The U.S. Army has officially begun the next round of competition to build a replacement to the iconic Humvee.
The service on Friday released a request for proposals, or RfP, from companies that want to manufacture production models of the so-called Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.
Under previous contracts signed in 2012, defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp., truck-maker Oshkosh Corp. and Humvee-maker AM General LLC have each delivered 22 prototypes to the Army for testing. Now, the companies are competing against each other to build 17,000 of the vehicles under a much bigger low-rate initial production contract.
"AM General received the JLTV RFP earlier today," company spokesman Jeff Adams said in a Dec. 12 e-mail. "Our BRV-O JLTV team is fully engaged in providing our customer a very compelling and comprehensive response."
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 service next summer, possibly in July, plans to pick a winner to begin building the vehicles, 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.
The Pentagon has estimated the effort to develop and build the JLTVs at almost $23 billion, or about $400,000 per vehicle, 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 began Oct. 1, for a total of 183 vehicles, including 176 for the Army and seven for the Marine Corps, according to budget documents.
The services recently completed testing of the vehicles at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where soldiers and Marines evaluated 30 of the trucks in multiple mission scenarios, including off-road, towing and pushing cars from the road.
“Overall I think the JLTVs are way better than the Humvee,” Sgt. Tayler Cole, an infantryman with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said during the testing, according to an Army release. “I hope they get them to us as fast as they can.”