Earlier this month the U.S. Army invited a bunch of journos up to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for a look at the three Joint Light Tactical Vehicle variants still in the running for the 60,000-vehicle contract to build the Humvee of the future. For a bit of a recap, in October 2008, the Army awarded 27-month Technology Development contracts to three bidders: General Tactical Vehicles, a joint venture between General Dynamics and AM General; BAE Systems; and Lockheed Martin to develop prototypes of the vehicle for testing.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Wolfgang Petermann, project manager for the JLTV program said that the Army has completed the ballistic hull testing on the vehicles provided by the contractors, and that the competition has now entered into its performance testing phase. Final requirements for the vehicle and its three variants will be drawn up and a request for proposal issued in June 2011, followed by the winnowing down of competitors from three to two who will be awarded contracts for prototypes that will enter the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development phase in December 2011. If all goes well, plans call for final versions of the JLTV to be fielded for testing by mid-2015.
In a nod to the Marine Corps, which has made noise about leaving the Ground Combat Vehicle program and have had their doubts about the JLTV being light enough for their amphibious needs, Petermann was careful to point out that “we have maintained an expeditionary capability for the services.” But real questions remain about how committed the Marines are to the program, given that the service has been actively pursuing a lighter-weight, lower-cost option in the form of the Small Combat Tactical Vehicle Capsule (SCTVC) developed by Textron. Designed as a bolt-on capsule that fits on the chassis of existing Humvees, the design—which has already completed USMC blast and ballistic testing—weighs less than an up-armored Humvee while offering better protection.
Also present at the demonstration was Australian Army Lt. Col. Robin Petersen, who said that his country’s armed forces was preparing for delivery of variants from the American manufacturers to begin their own testing for possible future buys. DTI asked him what operational requirements the Aussies had that may differ from those laid out by the Pentagon, and he admitted that he didn’t see a whole lot of difference between what the two allies are looking for. “We came up with very similar requests,” he said. The countries are “fighting the same fight, facing the same threats,” in Afghanistan, and have similar outlooks of what future needs will be, he said.
(Pic: JLTVs in Aberdeen by Paul McLeary)