As the Defense Department pinches pennies, the military increasingly is choosing to modify commercial off-the-shelf products instead of building a new system from the ground up.
Such is the case for special operations forces, who in the next few years will be driving around in souped-up pickup trucks.
The General Services Administration in April awarded Battelle a blanket purchase agreement to strip down commercial trucks and outfit them with armor and a stronger suspension. The company will also upgrade the vehicles’ tires and communications systems.
The contract has an estimated value of $58 million over three years. The make and model has not been chosen.
Work could start as early as this summer, with fielding in 2014, said program manager Jim Labine.
A purpose-built pickup truck will likely become a requirement for special operations forces in the future, but the lower cost of a modified commercial vehicle is appealing in this fiscal environment, he said.
“The OEM [original equipment manufacturer] vehicles, because they were never made to basically carry that much weight, they don’t last nearly as long,” he said. “The purpose-built is made from the ground up to carry that kind of weight. The vehicle will probably last longer, but the cost is much higher.”
Because of the secret nature of special operations, Labine said he wasn’t sure what kind of missions the pickup trucks would be used for. One possibility is driving them in urban areas with narrow streets where Humvees might be too bulky.
The project marks a shift for Battelle into designing and manufacturing, spokeswoman Katy Delaney said. Battelle is primarily known for contract research and technology development.
“This is a good example of where we’re taking our business,” she said. “We didn’t normally used to manufacture our own products, but we’ve made investments again and are doing specialty manufacturing for real complex projects such as this.”Photo Credit: Thinkstock