QUANTICO MARINE BASE, Va. -- The three competitors in the program to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle remain confident in the program despite budget uncertainties as the Defense Department kicks off testing as part of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of the program.
AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh Defense -- the three companies awarded EMD contracts -- delivered 22 prototype vehicles to the Army and Marine Corps for testing this summer. Each one delivered the vehicle ahead of schedule.
The Defense Department has started the earliest phases of testing to include weighing each component of the vehicle. Of course, the weight may be one of the most important aspects of the JLTV to the Marine Corps.
Corps officials have harped on the size and weight of the JLTV emphasizing the need for the vehicles to fit on ships and be transported by helicopter. Arguments over weight requirements almost killed the program as costs skyrocketed as defense companies experimented with new materials to reduce the weight.
The Army and Marine Corps have since pared down the requirements for the program and similarly the price per vehicle to $250,000. However, the Marine Corps has wavered in its commitment after Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said his service would have to re-evaluate its position in the program because of the sequestration budget cuts.
Initial plans had the JLTV replacing the Humvee in the Army and Marine Corps fleets. Budget restraints have forced the service to temper their initial plans. The Army now plans to acquire as many as 49,000 JLTVs and the Corps plans to buy 5,500. As a whole, the Defense Department has about 180,000 Humvees in its fleet.
Thus far, officials from the defense companies who have submitted prototype vehicle have received very little feedback, if any at all.
"The testing has only just begun so there's not much feedback yet," said Chris Vanslager, AM General's executive director for program management.
John Bryant, senior vice president of Defense Programs for Oshkosh Defense, said he is looking forward to seeing how the vehicles stand up to the wear and tear following the significant mileage the Army testers will put on the vehicles.
Kathryn Hasse, Lockheed Martin’s JLTV program director, explained that for all three of the companies, many of the tests the Defense Department will do on the vehicles, have already been carried out by the companies. However, she said Lockheed has an advantage because it is the only company to win an EMD contract that also took part in the Technology Development phase of the contract.
All three companies supported the decision by the JLTV's joint program manager to not delay the testing schedule and reevaluate the program next summer. Col. John Cavedo, the JLTV’s joint program manager, made the announcement in August.
"It shows he's committing to staying on schedule," Bryant said at the Modern Day Marine Exposition here on Monday.