Last updated: August 24. 2013 11:00PM - 599 Views

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LIMA — The federal government has awarded a $40 million contract to General Dynamics Land Systems for Abrams tank production for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Current employees at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center will do the work, according to a news release from General Dynamics. The procurement and production of Saudi M1A2S Abrams tanks will be added to an existing contract from 2008 between the United States and Saudi Arabia for upgrades to the Arab country’s fleet of tanks.

The U.S. Tactical Army Command awarded the foreign military sales contract to General Dynamics. The work is scheduled to be completed by July 2014.

The JSMC is a federally-owned facility operated by defense contractor General Dynamics.

Saudi Arabia wants to refurbish tanks it originally purchased in the 1990s. The foreign military sales work is key to keeping people employed at the JSMC right now. In January, General Dynamics Plant Manager Keith Deters expressed some cautious optimism the Saudi work and work for Egypt would come through.

“This new Saudi foreign military sales work helps us in bridging the gap well into next year,” Deters said Tuesday. It’s very important that we can keep the Abrams base active while preserving the critical skills needed to produce the Abrams and other combat vehicles.”

The Pentagon has wanted to shutter the Abrams program until 2017, saying it has enough tanks until the next generation of the battle tank is developed and in production. However, General Dynamics says it would be cheaper to keep the Abrams line warm for minimal production than to shut it down and start it up. General Dynamics says the move could harm national security with cuts to the skilled industrial workforce in Lima that builds the tank.

Congress has appropriated some money to keep that minimal production, but the facility also relies on foreign sales the U.S. government makes.

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