Oshkosh Shows Off its JLTV Candidate the Morning After its Big Win (Updated)

By Eric Beidel
STAFFORD, Va. — A small contingent of Oshkosh Corp. officials gathered at a small regional airport here the morning of Aug. 23 to take a spin in what could eventually be the Army and Marine Corps’ choice to replace the Humvee. They had just received some big news.
The night before, the services announced three contract awards for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of their marquee truck program, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is supposed to give troops greater off-road mobility than a Humvee with the blast protection provided by the much heavier Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
Oshkosh, which was left out of an earlier technology development (TD) phase, received a $56.4 million contract to produce 22 prototype vehicles within a year for further government testing. Lockheed Martin received a $66.3 million contract and AM General, which previously had teamed with General Dynamics for the TD phase, received a $64.5 million EMD contract for an independent vehicle design.
The announcement came unexpectedly, and well after business hours.
“We couldn’t have planned it any better,” said John Bryant, vice president and general manager of joint and Marine Corps programs at Oshkosh, who had already arranged for National Defense to take a ride in the company’s JLTV submission dubbed the L-ATV.
The L-ATV looks similar to Oshkosh’s all-terrain variant of the MRAP, the M-ATV, but it weighs about half as much. Just beyond a sacred Indian burial ground near the airport, it sped through straightaways, took corners with ease and tackled steep inclines without slipping in the mud. At one point, the driver stopped the vehicle cold on a 50-percent grade slope and let it hang there before reversing the truck back up the hill, a feat that couldn't be accomplished in a Humvee, officials said.
The key to the smoother ride is a new suspension system called the TAK-4i. It allows for 20 inches of wheel travel and much better spring rates than what’s currently available, Bryant said.
To compare, officials took a reporter around the same track in a 15-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement outfitted with a current TAK-4 suspension. The ride rocked occupants side to side and up and down despite the vehicle traveling at much slower speeds.
“A few years ago, I never would have thought a vehicle like [the L-ATV] was even possible,” Bryant said.
The JLTV program has struggled with cost and weight issues and at one point was on the brink of cancellation when the Army and Marine Corps seemed to be headed in opposite directions regarding armor requirements. The services eventually came together on a set of standards, rearranged the acquisition strategy and now expect contractors to produce vehicles at a much lower cost, about $250,000 per unit. That is down from earlier estimates as high as $418,000.
Requirements call for vehicles to be 14,000 pounds or less. While contractors struggled to meet weight requirements for the program during the TD phase, Lockheed Martin officials said the vehicle they will take into the next phase is predominately the same one they’ve had since day one — only lighter. To shave costs, Lockheed has stripped its vehicle of exotic materials such as titanium, said Kathryn Hasse, director of the company’s JLTV program.
AM General’s vehicle, the Blast Resistant Off-road (BRV-O) vehicle, is based on more than a decade of investment, a release from the company stated. The truck features a crew capsule and modular armor in its design, which can be easily adapted to changes in missions, threats and technology, officials said.
The Army has stated its intentions to buy as least 50,000 JLTVs with the Marine Corps committed to about 5,500. Companies that were not chosen for the EMD phase may resurface to compete for a production contract, including Navistar, which placed a bid with its Saratoga vehicle.
“As is typical with these programs, we plan to meet with the government to understand our evaluation and move forward,” Navistar President Archie Massicotte said in a written statement. “Down the road, there may be an opportunity for Navistar to bid for a JLTV production contract after the EMD phase is complete. We will seriously consider that option.”
Navistar also sees potential for its vehicle internationally in places such as the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Canada. The Saratoga “is designed to be delivered to market quickly with less investment than traditional defense programs, and we believe it is appealing to nations facing uncertain futures and limited budgets,” Massicotte said.
Look for more details on the JLTV program in the October issue of National Defense.
Correction: The original blog post incorrectly reported the number of JLTVs that the Marine Corps intend to purchase.
Photo Credit: Oshkosh

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Defense Contracting, Defense Department, Procurement, Land Forces

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