The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV Technology Development phase industry teams have begun to build government prototypes, engineering an unprecedented blend of mobility, payload capacity and survivability -- building a light tactical vehicle that will withstand IED attacks, drive quickly through diverse terrain and transport beneath a CH-47 or CH-53 helicopter.

The three teams awarded contracts for the 27-month TD phase -- BAE-Navistar, General Tactical Vehicles, and Lockheed-BAE -- have incorporated design revisions from their independent preliminary and Critical Design Reviews.

"The Joint and International JLTV program is one of the first DoD acquisition programs to embrace the principles of "Competitive Prototyping." Through the efforts of three contractors to build JLTV variants we can validate requirements and reduce risk," said Army Colonel John Myers, the project manager for Joint Combat Support Systems.

"Independent CDRs provide the Army and Marine Corps with the opportunity to assess the technical maturity of each team's design relative to the TD phase requirements. As we progress from Preliminary Design Reviews to CDRs, each team further refined their design --- Then we move into the build process. What the Government sees coming out of the CDR is what we should see in hardware when the vehicles are delivered for testing," said Army Lt. Col. Wolfgang Petermann, product manager for JLTV.

Prior to testing, a series of independent test readiness reviews will serve as a checkpoint, ensuring that the vehicles were built as designed; the idea is to make sure that what was delivered on paper is the what is subsequently delivered in hardware, Petermann said.

"Shortly after the test readiness reviews we will begin full vehicle testing, beginning with safety certifications. We will then move into performance and RAM [reliability and maintainability] testing. We will conduct user evaluations with soldiers and Marines to verify requirements suitability," Petermann said. "This is a robust test program not typically seen in a TD [technology development] phase."

The prototypes will undergo 20,000 miles of RAM testing per vehicle, Peterman said.

In addition to prototype testing, Each of the three JLTV industry teams delivered armor coupons and a number of ballistic hulls for blast-test evaluation at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.

Industry partners have also conducted a series of subcomponent tests to include examinations of the adjustable height suspension, power integration capabilities, C4ISR architecture and blast-testing of the ballistic hulls, Petermann said.

"We have seen many mature individual technologies. The challenge will be seeing them integrated," Petermann said.

At the end of the rigorous testing schedule, the prototype vehicles will go through extensive prototype live-fire tests where they are attacked in combat-like conditions by weapons most likely to be used by current and future enemies.

The TD phase is aimed at informing and refining the requirements for the JLTV family of vehicles through prototyping in order to reduce risks and lower costs of production. Upon completion of the 27-month TD phase, the government will conduct a new, full and open competition for a follow-on Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase, leading to the awarding of two contracts.

"Our intent is to come out with an RFP for the EMD phase with a low-risk, executable and affordable set of requirements. We anticipate an RFP release for April 2011 -- to be followed by a contract award in fourth quarter 2011," Petermann said.

Following a Milestone C decision in 2013, the Army plans to purchase 55,000 JLTVs and the Marines plan to buy 5,500. Full production is slated for 2015, Petermann said.

The Army-Marine Corps JLTV program will produce a fleet of tactical vehicles that can support a range of mission sets.

"We are developing a family of vehicles and companion trailers that can be used in any operational environment -- low intensity conflict to high intensity conflict--Major combat operations to hybrid warfare. We have the SOCOM [Special Operations Command] requirements built into the vehicle, meaning no follow-on modifications will be necessary to accommodate their mission profiles -- thus increasing commonality with the operating forces," said Lt. Col. Ben Garza, JLTV program manager, Marine Corps.

Other requirements include building a vehicle that can generate 30 kilowatts of exportable power, drive when tires are shot, accommodate scalable armor solutions and extra spall liner and embedded diagnostics.

"The unarmored Humvee used to have great payload capacity and off-road mobility, but when you added armor it threw it off balance. We want to regain that off-road mobility we had with increased survivability --- all on one transportable platform," Garza said.

Currently, there are three payload categories which cover 10 JLTV configurations. Category A, the smallest category will have a combat transport weight of 14,322 pounds and supports a 3,500-pound payload while armored. Category B is somewhat larger supporting a 4,500-pound payload while armored; Category C supports a 5,100-pound payload while armored. The Category C vehicles will also address shelter and ambulance requirements. The entire family of JLTV is transportable by tactical assets (CH-47, CH-53, C-130), greatly reducing the burden on strategic assets such as the limited quantity of C-17 and C-5 aircraft.

Also, JLTV family of vehicles will be able to adjust its suspension to a height of 76 inches or less in order to board Maritime preposition force ships, Garza said.