Estonia planned to refit cheap CV90 chassis procured from Norway as support armored vehicles for the Scouts Battalion but finds itself victim to the monopoly of a major manufacturer. The tender was written off on the last day of the year, support vehicles will be at least six months late and no one knows how the matter will be handled.
Christmas was a troubled time over at the Ministry of Defense on Sakala street. While the ministry had successfully showcased long-range anti-tank weapons and new automatic rifles tenders just a week before, one of Estonia’s most complicated defense procurements – the plan to refit CV90 chassis as support armored vehicles – was headed for a dead end.
The matter concerns 37 turretless CV90 IFV chassis that have been sitting idle in a hangar at the Tapa campus of the Defense Forces for two years.
Estonia bought the vehicles from Norway for a pittance of €635,000 after the Scandinavian country wrote them off after 20 years of service.
The vehicles are supposed to be converted into support units for the Scouts Battalion’s CV9035 IFVs that would perform a range of tasks from fire control and close-quarters defense to anti-aircraft and medical roles.
The Defense Investments Center (RKIK) held a tender for the reconstruction of the chassis in August of 2017. The winner would have two and a half years to refit 31 chassis. The remaining six vehicles to be fitted with 120 mm mortars would be rebuilt in the future. The winner would also have to offer service and repairs for all 37 vehicles, as well as spare parts and general support for up to seven years.
The dog lies buried in the latter requirement. Estonian defense planners calculated that the work should cost no more than €30 million. The tender was also open to Estonian defense contractors that was expected to bring down the price further.
Things still seemed to be going fine in May of last year. Four companies qualified for the tender: original manufacturer of the CV90 BAE Systems Hägglunds, German company Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG), Estonian contractor Bristol Trust and the joint bid of Joint Depots and Scania Estonia.
Spare parts denied
It did not take FFG long to back out after successfully qualifying for the tender. The Germans said that they cannot comply with the requirement for original spare parts. The problem was that BAE Systems and its subcontractors have control of the entire manufacturing chain and simply refuse to supply them. RKIK demanded original parts to rule out the possibility of IFVs breaking down in the heat of battle due to unreliable components.
As there are considerable sums at play and disputes will likely take a long time to settle, several participants refused to comment under their own name.
What they said is that BAE did not wait long to disqualify other participants. “After consultations with BAE Systems, we are forced to notify you that we cannot supply you with spare parts,” a company manufacturing parts for BAE Systems told an Estonian contractor in an email without providing any further explanation.