With the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) convention rolling into town this week, and congressional bean-counters and Pentagon planners deciding what defense programs the nation might be able to do without, the time is ripe for a good ol’ fashioned public relations campaign.
While watching "60 Minutes" on Sunday night—it's safe now, Andy Rooney has retired—an ad for Oshkosh Defense’s Light All Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV) flashed on the screen featuring a wooden company exec touting the vehicle’s attributes. The interesting thing about the vehicle is that it was built on the company’s own dime, and as of right now, it’s not part of any official Pentagon development program.
Lighter than the company’s M-ATV, L-ATV incorporates some of the features of that vehicle while offering a scalable armor package that will allow different armor packages to be used depending on the mission. Oshkosh is also offering an option for the ProPulse hybrid diesel-electric drive train with 70 kw of onboard and export power. The company is positioning the vehicle to enter the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) competition once it opens up—again—to all bidders if it survives long enough to hit its next milestone.
While the JLTV is on the brink of extinction after a Senate panel voted to cancel it last month, Oshkosh is probably betting that even if the program doesn’t make it, the Army may look for something in between that and the upcoming Humvee Recap program, which also isn’t a sure thing.
But Oshkosh isn’t alone. Navistar Defense is also taking aim at that sweet spot, and today unveiled a brand new tactical vehicle that aims to “fill a gap” the company sees between those two programs.
Dubbed the Saratoga—company officials say the name was inspired by the Revolutionary War battle, which was a turning point in the war—the vehicle looks quite a bit like the Humvee, and it’s priced, with armor, at about $250,000 per vehicle. This puts it right in the Army’s wheelhouse, which has been defined as $180K for the Humvee Recap and about $250K per base unit, with an extra $65,000 for the b-kit armor for the JLTV. (Navistar is joining with BAE Systems as one of three teams competing for the JLTV contract.)
Like Oshkosh, Navistar has kept the truck under wraps for the past year, developing it on its own dime while driving it about 25,000 mi. (Oshkosh is at about 24,000), Navistar’s Pat MacArevey tells Ares. MacArevey also confirmed that Navistar is submitting a bid for the Army’s Humvee Recap program, and that the Saratoga—remember its outward similarity to the Humvee—shares plenty of similarities with its Humvee bid, including the same blast-protection package. Without giving away too many details, Navistar execs also told us that while they’ve already conducted seven blast tests on the underbelly armor kit, they’re bucking recent convention by not installing a V-shaped hull on the vehicle.
Interesting things afoot, and the convention only just kicked off this morning.
Pic: Navistar Defense