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Lima reportedly to get more tank work

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The plant upgrades tanks to M1A2s.

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LIMA, Ohio - More than 1,100 employees at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, formerly General Dynamics' Lima, Ohio, tank plant, will begin a six-year program this year to upgrade 435 M1A1 Abrams tanks for the U.S. Army.

And the company, General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights, Mich., is reportedly in line for a major contract from the Department of Defense to increase the role of its popular new Stryker armored vehicle.

The Defense Department is considering increasing the number of Stryker battalions within the Army and Army Reserves, according to Bloomberg News Service.

Also under consideration is a plan to use the Stryker vehicle to replace the aging M113 armored personnel carrier, which dates from 1960.

A spokesman for the Department of the Army could not be reached for comment. A General Dynamics spokesman refused to comment, referring all questions on an expanded role for the Stryker to the Army.

Introduced into service in 2002, the Stryker is an eight-wheeled, multiplatform vehicle that can carry up to nine soldiers into battle. The Lima plant works on the Stryker's hull.

The M1A1 battle tanks - which will be stripped down and have their turrets removed in Anniston, Ala., before being shipped to Lima - are to receive "the latest and greatest, most technologically advanced configurations," said Rae Higgins, a General Dynamics spokesman.

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The Defense Department plans to increase the role of Stryker vehicles.

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The company, the original manufacturer of the Army's main battle tank, was awarded a $39 million contract by the Army this month to upgrade 20 tanks to their new designation, M1A2 .

The upgrades include improved displays, sights, auxiliary power, and a phone connecting the tank to infantry units it supports.

The company was awarded a $12.4 million contract this year for the upgrades, Ms. Higgins said.

The 70-ton M1 Abrams was introduced to the U.S. Army's arsenal in 1980 and has undergone extensive overhauls to boost firepower, electronics, and armor.

More than 8,800 of the tanks have been produced since their introduction, and they are the main battle tank of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Australia.

Al Saams, president of United Auto Workers Local 2075, which represents about 800 of the plant's employees, said the contract for the tank upgrades "should have some secured until 2010."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.

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