Thomas Kauffmann from GDELS: In the IFV project fair competition will bring the best value for the customer

 17. 12. 2020      category: Interviews

Interview with Dr. Thomas Kauffmann, Vice President International Business & Services and Member of the Senior Leadership Team of General Dynamics European Land Systems. Dr. Kauffmann is responsible for the global sales, customer service business and industrial development of GDELS.

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Picture: Dr. Thomas Kauffmann, Vice President International Business & Services and Member of the Senior Leadership Team of General Dynamics European Land Systems. | archive of Thomas Kauffmann

1) Dr. Kauffmann how does the current COVID 19 pandemic affect your GDELS’ activities?

I am glad to say that GDELS is a strong and robust company with a very solid order backlog. Obviously, we are all affected by the constraints, challenges, and economic implications of the persistent pandemic. Since we are very concerned about the health and safety of our employees, we established a robust COVID protection program across our entire organization at a very early stage of the pandemic. Due to national legislation, we had to manage mandatory shut downs in some of our factories in Europe and we have been fully focussed on mitigating any negative impact to our operations.  

2) Despite the situation generated by the COVID-19, have you received any contract awards?

Given these serious circumstances, we are proud that key customers like the Spanish Army have demonstrated their highest confidence and satisfaction in our PIRANHA and ASCOD vehicle platforms. The Spanish MOD has signed a major contract to field a Piranha 5 based platform for its 8x8 Wheeled Vehicle Program. This contract has a magnitude of 348 vehicles with a total potential of up to 1000 combat vehicles. In Romania, where we have a contract for the delivery of more than 200 PIRANHA 5 vehicles, we have successfully delivered the first batch to the customer, which was, given the current COVID conditions, an impressive achievement. Next in our vehicle business, we made significant progress to grow our ASCOD family of vehicles with deliveries of the new ASCOD Engineering Combat variant called “CASTOR” to the Spanish Army.

Furthermore, General Dynamics European Land Systems continues to deliver on the United Kingdom AJAX program. Against a total contract quantity of 589 vehicles we have now produced 213 hulls from our Spanish facility in Trubia and performed assembly integration and test on 100 units from our Seville site. Assembly integration and test have now successfully transitioned to General Dynamics United Kingdom for the remaining 489 vehicles and deliveries to the UK MOD continue.

Finally, I am confident that in the very near future, we will be able to announce a new international customer  for the ASCOD – it will be the fourth user nation to adopt this great vehicle. We are particularly excited as this new ASCOD variant will be the first Medium Main Battle Tank (MMBT) variant with a large calibre turret system successfully introduced in the market.

3) How do you perceive the situation in the Czech Republic, in particular the possible fiscal and economic consequences?

We are following, with great interest, the ongoing political discussions in the Czech Parliament regarding the expected economic implications and the corresponding future budget constraints. We are particularly concerned that any reduction in the defence budget might compromise the government’s ability to modernize the Czech Armed Forces. However, we appreciate the fact that the tender for the acquisition of the new BVP remains one of the Czech Republic’s top priorities. General Dynamics European Land Systems remains fully committed to immediately respond to, and proceed with, all steps necessary to successfully complete the tender. This includes submitting our Best and Final Offer (BAFO), and presenting our BVP ASCOD demonstrator, tailored to the Czech Army's specifications, which is ready for immediate demonstration. 

4) How do you evaluate GDELS’ positioning in this competition? 

We are confident that our ASCOD is the technologically superior vehicle in the competition for the Czech Army´s future BVPs. The ASCOD is not only one of the most modern Western Infantry Fighting Vehicles, it has already demonstrated its reliability and performance in military NATO missions. Additionally, our ASCOD candidate for the Czech BVP project will feature superior capabilities in terms of lethality and battlefield superiority. These are also some of the reasons why Austria, Spain, and the United Kingdom all selected the ASCOD as their preferred tracked armoured vehicle platform, and why there will be more user nations to follow. General Dynamics is the global leader in tracked and wheeled vehicles, and we will continue our investments in advanced technologies. However, beyond the necessary fulfilment of the BVP capability requirements, we are aware of the tight budgetary environment which all of our customers are currently facing. 

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Picture: We are confident that our ASCOD is the technologically superior vehicle in the competition for the Czech Army´s future BVPs. |  archive of Thomas Kauffmann

5) You mentioned the added value GDELS is able and willing to bring to the Czech Republic beyond the delivery of a state-of-the-art BVP. Can you elaborate please?

GDELS has the most experience in local industrial cooperation, participation, and development, along with an unparalleled track-record in Europe. We developed a long-term growth strategy for our local industry partners years ago, and incorporated this approach into our GDELS business model. This applies also to our position as a reliable supplier to the Czech Army and a trusted business partner to the Czech industry. This partnership started with the award of a contract for 107 PANDUR 8x8 vehicles more than 10 years ago. Today, these vehicles are successfully in service with the Czech Army. Our confidence in the high quality and reliability of the Czech industry resulted in a very close cooperation with the state-owned company VOP CZ, which successfully manufactured the PANDUR vehicles on cost, quality, and schedule. Over the entire project, more than 40 Czech companies were involved in this sophisticated undertaking. After this success, we transferred the entire production of PANDUR 8x8 for domestic and export opportunities to the Czech company CSG, which produces our vehicle under license today. Various local enterprises such as RayService, VOP, VVU, Tatra, MEOPTA and others, are partners or qualified suppliers in GD’s global supply chain. Since our first engagement in the Czech Republic, GDELS has generated more than CZK 28billion in benefits for the Czech economy. This valuable experience of past collaboration has facilitated our preparations for the current BVP tender in which, out of respect for our customer’s preference, we once again collaborate with an experienced Czech partner. Our professional approach and customer-oriented flexibility in respecting certain sensitivities while accommodating different national interests, and remaining open for changing industrial partnerships, is a unique quality of our approach.  

6) You mentioned that you are confident that despite budget revisions and possible fiscal constraints the BVP has remained on the political agenda. What are your main concerns beyond potential pandemic repercussions? 

We are convinced that the Czech Republic will only receive the best value for its taxpayers’ money through a fully transparent, open and fair competition with the participation of the leading defence companies, which precisely describes the process the Czech government has put in place for this large acquisition. GDELS, as a trusted partner of the Czech government and the Czech industry for more than a decade, remains fully committed to the present tender process in good faith and trust in the accountability of the involved decision-makers. We definitely do not fear any fair and transparent competition; on the contrary, we are ready and able to place our convincing competitive advantages at the disposal of the Czech customer and to once again repeat our PANDUR program’s success.

Our top priority is to remain a trusted and reliable supplier for outstanding products and services to the Czech Army and to succeed with our unparalleled strategy of bringing sustainable economic benefits to the Czech Republic and its industry. As transatlantic partner for land defense in Europe, GDELS, wholly owned subsidiary of the american cooperation General Dynamics, is particularly committed to contribute to a prosperous and safe future on both sides of the Atlantic and I am convinced that we will see a new era of improved transatlantic relationships in the near future.

 Author: Michal Pivoňka