By Kris OsbornSeptember 16, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 16, 2011) -- After refining requirements during a two-year technology development phase for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Army developers are poised to conduct full and open competitions geared towards recapping Humvees and producing JLTVs, as part of a synergized Light Tactical Vehicles strategy.
The Army-led program is planning to accelerate the developmental timeline of the next phase of the JLTV program, said Col. David Bassett, project manager, tactical vehicles.
"We're in the process of restructuring an acquisition strategy that responds to a shorter timeframe for these vehicles to be able to reduce the cost of the next phase as well as get vehicles out there faster," Bassett said. "We're going to deliver vehicles into the field sooner and we are working hand-in-hand with our user community to look at ways to drive down the cost of the vehicle."
The TD phase for the JLTV program, completed this past May, successfully demonstrated the vehicle's ability to meet a wide range of requirements. These requirements included fortified improvised explosive device protections designed to withstand blast attacks, off-road mobility, variable ride height suspension, exportable power and essential command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, said Tim Goddette, director of sustainment Systems.
The TD phase further illustrated that the JLTV will be a next-generation light vehicle that brings Soldiers an unprecedented blend of protection, payload and performance, Goddette said. The 27-month TD phase included prototype vehicles from three teams of vendors: BAE-Navistar, Lockheed-BAE and General Tactical Vehicles (General Dynamics and AM General).
"The purpose of the TD phase was geared toward refining the requirements in order to demonstrate the JLTV's ability to meet the designated capability gaps," Goddette said. "The program has succeeded in identifying and proving out those areas of needed development -- and now the Army is analyzing what trade-offs might be required in order to best pursue an acquisition strategy that both lowers costs and delivers this needed capability to Soldiers."
The competitive prototyping and extensive testing pursued during the TD phase was designed to match technological capability with the vehicle's requirements as well as lower risk for an anticipated production phase.
"We demonstrated not only that the requirements were achievable, but we gained valuable insight into the cost of each capability and effect that one capability might have on another. We've learned that some trade-offs are necessary to pursue an overall strategy that best synchronizes requirements, resources, mature technologies and a cost-reducing acquisition strategy," Goddette said.
Operating in today's more budget-constrained fiscal environment, Army developers are working on an approach to JLTV procurement that harnesses the best available technologies while minimizing costs and achieving efficiency in the process.
One such approach includes the possibility of buying less add-on armor, known as B-kits, for the vehicles. Not every JLTV will need the added protection and new, lightweight materials may likely become available in the future.
With its off-road ability, blast-protection and on-board electronics, the JLTV will bring a new set of capabilities to the Army and Marines. The JLTV is being engineered to maximize Soldier protection without compromising mobility and vehicle performance.
"We are now focusing on a vehicle that is 10,000 pounds lighter than an M-ATV and yet we believe will offer as much protection as the original M-ATVs that the Army fielded," said Col. Bassett. These enhanced technological capabilities will allow the JLTV to perform a wide range of missions and perform many roles Humvees are currently unable to do.
At the same time the Army is preparing for the next phase of the JLTV program, they have also embarked upon a competitive Humvee recap program-called the Modernized Expanded Capability Vehicle. The MECV aims to improve the survivability of the existing Humvee that is already in the Army inventory.
The Army plans to release a draft request for proposal for MECV this fall, with an award date notionally slated for next spring.
Thus far, the Army has been encouraged by a strong industry response to earlier requests for information, and plans to award multiple test vehicle contracts before down-selecting to one vendor.
Currently, the Army estimates nearly 6,000 Humvees will be recapped as part of the program; with the potential for additional vehicles should the Marine Corps become part of the program. Both services, the Army and the Marine Corps, continue to review requirements to determine the extent of the collaboration needed.
The MECV program, which aims to improve survivability of the Humvee while driving down weight and cost, does have the requirement for the base cab to be lift-able by the Army's CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Bassett added.
Light Tactical Vehicle Strategy
The JLTV and Humvee-recap program are designed to complement one another as part of an integrated Light Tactical Vehicle strategy designed to best prepare American forces for a range of anticipated future contingencies.
"These two competitive efforts are also synchronized with one another to invest a limited amount of resources up front enabling a 'try before we buy' approach and capitalize on the vast experience our industry partners have gained over that past five years," Goddette added.
There are limits to how much payload and performance we can squeeze even out of an upgraded Humvee without resulting in a vehicle cost where it just makes common sense to buy a JLTV, Bassett said, "these two efforts together give us the best of both options as we seek to modernize our light fleet while sustaining our significant investment in HMMWV".
(Kris Osborn writes for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology)