QUANTICO, Va. -- The Army plans to buy ten times as many Joint Light Tactical Vehicles as the Marine Corps, yet the three defense companies selected in the latest round of the truck competition remain focused on the Corps' priorities for the vehicle: transportability, survivavability, and affordability.
Transportability by ship and by helicopter is the clincher for Corps officials. Size and weight are two of the first questions that Marines ask defense companies to ensure the vehicle can sling load under a Ch-53 Sea Stallion and fit aboard a ship.
The Marine Corps plans to partially replace its Humvee fleet of 24,000 vehicles with the JLTV. Marine leaders want to buy at least 5,500 JLTVs starting in 2017. Leadership plans to supplement the rest of the Humvee replacement with a Humvee improvement program it will start in 2013.
Lockheed Martin, AM General and Oshkosh -- the three companies awarded engineering, manufacturing and development contracts in August -- displayed their versions of the JLTVat Modern Day Marine at Quantico, Va., this week. Each one said the fact the Marine Corps will buy fewer JLTVs does not make their requirements any less important.
The companies bidding on the JLTV program let out sigh of relief in 2011 when the Army and Marine Corps salvaged the program from the budget axe by compromising on JLTV requirements to make it cheaper.
One of the most notable compromises made was increasing the maximum weight of the JLTV from 12,600 pounds to 14,000 pounds to keep companies from having to use "exquisite materials" in their designs. Scrapping the titanium mufflers allowed the companies to drop the per vehicle cost to a more stomachable $250,000 per vehicle price tag for Congress.
That's not to say the JLTV lost its requirement to sling under a Sea Knight or a Chinook keeping Marine leaders happy. John Bryant, the general manager for Joint and Marine programs at Oshkosh, said the company has a keen focus on the transportability of their vehicle.
Scott Greene, vice president of Ground Vehicles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said his team consistently meets with Marine leaders to make sure the vehicle is meeting their requirements.
Outside of transporting the JLTV, Marine officials are excited about the increase gas mileage the JLTV will offer versus the up armored vehicles. Whichever JLTV the Pentagon chooses will drive at 11 miles per gallon. Most MRAPs or MATVs get 5 miles per gallon or worse.
"At some point with gas costing up to $400 a gallon in theatre, the vehicle starts paying for itself," Greene said.
The next step for the program is building 22 vehicles for the joint JLTV program office to test. Leaders from each company said the decision by Navistar to cancel their protest will help by keeping the program on schedule.
"Avoiding the protest and staying on the schedule helps us from a produce vehicles and making sure everything is ready to go," Bryant said.