Last month, I headed up to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for a demo of the three Joint Light Tactical Vehicle variants still fighting it out for the final Pentagon contract for the Army's replacement for the iconic Humvee. The way the competition is currently playing out, plans call for two competitors to 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.
While there I also had the opportunity to speak with Australian army Lt. Col. Robin Petersen, who said his country’s armed forces were preparing for delivery of JLTV variants from the U.S. competitors to begin their own testing for possible buys. I asked him what operational requirements the Australians have that differ from those of the Pentagon, and he admitted that he didn’t see much difference. “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 needs will be.
The big question for the JLTV program is whether the Marine Corps still plans to buy in. While the service says it is committed to the program, it has also been actively pursuing a lighter-weight, lower-cost option in the form of the Small Combat Tactical Vehicle Capsule developed by Textron Marine and Land Systems and Granite Tactical Vehicles. Designed as a bolt-on capsule that fits on the chassis of existing Humvees, the design—which has already completed Marine Corps blast and ballistic testing—weighs less than an up-armored Humvee and offers better protection.
As with so much else in the Pentagon’s budgetary pipeline these days, most everything is subject to change.