Military truck program offers lessons
By James D. Walker|December 2016
The Weapon System Effectiveness Technical Committee advances the science and technology of predicting, measuring, evaluating and improving the lethality of weapon systems.
The first U.S. Joint Light Combat Vehicle was delivered to the U. S. Army in September.
The JLTV program is an example of higher performance expectations needing integrated vehicle designs that consider the use, potential use and life of the vehicle. The JLTV program survived the “valley of death” between development and procurement by getting a weapon system into the field and using competition and “drive-offs” to determine the winner.
The Army and Marine Corps plan to conduct extensive JLTV tests over the next two years toward an expected initial operational capability for the Army in 2019.
Low-rate initial production of the vehicles, which can be carried internally on C-130s and externally by CH-47 helicopters, began this year following the selection of Oshkosh Defense of Wisconsin. In September, the Army exercised a $42 million option following a $243 million order in March. The JLTV will replace thousands of Humvees for the Army and also the Marine Corps.
The JLTV program has been a story of twists and turns. The program was formally begun in 2006, with the word “Joint” indicating that the vehicles will be destined for the Army and Marines. The program was initially envisioned as developing a family of light tactical vehicles to replace the Humvee, which first saw use in 1985. Though the Humvee was effective and met its design criteria, operations in the Middle East led to a need for additional ballistic armor and blast protection. The first two years of JLTV focused on developing requirements based on that experience. Given the history of the canceled Future Combat Systems program, the expectations for the JLTV were pared back.
In 2008, the Army released a request for proposals for technology development. Each funded team built four vehicles over a 15-month time frame and these vehicles were tested for 12 months. Contracts of approximately $40 million each were awarded to three teams: BAE Systems Land and Armaments (formerly United Defense, the maker of the Bradley vehicle) joined forces with the truck company NAVISTAR of Illinois; General Dynamics Land Systems and Humvee-maker AM General created a team called General Tactical Vehicles; Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems Mobility and Protection Systems (formerly Armor Holdings), joined up with ALCOA, and JWF Defense Systems of Pennsylvania.
In 2012, the RFP was released for the engineering and manufacturing development or EMD phase. Only one of the 2008 selectees won an EMD award. Each of the three winners was given approximately $60 million to build 22 prototypes toward meeting a target unit cost of $250,000 for the production vehicles. The three awards went to Lockheed Martin (one of the 2008 selectees), AM General and Oshkosh.
Each team brought strengths. What may have been the decisive strength were the wins by Oshkosh for the Mine-resistance Ambush-protected All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV, in 2009. Oshkosh hit a production rate of 1,000 vehicles per month just six months after that contract award, and the M-ATV saw extensive use in Afghanistan.
The final JLTV award went to Oshkosh in 2015 to build 16,901 vehicles for $6.75 billion, a cost slightly less than $400,000 per vehicle. The company’s entry, which it called the L-ATV for Light Combat Tactical ATV, has extensive maneuverability and survivability capabilities. There are now two variants, one with a crew of two and one with a crew of four, with various cargo capabilities. It is expected that in the long run the total procurement for this general purpose vehicle will be over 50,000 vehicles.
An interesting lesson from this procurement is that the ultimate winner continued with its own internal funding when it failed to obtain the first round of development awards, but was able to win an EMD award. This shows that internal funding can overcome development contract losses for weapon systems that are not extremely expensive. The JLTV will be the next general purpose ground vehicle, probably for another 30 plus years, as was the Humvee, and before it, the Jeep. ★