[EDITOR'S NOTE: The copy keeps pouring in from Colin and the gang over at DoD Buzz who are all over the Association of the US Army convention in DC like white on rice. We'll feature some of their content, but I'd recommend keeping an eye on what they're up to over at the Buzz.]
With up to $100 billion at stake in an era when defense budgets are probably going to shrink, you can understand why defense industry officials lust after the contracts for the three variants of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). Final proposals are due this week with a contract award set for the end of the month. The rubber is about to hit the road with the Army set to award three 27-month technology development contracts.
One interesting tidbit: Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, Armys deputy chief of staff for programs, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that JLTV must be able to withstand both IEDs and explosively formed penetrators. Until now, industry and government officials had avoided discussion of explicit protection levels. Most details of protection requirements are classified. Industry officials with each team declined to discuss this, only saying that their vehicles met or exceeded MRAP protection requirements.
Here are the teams competing: Boeing, Textron and SAIC; BAE and Navistar; Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Truck; Lockheed Martin and Armor Holdings; Blackwater and Raytheon. A lot of the floor space at the AUSA conference this week boasted a variant of the JLTV. All of the JLTVs variants on display boasted ISR systems that will allow them to joint FCS brigades, as the Army plans for them to do eventually. They also had either the ability to let drivers flip a switch or hit a computer screen for differing terrains and weather conditions.
BAE unveiled its prototype for variant B [pictured above], a rakish looking vehicle with a relatively spacious interior capable of seating seven fully loaded troopers.
Lockheed displayed a very impressive vehicle. During a press briefing, Lockheed officials boasted of the 20,000 miles their JLTV prototype has endured. Troops had clambered in and out of the vehicle with full combat gear, proving their cabin design, they said. The company had declined to use a hybrid engine after extensive analysis, said Katherine Hasse, who leads the companys JLTV effort. Our experience with hybrids was that they are not ready for military use yet, she said, adding that they boost vehicle weight by up to 700 pounds.
An Oshkosh official agrees that hybrids arent ready yet. There also are disadvantages to the big hump between the two front seats caused by the GTV vehicles transmission. (The Oshkosh official had not seen the Lockheed vehicle.) Thats fine if youre a hurdler, said Ken Juergens, Oshkoshs program director for JLTV. The Northrop-Oshkosh team is using a diesel-electric drive system, which eliminates the need for a transmission and conventional drivetrain. Juergens also touted Oshkoshs experience in building vehicles in different weight classes: Nobody else has gone to different weight classes. The
Congress has concerns about whether the Army can handle all the ground vehicles it plans to buy. In the House report accompanying its version of the 2009 defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee mentioned JLTV twice in separate sections.
In addition to the thousands of light, medium, and heavy trucks and hundreds of armored security vehicles, the committee is aware the Army would purchase over 12,000 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2008 and almost 2,000 additional Stryker vehicles through fiscal year 2013, the report noted.
Concurrently, the Army and the Marine Corps continue to develop the joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV), which would perform many of the same missions that current up-armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) and MRAP vehicles now perform. So it calls on the Army to work with the Marines to come up with a long-term strategy and to consider cost reduction strategies, reliability, and maintainability improvement initiatives.
-- Colin Clark