A Welsh factory has emerged as the most likely site for a massive Ministry of Defence £3 billion 30-year contract to build a new generation of Army trucks, writes Robin Roberts.


Oshkosh, Llantristant has been tipped to win the work for the medium sized lorries and create hundreds of new jobs on top of a current expansion plan which will see battlefield water and fuel tankers made alongside refuse trucks, which are presently assembled there.


Additional jobs will be created in the Welsh components supply network and in the West Country Army Repair centre.


It is understood that defence procurement minister Lord Bach intends to make the formal announcement in June that the Wisconsin company is the preferred bidder for the supply and maintenance of a new fleet of battlefield trucks. He has already visited the Llantrisant plant when he announced the tanker contract.


Oshkosh, who already supply some transporters to The British Army, were short listed last September but the delay in deciding on the preferred bidder is believed to be related to revised estimates of the necessary model mix, numbers and delivery dates.


Requirements after the Iraq handover are also believed to influence the delay together with a defence spending review.


Under the plans for the new business, which would see production starting in 2006 and continuing until 2016 with a further 20 years parts back-up, Oshkosh would create a new European headquarters at its assembly plant near Llantrisant, South Wales.


It currently employs just over 120 people there at its Geesink Norba subsidiary making refuse trucks for local authorities all over the UK, but it is gearing up for tankers which will add a further 180 jobs to the payroll.


The latest contract for a variety of battlefield lorries will see around 800 jobs added to the workforce in Wales and provide security and extra jobs in the local component supplier network.


An Oshkosh spokesman said,  “It is a case of ‘fingers crossed’, and we are expecting a decision in around eight weeks.”