Even Without Fancy Frills, Future Military Trucks Will Cost More Than Bentleys

4/25/2011
By Sandra I. Erwin
It is a sign of the times that a military Humvee truck for which the Army paid less than $50,000 will cost nearly four times that much to modernize.
And refurbishing a Humvee still costs half the price of a new vehicle.
Such are the sobering numbers confronting Army and Marine Corps truck buyers as they embark on fleet replacement programs for more than 100,000 aging Humvees.
The services want their revamped Humvees to have enough armor so that occupants can survive bomb blasts. They want more fuel-efficient engines, and onboard electricity generation so troops can power their radios, sensors and other combat gear. Current vehicle designs, most of which date from the Cold War era, had not anticipated these requirements.
The Defense Department is spending $36 billion on a fleet of 20,000 heavily armored mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, but MRAPs are twice as heavy and, at $500,000 to a million dollars each, too expensive to be considered Humvee substitutes.
TheArmy estimates that it could cost $180,000 to upgrade an armored Humvee. “Dependent upon availability of funds, there is a potential requirement to competitively recapitalize and modernize the Army’s current fleet of 60,000 up-armored Humvees,” said an Army “market survey” published last week. “With other customers, the total potential quantity over the next 20 years is approximately 100,000 vehicles.”
Protection from roadside bombs is a significant cost driver in any truck program, noted aRAND Corp. study. “Tactical wheeled vehicles are acquiring more situational awareness and protection capabilities, thus growing closer to their ground combat vehicle cousins and more distant from their commercial counterparts,” the study said. “These trends mean more expensive vehicles in most fleets and, due to the large number of tactical wheeled vehicles, much more expensive fleets.”
RAND analysts said senior military buyers have yet to fully comprehend the “funding implications of the survivability of tactical wheeled vehicles.” The tradeoff between survivability and affordability, the study said, “presents a major policy decision for DoD and Congress.”
The need for protection from improvised explosive devices [IED], the study said, “demands that this class of vehicles have armored cabs, at a minimum.”
Not able to predict what IEDs future enemies may use against U.S. forces, vehicle buyers face tough tradeoff decisions among weight, cost and protection, RAND analysts noted. And no matter what protection is acquired, there is no guarantee it will work. “Technology-based solutions to mitigate vulnerability are expensive, whereas the enemy’s countermeasures are relatively cheap,” the study said.
Both the Army and Marine Corps have been weighing whether to fix or buy new as they map out their future truck fleets, but it appears increasingly likely that they will do more fixing than buying. The truck that is being designed to replace the Humvee -- theJoint Light Tactical Vehicle -- is coming in at higher than expected costs. The original estimate for JLTV was approximately $250,000 per vehicle. The latest number from the Army is $300,000 per vehicle, and some outside estimates have exceeded $400,000, according to RAND.  
The large investment planned to refurbish the current Humvee fleet suggest that the military may be scaling back future JLTV purchases and expects to keep the Humvee going for a couple more decades.
“Based on the Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy and future force structure plans, the up-armored Humvees will be required to play a significant part in combat, combat support, and combat service support roles beyond fiscal year 2025,” said the Army’s market survey. “In support of this effort, vehicle capabilities and requirement adjustments are being refocused to improve crew protection while restoring automotive mobility, payload and performance.”
RAND said the military services will continue to struggle with how to balance their vehicle needs within funding constraints because they don’t have a clear sense of what their options are. The study recommends greater use of models and simulations before buying commitments are made.
“It is impossible to protect the vehicle fleets from all threats solely with onboard armor, situational awareness and active protection systems … [and] at the same time, incorporate off-vehicle assets in trade-offs and calculations” without using advanced modeling and simulations, RAND said.
Some of the more important trades for ground combat and tactical wheeled vehicles are: protection versus mobility, passive versus active protection, manned versus unmanned systems, armor versus situational awareness, payload versus speed versus range, range versus off-road capability, size versus stealth, modularity versus specialization, organic ISR (intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance) and fire support versus remote, said the study.
“These trades are especially important for ground vehicles because the platforms are pushing against the limits of weight, power, size, maneuverability, payload, protection, and cost,” RAND noted. Smarter use of modeling and simulation, the study said, could help the Defense Department save money.

Topics: Land Forces

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