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Firms Show Off Contenders for Army's Ultra-Light Vehicle

The U.S. Army will soon have its long-awaited Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, but the Humvee replacement won’t solve the mobility needs of the service’s expeditionary light forces.

This week combat vehicle makers showed off possible solutions to the Army’s latest combat-vehicle need – the Ground Mobility Vehicle program, at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting.

In mid-September, Army officials at the Maneuver Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia emphasized that Army light infantry units need a transportable, ultra-light combat vehicle that can they can take into a forced-entry operation.

“The place that we are least capable as a formation … is mobility of our light forces,” said Gen. David Perkins, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, adding that today’s light forces have the mobility of “a World War I formation.

“We have determined that the number one priority for the combat vehicle modernization strategy … is mobility for the light forces.”

The Army awarded Oshkosh Corp., a $6.7 billion contract to build the first 17,000 production models of the JLTV. Since then, JLTV competitor Lockheed Martin Corp. protested the Army's decision to award the contract to Oshkosh.

The Government Accountability Office is expected to rule on the protest in December. The Army plans to buy more than 49,000 JLTVs to replace about a third of the Humvee fleet.

But the MRAP-style protection the JLTV brings is too heavy for light forces. The requirement for the Ground Mobility Vehicle is a 4,500-pound platform that can haul a nine-man infantry squad.

General Dynamics has made some minor changes to its Flyer 72, a high-mobility vehicle it designed for U.S. Special Operations Command, to meet the meet the Army’s needs.

“We are using an existing program of record and an existing vehicle in order to meet the Army’s requirement for those nine soldiers and a 4,500 pound vehicle,” said Sean Ridley, program manager for Light Tactical Vehicles for General Dynamics. “There is no development; there is no testing. “It is an existing program of record, and it offers the Army an existing capability that is already in service.”

The Flyer 72 has a top road speed of 85 mph and can carry three soldiers up front and two in traditional back seats. GD also added a secondary seating kit it developed for SOCOM, Ridley said.

“We put two forward facing soldiers in the vehicle on this side which gives you your sixth and seventh person, and in the rear of the vehicle are your eighth and ninth soldiers,” he said. “All the soldiers are in a seat in a four-point restraint system, all under rollover protection.”

Porlaris Defense had its Dagor vehicle at AUSA. The Dagor can also seat up to nine soldiers and has a road speed of 60 mph, according to Mark McCormick, director of Business Development at Polaris Defense.

Polaris has used soldier feedback to improve the design. The Dagor participated in the Army’s Platform Performance demonstration at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in June 2014, McCormick said.

Like the Flyer 72, it can be transported by CH-47 helicopter. It’s air-droppable and can be sling-loaded by a UH-60 Black Hawk, he said.

Note: This story was updated to correct the reference in the sixth paragraph to the company that protested the Army's JLTV decision. Lockheed Martin, not Oshkosh, filed the legal challenge.

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