BREAKING: Army Awards Prototyping Contracts for Heavy Truck Program
GM Defense photo
The Army has awarded four industry teams contracts to deliver prototypes for its Common Tactical Truck program, as the service looks to modernize its fleet of heavy tactical wheeled vehicles for multi-domain operations.
Mack Defense, Navistar Defense, Oshkosh Defense and a team of American Rheinmetall Vehicles and GM Defense were awarded other transaction authority agreements totaling $24.25 million, a Jan. 27 Army press release said.
The Army’s current fleet — which includes the M915 Line Haul Tractor, M1088 Medium Tractor, Palletized Load System and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck — is “no longer aligned with current technology,” Alvin Bing, the Army’s product lead for the Common Tactical Truck, or CTT, program, said prior to the announcement.
The primary function of these heavy tactical wheeled vehicles is to transport bulk cargo to forward operators. As the Army centers its focus for the future on multi-domain operations, the service is looking to make its fleet more flexible, Bing said in an email.
Once the selected vendors deliver their prototypes to the Army, the service will conduct an evaluation of the submissions, which is scheduled for the beginning of 2024, according to the Army press release.
“Using the results from the prototype evaluation, the program office, in conjunction with the Army’s sustainment requirements community, will present the subsequent capabilities development document to the Army Requirements Oversight Council ... with a decision expected in Fiscal Year 2026,” the press release said.
“Commonality in the CTT family of vehicles will enable modular designs and interchangeable repair parts across the fleet, resulting in streamlined supply chains and reduced total lifecycle costs,” Bing said.
The new family of trucks will “leverage best commercial practices,” Bing added. Among the commercial technologies the service wants on these platforms are advanced driver assist systems, autonomy-ready capabilities, fuel efficiency, exportable power and prognostics and predictive maintenance, he said.
The goal is for the Army “to modernize at the pace of industry, integrating new technologies as they are developed,” he said.
The industry teams will provide three prototypes of each variant for the CTT family of vehicles, representing their offering for the M915 Line Haul Tractor, M1088 Medium Tractor, Palletized Load System and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, as well as “digital designs of all variants and a design study for a wrecker,” the press release said.
Mack Defense currently produces the M917A3 heavy dump truck for the Army as part of a seven-year contract the service awarded in 2018. The company is part of the Volvo Group, one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers, according to Mack Defense President David Hartzell.
The commercial resources at its disposal give Mack Defense a potential advantage for CTT, Hartzell said during a media briefing last fall at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.
“We have that global capability, we have that global maintainability supporting infrastructure … we are in many cases already the [original equipment manufacturer] developing and bringing that technology to the market,” he said.
Many of the capabilities needed for the vehicle sets are already part of Mack Defense’s offerings, Hartzell said.
“The basic truck design, the frame systems, the cab, the non-armored cab, the electronics, the engine, all that kind of stuff — it’s going to be our commercial base platform,” he said. “The degree of commonality across that whole range of CTT is going to be very optimized for the U.S. Army. So from a maintenance, training, sustainability perspective, they’re going to get a really good proposal.”
Additionally, as the Army is looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of its climate strategy, Mack Defense’s CTT bid includes “fuel demand reduction” systems that already exist within the Volvo Group, Hartzell said.
Another key capability the Army has emphasized for the program is autonomy readiness, which will set the “foundation for future autonomy,” Bing said.
Mack Defense worked with the company Robotic Research as part of its bid “to make sure that we didn’t have any gaps in capability,” Hartzell said. Robotic Research was an ideal partner because of its experience working on military applications for autonomous technology, including participation in the Army’s leader-follower program, he added.
Collaboration also played a key role in GM Defense and American Rheinmetall Vehicles’ CTT bid, the two companies forming a “strategic collaboration” for the competition.
GM Defense and Rheinmetall “had been talking to each other for a while looking for the best opportunity” to collaborate, GM Defense Vice President of Business Development JD Johnson said prior to the announcement.
“Common Tactical Truck was an obvious opportunity that we just naturally fit together in what we can bring,” he added.
The “base vehicle” for GM Defense and Rheinmetall’s bid will be Rheinmetall’s HX3 military truck series, said Mike Milner, Rheinmetall’s director of business development and strategy.
“Combining our truck [and] its advanced capabilities with GM Defense’s manufacturing supply chain and other advanced vehicle technologies that they can leverage from the commercial market just really made it a no-brainer for a relationship to move forward in this program,” Milner said.
While the final version of the vehicles will be modified to fit any unique requirements from the Army, “at its core the HX3 series of trucks will offer the Army two of its three highest priorities, which [are] commerciality and commonality,” he said.
HX3 was “initially designed in conjunction with” German-based company MAN Truck & Bus, “so it carries over as much of the commerciality as it can from the trucking industry,” Milner said. The trucks were also built upon “a building block” that allows for as much commonality between variants as possible, he said.
“If you just need a truck that can only carry a lighter weight, we can do it in a four-wheel vehicle,” Milner said. “We can do it in a 6x6, we can do an 8x8, or a 10x10. And really the only thing you’re changing is adding the axle and lengthening the overall chassis.”
The Army will also want some of the vehicles in the family to have an armored cab. Rheinmetall has developed an interchangeable cab that will allow the armored cab or unarmored cab to be switched out quickly with minimal personnel and equipment, Johnson said.
Another key requirement for the new vehicles is advanced safety features, such as driver assistance systems — which are already “part of the HX3 baseline,” Milner noted. However, up to this point the systems have not been commonly adopted on military vehicles, Johnson said.
“Every car on the road today … has these advanced systems to tell you if you’re departing a lane, if somebody’s coming up behind you, if there’s an issue to your rear, and yet military vehicles don’t have them,” he said. “And so we take these very young men and women [and] put them in a position to drive these vehicles that are significantly large and without that kind of capability.”
Along with the HX3’s built-in capabilities, GM Defense will “enhance” the vehicle to “give soldiers situational awareness and understanding of what’s going on around them with visual and physical prompts as they conduct operations,” Johnson said.
A partnership of Humvee manufacturer AM General and Italy-based Iveco Defense Vehicles had also submitted a proposal, but did not receive a contract for the prototyping phase.
“Commercial technologies and economies of scale exist that will help the Army … address the increasing age of the current Heavy Tactical Vehicle fleet,” Bing said. “Now is an opportune time to modernize with a Common Tactical Truck in support of Multi Domain Operations.”