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Army Seeks New Trucks While Upgrading MRAPs

The U.S. Army is pressing ahead with plans to buy a replacement for the iconic Humvee, even as it upgrades heavier blast-resistant trucks now part of the fleet.

The service plans to begin the next round of competition for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle by the end of the year, possibly mid-November, with a request for proposals from firms interested in bidding for the work. The Army and Marine Corps acquisition program seeks to replace a third of the Humvee fleet with new light-duty trucks.

The Army aims to purchase about 49,000 of the trucks, while the Marine Corps plans to acquire about 5,500 of the vehicles. Both services have requested more funding for the effort, which is estimated to cost about $23 billion, despite facing automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

Trucker-maker Oshkosh Corp., Humvee-maker AM General and defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp. have built JLTV prototypes and will compete against each other -- and possibly new entrants -- to build production models of the trucks. The Army is expected to award one or more of the companies a contract next summer, possibly July.

At the same time, the Army is awarding contracts to upgrade hundreds, possibly thousands, of heavier mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPs, left over from the U.S.-led ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defense Department spent nearly $50 billion over the past decade to acquire some 25,000 MRAPs to better protect troops from roadside bombs. The trucks weighed 25,000- to 50,000 pounds and featured V-shaped hulls that deflected blasts outward. The rapid-acquisition effort was spearheaded by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

While thousands of MRAPs have since been scrapped, mothballed or handed down to local police departments, the U.S. military expects to keep several thousand of them in the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet and transfer thousands more to foreign governments.

MaxxPro_Dash_DXMNavistar International Corp. has received multiple Army contracts potentially worth about $200 million to upgrade, or refurbish, as many as 1,300 of its flagship MaxxPro Dash DXM gun trucks and long-wheeled ambulance trucks, according to John Akalaonu, director of MaxxPro programs at the Lisle, Illinois-based company's defense unit.

The enhancements include changes to the crew compartment, including the seats, and areas beneath the vehicle to offer even more ballistic protection to troops, Akalaonu said. "We strip it down to the rails and build it back up," he said of the process. "The truck that rolls out of the plant at the end of the day will be like new." The work is done at the firm's West Point, Mississippi, plant and at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Of the more than 8,700 MaxxPros that Navistar built for the military in various configurations, about 3,000 will remain in the U.S. fleet, Akalaonu said. Thousands more may be transferred to partner nations, he said.

The government of Pakistan requested 160 MaxxPros in a deal worth about $200 million, while that of United Arab Emirates asked for about 2,000 of the company's trucks as part of a larger sale involving MRAPs made by other companies and valued at $2.5 billion, according to congressional notifications released by the Pentagon.

"We are definitely reaching out to markets in the U.S. and elsewhere," Akalaonu said. "While the [excessive defense article] assets are a pretty good deal for many of these countries ... at the end of the day, the world wants what the U.S. military uses, and the U.S. military has decided to keep the MaxxPro Dash."

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