ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – In 2009, the Army National Guard identified a capability gap in their ambulances, demonstrating a need for upgrades.
An order was placed for 500 military ambulances, exclusively for the National Guard, to Rock Island Arsenal – Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (RIA-JMTC).
“Bottom line, you need (the ambulance) for (the Warfighter), because they’re bringing our brothers, sisters and kids home, so they need it to work,” said David Reed, assembly supervisor for the ambulance program at RIA-JMTC. “The fact that it is an ambulance: it’s almost just as important as the rifle they carry, in my mind.”
Five prototypes were built in 2011 with full-rate production starting in 2013. As production continued, it expanded to include supplying the active duty and Reserve components, increasing the number of units required.
In June 2019, the program underwent a change when a Public-Private Partnership was signed with AM General. The agreement was signed for RIA-JMTC to produce 2,800 more ambulances. In this partnership, RIA-JMTC continued to manufacture the ambulance, but AM General became responsible for purchasing and supplying parts. This partnership was signed for five years, but RIA-JMTC was ahead of schedule and finished in two.
“I'll say our quality definitely improved with that partnership,” said Toni Lorenzen, RIA-JMTC ambulance program manager. “We learned a lot out of that and I believe everything we learned on the ambulance program will now be used on all future programs. There were definite benefits to the partnership.”
Eight years after full-rate production began, in total, nearly 4,000 upgraded ambulances were manufactured as the program concluded in June 2021.
The Humvee ambulance, designated the M997A3, is currently the most modern ambulance in the fleet of Army ambulances with an improved drive train, electrical components, cabin improvement and increased medical equipment storage area as well as brighter LED lights for medics to work and additional ventilation system controls.
Overall, the program was funded for $333 million, which equated to approximately 960,000 direct labor hours for 300 employees. The program also piloted many continuous process improvement events which will be used in future programs, according Lorenzen.