Army Moves Forward with New Medium Truck Acquisition
The Army is plowing ahead with plans to procure a new medium tactical wheeled vehicle that will give soldiers increased payload capacity and performance.
In February, the service awarded Oshkosh Defense a firm, fixed-price contract spanning up to seven years that is worth $476.2 million for its family of medium tactical vehicles, or FMTV A2 variant. Oshkosh was the incumbent, having manufactured the previous A1P2 variant earlier this decade.
“The FMTV A2 program is an important opportunity to recover the FMTV’s original design margin and incorporate new capabilities into our vehicles — rebalancing the ‘iron triangle’ of payload capacity, mobility performance and soldier protection for the future,” Alvin Bing, product director of the medium tactical vehicles program at the Army’s program executive office for combat support and combat service support said in an email.
The new vehicles have features that will improve mobility, ride quality and reliability, he noted. These include: a higher capacity chassis; enhanced underbody protection; a higher output, single 24-volt alternator; an upgraded data bus; increased engine power; and the inclusion of antilock brakes and electronic stability control systems.
Included in the initial award is the delivery of the first 41 production trucks and four production trailers for testing and logistics development, Bing said. Those are expected to roll off the production line in the third quarter of fiscal year 2019 for testing that will run through mid to late fiscal year 2020. Bing expects to have new trucks coming off the line by the second quarter of 2021.
The Army has not specified a particular number of vehicles it intends to buy, he said.
“The total quantity that the Army procures will depend on requirements and funding availability over the period of performance,” he said.
The contract also includes the procurement of updates to the government-owned technical data package, vehicle kits and various technical, fielding and support activities, he added.
The Army already owned the technical data package for the FMTV and used it to re-compete the trucks in 2008, according to the service. Oshkosh won that over the incumbent BAE Systems in 2009, and delivered 20,000 vehicles over a period of three-and-a-half years.
The FMTV has historically “formed the backbone” of the Army’s local, line haul and unit resupply missions in combat, combat support and combat service support units, an Army press release said.
Pat Williams, vice president and general manager of Army and Marine Corps programs at Oshkosh, said the company plans to take lessons learned from the FMTV A1P2 and the joint light tactical vehicle and apply them to the A2 line. Oshkosh won the JLTV contract in 2015. The joint Army-Marine Corps program is estimated to be worth more than $30 billion, and will result in the manufacturing of tens of thousands of vehicles.
With “every vehicle that we design and we build, we like to apply those lessons learned, whether it be from a design standpoint or from a production standpoint,” he said.
For example, the Army is looking for improved off-road mobility and ride quality on the A2 variant. That is a capability Oshkosh has already developed for its JLTV offering, he said.
Additionally, enhanced protection was a key piece of Oshkosh’s design for its M-ATV mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle that was rapidly fielded to counter improvised explosive devices during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the late 2000s, he said.
“We ramped up quickly to delivering 1,000 vehicles a month,” Williams said. “We can apply what we learned there with our supply chain management, efficiency and effectiveness of our production capabilities … to flex our muscles, so to speak, and deliver very quickly and efficiently on the program.”
While the A1P2 is still a quality vehicle, technological advancements have necessitated the need for a new, upgraded variant, Williams said.
“As the battlefield changes, so do the needs for the vehicle,” he said. “The FMTV really reached the edge of its design envelope for payload capability, for power and for survivability.”
In its offering to the government, Oshkosh plans to improve the horsepower of the existing Caterpillar C7 engine, replace existing rigid axles with the company’s TAK-4 independent suspension, optimize the vehicle’s underbody armor protection, and integrate safety enhancements such as electronic stability control and electrical upgrades, he said.
“The most noticeable change to the vehicle is that the front axle is moved from beneath the cab on the A1P2 to be located out in front of the cab on the A2 to improve the overall vehicle performance,” Williams said. “These changes result in a more powerful and capable FMTV with increased payload capability and improved survivability, mobility and ride quality performance.”
Although the Army did not specify how many vehicles it intends to purchase with the A2 contract, James Hasik, a senior fellow for defense matters at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Washington, D.C.-based Atlantic Council, said he expected it could be a one-for-one replacement.
“The Army’s force structure is not going to be expanding dramatically … but trucks wear out,” he said.
Just like with all vehicles, whether they be tractor-trailers or personal vehicles, at a certain point they need to be replaced, he noted.
“Relate this to over-the-road tractor-trailers,” he said. “Trucking companies will run those things for … a couple hundred thousand miles and then they’ll take them out of service, they’ll tear down and rebuild the engines, they’ll tear down the rest of the vehicle and rebuild it” and put it back in service.
However, there comes a time when sustainment is insufficient and a new truck is needed, he noted.
While the Army is not beating up vehicles the way it was during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, “there is a point at which it’s time to dump it and just buy another one, buy fresh,” he said.
This is what the Army is doing with the A2 variant, Hasik said. He was not surprised that Oshkosh won the contract. The company has done extensive work for both the Army and Marine Corps and the services have been impressed with its products, he said.
“I’ve never met a Marine who has … uttered anything but glowing words about Oshkosh products,” he said. “Both those military services have a very fond feeling about Oshkosh.” When a request for proposals comes out “we’ve got to grade the RFP according to [the criteria]. But you know there are subjective criteria there, too. … Brand matters,” he added.
During the industry competition, Oshkosh went up against AM General, the manufacturer of the ubiquitous Humvee.
“I was very happy to see AM General challenge them for it,” Hasik said. “But they were always going to be the underdog in this fight.”
AM General attempted to do what Oshkosh did to BAE Systems during the A1P2 competition, he said.
“There has been a big turnaround at AM General, probably in terms of their product quality and also in the rejuvenation of at least some product development capabilities there. But it is a commentary on Oshkosh as a company that that wasn’t enough to take a program away from them,” he said.
For the health of the military vehicle industry, some may have thought the Army would give the contract to AM General, but Hasik said that would have been unlikely.
“The U.S. procurement system is not really set up to make industrial policy choices,” he said. “The awards are determined pretty much by the criteria that are laid out in the request for proposals, and to violate those terms opens you to immediate challenge.”
AM General did not respond to requests for comment.
With Oshkosh’s win, it could set the company up for long-term success, Hasik said.
“They might wind up with a run of many decades as having been the favorite for military trucks in North America,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to keep it because it is an industry in which entry into the military market segment is not as challenging as it is in other segments of supplying the military.”
It’s a big deal to break into the jet fighter business or the submarine market, he noted. However, “it’s not a stretch for any commercial truck manufacturer to start selling trucks to the military although it is a bit more complicated than, ‘Let’s take an off-road truck and paint it green,’” he added.
Hasik said that while there are fewer U.S. military vehicle contracts up for grabs in the future, no one need be concerned about the health of the military vehicle market industrial base.
“I would never worry about the truck industry because there’s a big healthy truck industry in North America,” he said. “Lots of people make trucks here.”