JLTV Vendors: We’re Ready for Production (UPDATED)
As the joint light tactical vehicle program heads toward the end of its engineering, manufacturing and development phase, the military is testing each competitors’ manufacturing prowess.
Lockheed Martin announced Sept. 5 that its team had completed a production readiness review that evaluated the company’s manufacturing capabilities in terms of schedule, performance, cost and risk. The review was conducted at the company’s Camden, Arkansas, ground vehicle assembly facility.
“During the PRR we demonstrated to the satisfaction of the customer that the Lockheed Martin JLTV team is ready for full-rate production in Camden,” said Scott Greene, vice president of ground vehicles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “We did this through two days of presentations and factory line visits where we provided a government team with proof of our ability to produce the JLTV vehicle now.”
To further demonstrate the facility’s capabilities, the company assembled its JLTV variant from the ground up during the PRR, a process that took about 10 hours, Greene said. This was not a required part of the review.
The joint light tactical vehicle is slated to replace a portion of the Army and Marine Corps’ Humvee fleets. The services plan on buying about 49,000 and 5,500 vehicles, respectively.
The completion of the production readiness review was a significant milestone for Lockheed, which does not have as much experience manufacturing ground vehicles as the other two competitors in the program, Oshkosh Defense and AM General.
Incumbent AM General, which produced the Humvee, completed its PRR at the end of August, Chris Vanslager, the company’s vice president of program management and business development, told National Defense. Its blast resistant vehicle-off road vehicle, or BRV-O, would be produced at the same Mishawaka, Indiana, plant where Humvees and other light tactical vehicles are assembled.
“We have incorporated the joint light tactical vehicle production processes right into our existing hot production base for the Humvee,” he said. This allows the JLTV to benefit from lessons learned from other vehicles and the experience of AM General’s workforce, he added.
“If you talk about the Humvee line or the special forces line or the foreign military market line, the JLTV stays in line with that flexible, kitted approach, contributing to affordability without having to add special tools,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Oshkosh declined to comment on the program. The company is offering its light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle, known as the L-ATV.
Lockheed, Oshkosh and AM General entered the EMD phase in 2012 and have since built 22 vehicles for testing.
“Our prototypes were built on our production line, the first time history that’s ever been done in a Department of Defense program,” Vanslager said. Because they were manufactured in its Indiana assembly plant, its prototypes are production-level in terms of quality.
“There was only one or two items … that were not production ready, and that was because we felt we didn’t need to invest in the tooling at that time, and that we have plenty of lead time once the contract is awarded to upgrade the tooling and have it ready to go,” he said. “For example, the engine was dressed out in a cell just off the line.”
Lockheed’s 22 prototypes were manufactured in the Sealy, Texas, facilities of its partner, BAE Systems. After BAE closed that manufacturing complex, Lockheed moved the entire production line to Camden earlier this year, Greene said.
Randy O’Neal, vice president of production operations at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said, “We were able to, in this transition, make adjustments and refinements to the manufacturing process to improve it from an affordability standpoint and be able to validate all those modifications and adjustments through the production of a vehicle on that line.”
The Camden plant typically manufactures missiles and artillery, but the same manufacturing techniques that apply to those products also apply to ground vehicles, O’Neal said.
"In terms of rates, volume and flow of materials ... we have very comparable production programs ongoing today," he said. "Every single process required to build this vehicle exists today. The vehicle looks different from other products, but the processes are exactly the same."
In the coming months, vendors will move into limited user testing, which will give soldiers and Marines the chance to conduct various missions with the vehicles, Vanslager said.
The services are scheduled to downselect to a single vendor in early 2015, with full rate production starting in 2018.
Of Lockheed’s maximum rate of production, O’Neal said, “It’s well within our capability to significantly expand the rate” of production past the requirements laid out in the next 10 years.
Vanslager would not comment on AM General’s maximum rate of production for JLTV, but said that the company’s assembly line is capable of producing 100 unarmored Humvees per shift per day, and up to 85 armored vehicles per shift per day, Vanslager said.
“Multiply that by three if you’re running three shifts, and there’s significant capacity there,” he said. “But that’s not necessarily what we expect in the future. We have … developed the plans to produce smaller qualities in more various configurations based upon what we would expect to see in the future.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Army's objective JLTV purchase. It plans to purchase about 49,000 vehicles.