The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have finished testing prototypes of the Humvee replacement known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
But results of the evaluations haven't been released and manufacturers are still waiting for the program office to issue a request for proposals -- initially expected this month -- to begin the next round of competition.
Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp., truck-maker Oshkosh Corp. and Humvee-maker AM General LLC each delivered 22 JLTV prototypes to the Army for testing under engineering and manufacturing development contracts signed in 2012. Now, the companies are competing against each other to build 17,000 of the vehicles under a much bigger low-rate initial production contract.
"Our JLTV solution draws upon real-world experience gained from supporting the ground operations that our soldiers and Marines perform every day," Oshkosh Defense President John Urias said in a release announcing the end of limited-user testing, or LUT. The firm has built the Army fleets of medium- and heavy-duty and blast-resistant trucks.
Jeff Adams, a spokesman for AM General, said the company has completed every milestone throughout the EMD phase, including LUT. "We are very pleased with the BRV-O's performance and its demonstrated ability to fill the Capability Gap in Light Tactical Vehicles and look forward to the program down-select decision expected sometime in mid-2015," he said in an e-mail.
Overall, the Army aims to purchase about 49,000 JLTVs, while the Marine Corps plans to acquire about 5,500 of the armored 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.
"I am absolutely convinced that the proposals will be less than what that unit cost will be," Col. John Cavedo, who manages the Army and Marine Corps acquisition effort, said at an Army conference in October.
The testing took place at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where soldiers and Marines evaluated 30 of the trucks in several mission scenarios, including off-road, towing and pushing cars from the road.
"We have 30 JLTVs out here from three different vendors, all prototypes, all running concurrently," Col. Ron McNamara, a director with the Army's Operational Test Command, said, according to a release. "Make no mistake – this is a very large test."
Feedback from troops is vital to improve the design of the vehicles, he said.
"They figure out ways to make things work or not work that you’d never dream of in a laboratory, so you have to get this equipment into the hands of soldiers and then do an operational test," he said. "See if it’s soldier proof."
He added, "What you don’t want are soldiers to drive it like it’s a borrowed Lamborghini. We want them to use it like they will in a combat situation."
Sgt. Tayler Cole, an infantryman with th 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, didn't say which type of JLTV he thought outperformed the others. But he did say all were better than the Humvee.
"Overall I think the JLTVs are way better than the Humvee," he said. "I hope they get them to us as fast as they can."