Truck-maker Oshkosh Corp. and Humvee-maker AM General LLC both brought prototypes of their new light-duty tactical trucks to this year's Modern Day Marine expo.
Lockheed Martin Corp. settled for displaying a miniature model of its offering for the Army and Marine Corp.'s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.
The defense contractors are eagerly awaiting the next phase of the acquisition effort to replace about a third of the iconic Humvee fleet with tougher, faster vehicles. The Army plans to begin the latest competition before the end of the year, possibly in mid-November, with a request for proposals from firms interested in bidding for production contracts.
The service next summer, possibly in July, plans to pick a winner -- or winners -- to begin building the trucks, which are designed to be lightweight like Humvees, but more survivable, like the blast-resistant trucks known as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, built for the U.S.-led ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over the past decade, the Pentagon spent nearly $50 billion buying some 25,000 MRAPs as part of a rapid-acquisition effort spearheaded by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates to better protect troops from roadside bombs. Thousands of the vehicles were subsequently scrapped, mothballed or handed down to local police departments because the military never intended them to be a permanent part of the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet.
Now, the Army and Marine Corps are trying to incorporate some of the lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into a replacement for the Humvee.
Each of the companies has delivered 22 JLTV prototypes to the Army for testing under engineering and manufacturing development agreements signed in 2012. They're competing against each other -- and potentially eligible outside vendors -- to build 17,000 of the vehicles under low-rate initial production contracts expected to be signed in summer 2015.
Overall, the Army aims to purchase about 49,000 of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, while the Marine Corps plans to acquire about 5,500 of the trucks. Both services have pledged their commitment to the program despite facing automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The Pentagon has estimated the effort to develop and build the vehicles at almost $23 billion, or about $400,000 per truck, according to a 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service. Leaders have maintained each vehicle will cost about $250,000.
The Defense Department requested about $230 million for the acquisition effort in fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1, for a total of 183 vehicles, including 176 for the Army and seven for the Marine Corps, according to budget documents.
At the expo this week at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Lockheed touted its design, which features a Cummins Inc. four-cylinder engine that gets as many as 14 miles per gallon -- "probably better than some of the SUVs in the parking lot today," Scott Greene, vice president of ground vehicles at Lockheed, said during a briefing with reporters.
The system doesn't have an alternator and instead relies on an in-line power generator capable of producing 24 kilowatts of electricity, Greene said. The generator can be scaled up to produce as much as 75 kilowatts for battlefield needs, he added.
Lockheed partnered on the program with BAE Systems, maker of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, Caiman MRAP and other combat vehicles, which built a protection system that includes an enhanced hull, high ground clearance and blast-mitigating seats.
"We're going to offer the greatest level of survivability," John Stanek, JLTV program director at BAE Systems Inc., said during the briefing.
AM General built its JLTV prototypes, known as the Blast-Resistant Vehicle - Off-road, or BRV-O, on the same production line it uses for the latest Humvees going to the Army National Guard and international customers such as the government of Iraq.
"We're offering an affordable, mature, very capable vehicle," Chris Vanslager, vice president of business development and program development at AM General, said during an interview at the show.
The BRV-O uses about 30 percent of the same parts found on the Humvee, is up to 25 percent more fuel efficient than the Humvee -- which gets almost 7 miles per gallon of diesel -- and offers far more protection than the Humvee, with armor kits available as needed, Vanslager said.
Oshkosh's offering is known as the Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV, which was built on the same production line as the Army's Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicle, Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV, a lighter blast-resistant truck designed for the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
The company's L-ATV features the company's TAK-4i independent suspension system, Core1080 crew protection system and digitally controlled engine.
"This vehicle ... is ready for production right now," John Bryant, senior vice president of domestic programs at Oshkosh, said in an interview.