The U.S. Department of State will receive next generation Heavy-Duty armored SUVs from GM Defense. According to a press release, the agency awarded GM Defense a 10-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity full-rate production contract, in support of the department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
Part of DSS' mission is to protect diplomatic assets and personnel.
GM Defense will deliver OEM-integrated HD SUVs under the contract with a ceiling value of $300 million. The company was awarded an initial task order through the contract for vehicles, training, and engineering services valued at approximately $25 million.
The contract follows the development and validation contract awarded in 2021 that delivered prototype vehicles for comprehensive testing and evaluation.
Vehicle Upgrades and Improved Up-Armoring
The newly designed GM Defense HD SUV incorporates protective armor into the original design and manufacturing process. This is valuable when compared to the current multi-stage aftermarket armoring process, the company suggested.
The vehicle is produced on the Chevrolet Suburban platform.
This new approach provides improved vehicle performance, as well as more efficiencies in build and lead-time, resulting in faster vehicle delivery to the end user.
“This is a very important program for GM Defense as it showcases our ability to leverage the proven commercial platforms and world-class engineering and manufacturing processes of GM to provide a first-of-its-kind vehicle for the Department of State,” GM Defense President Steve duMont said. “Everyone on our team has committed to partnering with the State Department to ensure we deliver the best vehicles to support their mission. We look forward to continuing this partnership and bringing this exciting new platform to other U.S. government and allied defense and security customers around the world.”
Previously, DSS had fulfilled its armored vehicle requirement through small third party up-armoring vendors. The process involved disassembling a new vehicle, welding in armored panels, installing ballistic glass and then reassembling the vehicle.
These heavily modified vehicles never performed the same as an original model, according to the Department of State.
They were less maneuverable, maintenance was difficult, and systems that were designed for standard vehicles did not wear well with the additional weight in the harsh environments where U.S. diplomats serve. This also created a lengthy procurement timeline and was not adaptable to growing global threats.
Armoring Users with a Reliable Vehicle
GM Defense’s HD SUV solution uses a high percentage of commercial-off-the-shelf parts, including the body, exterior, propulsion, interior, and brakes.
The vehicle includes a new and unique body-on-frame chassis and suspension, specifically designed to support the increased vehicle weight and performance requirements.
Advanced manufacturing tools and techniques will continue to be used to support low-volume production of the new chassis and frame to meet all customer requirements.
Prior to the contract finalization, the DSS Defensive Equipment and Armored Vehicle Division (DEAV) conducted testing and study on the vehicle in June 2023. Then, it was was sent for additional testing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in early July.
DEAV manages the State Department’s domestic and overseas special protective equipment and armored vehicle program. It represents the department on the international and U.S. Government interagency committees involved in developing uniform security standards for defensive equipment and armored vehicles.
GM Defense hosted Department of State leaders in July 2023 at Summit Point Training Facility in West Virginia for a half-day of briefings and demonstrations of the newly designed HD SUV prototype.
Drivers took the DSS officials on test runs, demonstrating the vehicle’s maneuverability during high-speed turns, and controlled skids produced by sudden braking.
"The prototype vehicle had good acceleration, handled better in the turns and the heavy-duty anti-lock braking system was far superior to our aftermarket vehicles. You could really feel the stability and performance in the redesigned chassis,” Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Gentry Smith said at the event. “The HD SUV represents a new cost-effective era in the design and building of these badly needed vehicles to help us carry out our mission to ensure the safe and secure conduct of foreign policy in some of our most challenging and dangerous posts."
In determining its next armored vehicle choice, DSS performed market research, including an open White Paper Invitation/Request for Information issued publicly to all of industry including major vehicle manufacturers as well as armoring up-fitters.
The government ultimately landed on GM Defense's next generation Heavy-Duty armored SUVs.