Army's Humvee Replacement Lauded As 'Model' Acquisition Program

By Dan Parsons

The Army’s lone active vehicle acquisition program is receiving high marks from Pentagon officials and members of Congress who hold its purse strings.

Three companies — Oshkosh Corp., Lockheed Martin and AM General — are competing to replace thousands of Army and Marine Corps Humvees with their version of the joint light tactical vehicle.

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said the hotly contested competition is already benefitting the Army by forcing the developers to focus on providing vehicle capabilities superior to the aging, thin-skinned Humvee.

“When we think about the capability we will need in the future, JLTV is a model program,” Shyu said May 6 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Tactical Wheeled Vehicles Conference in Reston, Virginia. “We have just done an exceptional job at executing that program.”

“There is a huge focus on capability as opposed to a sole-source up front,” she said. “When there is a competition, I guarantee every one of those companies wants to win.”

Competition between the three companies chosen for the current engineering and manufacturing development phase is spurring an arms race in vehicle capabilities that will ultimately benefit the Army when a downselect is made, she said.

Engineering and manufacturing development contracts were awarded to the three truck makers last year. Each company has delivered 22 EMD prototypes for the current battery of field tests. Lockheed’s vehicle surpassed 100,000 test miles in April.

The Army plans to buy 49,000 JLTVs, and the Marine Corps 5,500. The Army is expected to make a source selection based on the outcome of those tests and take delivery in July 2015.

The Army’s fiscal year 2015 budget request included $210 million for JLTV, which will allow low-rate initial production for 176 vehicles.

So successful has the JLTV acquisition model been, that Shyu said the same competition construct would be used when the Army buys new medium and heavy trucks.

The anticipated but currently unnamed medium truck, which would be created jointly with the Marine Corps, could be fielded in the mid-2020s, Kevin Fahey, the Army’s program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in February. The technology development phase for that vehicle could begin as early as 2018.

Erica Striebel, chief of staff to Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said JLTV is on a “great track” and enjoys support in Congress. Decreasing budgets favor platforms like JLTV that provide capabilities to troops other than simple transportation, she said.

Not only will the vehicle have crew protection equal to that of the heavy mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, each will have communications and data links to the Army’s battlefield network currently in development.

“When you look at the service’s budget, no platform can be one platform anymore,” Striebel said. “You’re getting rid of the kind of gear that can only accomplish one thing and JLTV is a world above what a Humvee used to be and brings a huge advantage to the fight when it comes to the Army and Marine Corps.”

Congress is more likely to fund vehicles that are networked and improve significantly on the systems they replace, she said.

“There is definitely a commitment [on Capitol Hill] that this is something we need for the future force,” she said. “We need to do it also to maintain and sustain an industrial base that we have used robustly in this last conflict … and is something we are going to need again in the future.”

Congress is shifting its thinking about military vehicles, given the “tremendous sophistication, connectivity, networking, sensor capability that is now inherent across the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet,” said Steve Cortese, executive vice president of DRS Technologies.

“It was a discussion about transportation,” Cortese said of Congress’ funding of Army truck programs. “It was a discussion about logistics and the movement of people and materiel. It’s now a discussion of the architecture for how the Army fights and how … that sensing and communications integration mission is central to it.”

The recognized value of vehicles that are communication hubs as well as trucks that move stuff has benefited the industrial base that builds them, Cortese said.

“It has put this component of the budget in good stead as we’ve seen other major programs face the budget ax or become viewed as ultimately too expensive to go forward,” he said. “We’ve seen a strong commitment evinced by the Congress to upgrade the Humvee fleet. … We see JLTV moving forward in the procurement budget, … something people three years ago would have been highly skeptical of.”

Topics: Land Forces

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