The US Marine command has awarded a $170m contract to BAE to produce 32 US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) armoured utility vehicles (AUV) and to provide major upgrades to existing vehicles.

The US SOCOM AUV is one among the mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) variants based on the RG33 family of vehicles.

The MRAP SOCOM includes a remote weapon station, swing arm mount and a rear door assist.

The unique base vehicle’s design allows for variants to include a heavy armoured ground ambulance and an armoured utility vehicle.

BAE New Vehicles and Amphibious Systems vice-president and general manager Ann Hoholick said that 32 new vehicles would be produced with improvements incorporated in the vehicles.

The company will also upgrade about 250 SOCOM vehicles with new independent suspension systems and design improvements to ensure superior mobility and performance over rocky and steep terrain.

Production of the new vehicles will begin at the company’s facilities in the US with deliveries scheduled from March to July 2011.

BAE Systems has produced more than 6,400 MRAP vehicles to support urgent needs in Iraq and Afghanistan.