Debt ceiling? Austerity budgets? Forget all that! The Army is getting ready to buy a whole mess of brand new vehicles. The service announced this week that it won't be long before it goes forward with the main event in its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle competition, which will pit a bevy of defense industry giants against each other in a showdown for a deal that could be worth some $20 billion or more.
In the ring are BAE Systems and Navistar; Lockheed Martin; and General Tactical Vehicles, a venture of General Dynamics Land Systems and Humvee-builder AM General -- with all manner of subs and sub-subs mixed up in this thing. (BAE, for example, is both offering its own vehicle and is a part of Lockheed Martin's "industry team.") The Army wants a vehicle with better protection for soldiers, more power and more electronic toys, and its story this week explained that the service believes it can get that with this competition. The technology development phase just wound up, explained Sustainment Systems director Tom Goddette, and now it's on to the big show.
"The purpose of the TD phase was geared toward refining the requirements in order to demonstrate the JLTV's ability to meet the designated capability gaps," Goddette said. "The program has succeeded in identifying and proving out those areas of needed development -- and now the Army is analyzing what trade-offs might be required in order to best pursue an acquisition strategy that both lowers costs and delivers this needed capability to Soldiers."Oh, yeah, that's right -- the Army already owns tens of thousands of Humvees, but it needs to "recapitalize" them before they're usable on the post-IED battlefield. But never fear -- there's room in the arsenal for all the trucks under the rainbow.
The competitive prototyping and extensive testing pursued during the TD phase was designed to match technological capability with the vehicle's requirements and lower risk for an anticipated production phase, Goddette said.
"We demonstrated that every one of the requirements was achievable," Goddette explained. "We've learned that some trade-offs are necessary to pursue an overall strategy that best synchronizes requirements, resources, mature technologies and a cost-reducing acquisition strategy. We demonstrated not only that the requirements were achievable, but we gained valuable insight into the cost of each capability and effect that one capability might have on another. We've learned that some trade-offs are necessary to pursue an overall strategy that best synchronizes requirements, resources, mature technologies and a cost-reducing acquisition strategy," Goddette said.
Operating in today's more budget-constrained fiscal environment, Army developers are working on an approach to JLTV procurement that harnesses the best available technologies while minimizing costs and achieving efficiency in the process, he said.
One such approach includes the possibility of buying less add-on armor, known as B-kits, for the vehicles because not every JLTV will need the added protection and new, lightweight materials may likely become available in the future, Goddette said.
Due to its enhanced technological capabilities, the JLTV will be able to perform a wide range of missions and perform many roles Humvees are currently unable to do, Goddette said. At the same time, the Army has embarked upon a competitive Humvee recap program aimed at improving the survivability of the existing vehicle that is already in the Army inventory.
"The JLTV and Humvee-recap program are designed to complement one another as part of an integrated Light Tactical Vehicle strategy designed to best prepare our force for a range of anticipated future contingencies," Goddette said. "These two competitive efforts are also synchronized with one another to invest a limited amount of resources up front enabling a 'try before we buy' approach and capitalize on the vast experience our industry partners have gained over that past five years."So: The Army's vision is that its units will include some combinations of upgraded Humvees, JLTVs and the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles it has already spent billions fielding in Iraq and Afghanistan. (And let's not forget the new Ground Combat Vehicle, supposed to enter service in seven years.) The key question now is whether all this can become a reality in tomorrow's frugal America.