If you think the prices of ground combat vehicles and tanks are steep, wait until you see the prices of a fighter plane or a bomber.