This article oversimplifies a lot of things about tanks and jumps to a lot of conclusions about their obsolescence, but it does contain a lot of interesting information about the state of the armor-building industry.
The York facility was readying for the boost, even installing — at an $8 million price tag — a hulking high-speed, high-precision machine able to mill, cut and thread almost any material, from steel to aluminum to alloys. The company had hired younger employees, bringing the age of its average plant employee down to 44, seeking to build a workforce to take over once older employees retired.
BAE — and the York facility — suffered a major blow when the Army canceled the Future Combat Systems program. The vehicles portion of the program, which was to be shared between BAE and General Dynamics, would have cost more than $87 billion, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Since then, the military has backed off vehicle refurbishment, too. The York operation has cut about half of its employees, the average age of plant workers has surged to 54 and lines are sitting idle at the facility, tucked into a swath of farmland. In December, BAE started another round of layoffs.
General Dynamics in Lima, Ohio, is in a similar boat:
Just like the Bradley plant, the Abrams factory bustled over the past decade. At its peak in early 2009, the plant, which is owned by the government but operated by General Dynamics, was pushing 21 / 2 refurbished tanks out the door each day.
For the first time in its history, it diversified, producing not just upgraded Abrams tanks but also Stryker vehicles and a prototype of an expeditionary fighting vehicle (able to travel by sea and by land), which was built for the Marine Corps but later canceled…
But today the facility is down to about 500 employees from a peak of 1,220. Following union rules, it has laid off the newest employees and has worked its way back to those hired in 2005, said Keith Deters, director of plant operations.
This isn’t a problem. Neither is the lack of big guns in the Navy. Or the shortage of carriers to keep up with deployment needs. It’s not a problem.
Unless it becomes a problem. Then it’s catastrophic.