The Army announced yesterday that it had awarded contracts worth $166 million to three industry teams to develop the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, also variously known as the Humvee replacement, although this vehicle will be much more than the ubiquitous Humvee. The winners are Lockheed Martin; General Tactical Vehicles (a joint venture between General Dynamics Land Systems and AM General, manufacturer of the Humvee); and BAE Systems.
The contracts are for the technology development phase of the protracted DOD production process, expected to take 27 months, when each team will produce at least seven prototypes. The idea is to build a family of JLTVs sharing common parts but available in different configurations such as a six seat infantry carrier, a four seat recon, command and control, heavy weapons carrier and ambulance. Once the prototypes are tested, the Army will hold yet another competition to down select one or more winners for the System Development and Demonstration phase. Full scale production is expected in 2013.
The Army and Marines have not finalized the total number of JLTVs they ultimately want to buy, but an Army press release said the request for proposals included a projected production quantity of 60,000 over eight years. The ultimate production number will almost certainly be much higher. Former Army Vice Chief Gen. Richard Cody, in an appearance before a House appropriations subcommittee last year, said the Army intends for the JLTV to replace 130,000 of the services Humvees. Australia decided this week to join the JLTV program and might buy up to 4,200 vehicles.
The joint Army-Marine Corps JLTV will strike a balance between performance, payload and protection, said Col. John Myers, Project Manager with the Armys Joint Combat Support Services, in the Army press release. Unlike the Humvee, which was originally designed as a rear area and garrison vehicle and was converted into a passable fighting vehicle by slapping armor and weapons onto it, the JLTV will be designed from the ground up as a fighting vehicle incorporating lessons learned from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whereas the costly and lumbering MRAP vehicles (versions of which cost up to $1.2 million each) were always viewed as stop-gap to provide better protection against the scourge of roadside bombs in Iraq, the Army and Marines view JLTV as a long-term solution. To please the expeditionary focused Marines, the JLTV will be lighter than the Humvee, weighing between 3,500 and 5,100 pounds. A fully armored Humvee weighs 12,000 pounds and more. The JLTV is expected to be more resistant to mine blasts than the Humvee, will ride higher off the ground to provide added clearance and will incorporate a V-shaped hull that deflects blasts outward.
The vehicles must be light and compact enough to be carried underneath the Armys CH-47 Chinook workhorse cargo lifter and the Marines CH-53 Super Stallion heavy lifter, and two JLTV vehicles must fit inside the Air Forces C-130. The target cost per vehicle is $200,000 to $250,000, according to a May 2006 Office of Naval Research JLTV industry day conference finding. An armored Humvee costs around $150,000.
-- Greg Grant