As future war planning shifts to confront near-peer threats, Army leaders are looking at their ground combat formations and seeing something missing — a light tank.

By late 2018, the Army expects to start trials pitting two companies to produce 12 prototype light tanks each, according to a recently released Request For Proposal.

Originally reported by Defense News, a sister publication of Army Times. the competition will then yield a winner that will build up to 54 of the light tanks, with the first unit receiving the Mobile Protected Firepower, or MPF, in 2025.

The Army plans to spend more than $1.2 billion on the program over the next four years.

The vehicle will fill a gap to provide light infantry brigades with the firepower and protection they need on a modern battlefield, where the enemy can use missiles and other technology to deny access once taken for granted by U.S. forces.

The light tank must be able to navigate terrain that the M1 Abrams cannot, while bringing heavier firepower than current light armored options such as the Stryker Combat Vehicle.

It must maneuver in narrow urban lanes, cross less sturdy bridges and get into mountainous areas so that infantry soldiers can rely on close, heavy firepower that they can’t currently bring to the fight.

The armor piece allows infantry brigade combat teams to confront light tank formations when needed

“The Abrams is too heavy to be air dropped and, once it’s on the ground, it can’t maneuver in constricted areas like narrow mountain roads or alleyways,” Maj. Gen. David Basset, then the program executive officer for the Army’s Ground Combat Systems said in a 2016 Army Training and Doctrine Command news release.

In the same release, he mentioned some of the requirements would include a maximum weight of 32 tons and a cannon firing either 57 mm, 105 mm or 120 mm rounds, all within the Army’s existing inventory.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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