When Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, spoke at the Brookings Institution about equipment that would be going to Afghanistan there was only program he mentioned by name -- the M-ATV. In the last three-and-and-half months the M-ATV has gone from idea to concept to RFP to $5.5 billion in the 2010 budget request. That is lightning speed for those who don't follow Pentagon procurement for a living.
Oshkosh today unveiled its M-ATV prototype, the first one shown to the public in Washington. (BAE showed their vehicle at AUSA winter and at Navy League earlier this month.) I hear at least one competitor showed its vehicle up on Capitol Hill last week but the rules governing the display were so strict that they were not allowed to invite the media.
What struck me -- and some Army officials at the display in downtown Washington -- was the high percentage of components that come from existing vehicles. The vehicle is derived from the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) for the Marines, which is the corps' popular workhorse in Afghanistan. The engine, suspension and a host of other basic components come from existing vehicle programs. That makes Army officials happy because they do not want to have to create new logistical trains for the vehicles if they can help it. It also simplifies the training drivers and maintainers will need.
Oshkosh appears pretty confident that it has a good shot when downselect occurs on June 26. The company has already ponied up its own money to begin production of its M-ATV variant and is building vehicles as we speak. Five companies are building vehicles and some of those -- including some of three Oshkosh vehicles -- are already undergoing testing at Fort Bliss.
The first run of M-ATVs -- known as subfactor 1 -- is supposed to comprise 2,080 vehicles. The program may generate as many as 10,000 vehicles.
The tour is narrated by Steve Zink, vice president for defense at Oshkosh.