Without any great drama in the popular press, the MoD is currently negotiating a major contract for the supply of trucks for the British Army, worth over £1 billion.
The contract, the biggest in 25 years, covers the supply of 5,000 cargo and recovery trucks, with delivery scheduled to start in 2007. The MoD has also placed an option for further vehicles.
And who will supply these trucks? Well, it now seems that the MoD has chosen the subsidiary of the German engineering conglomerate MAN, MAN-Nutzfahrzeuge, as the preferred bidder. Negotiations will now continue on an exclusive basis.
MAN, whose activities range from truck-making to plant engineering and printing machinery, managed to overcome competition from German-U.S. auto giant DaimlerChrysler and U.S. truck makers Oshkosh and Stewart and Stevenson.
The latter firm, a Texas based operation, teamed with UK firms LDV Limited, Multidrive Limited and Lex Defence and intended to build the trucks in Birmingham, England. Max L. Lukens, President and Chief Executive Officer, expressed "disappointment" in the decision, and well he might.
With a track record of building tactical vehicles for the US Army, this company would have been ideal, not only because it is highly experienced, but also because of those links with the US Army, with which the British forces operate closely. This move can only increase the growing UK-US divide.
A serious questions now has to be asked as to why the UK, it seems, can no longer build essential equipment for its own Army, and is buying from a European source, with the concomitant loss of jobs.