By KATIE FAIRBANK firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: 09 February 2015 08:51 PM
Updated: 10 February 2015 08:49 AM
The U.S. military is replacing its aging Humvee trucks, and the contract up for grabs could be worth more than $30 billion by 2040.
Proposals are due to the government Tuesday to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which will haul around troops, gear and sophisticated weaponry.
Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., is one of the three finalists; if it’s chosen, its Grand Prairie division would oversee the program.
Lockheed, Humvee maker AM General LLC and truck maker Oshkosh Corp. were selected finalists in 2012.
The three competitors provided 22 prototypes to be driven, blasted, and tested for reliability and safety. Those results will be considered as the winner is selected in summer.
The quest for the contract to build the JLTV began more than a decade ago after it became apparent during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that the military didn’t have a truck that was both mobile and able to keep troops safe from roadside bombs.
The Humvee, which stands for High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle, was designed for a war with front and rear lines. Improvised explosive devices were ripping them apart.
“These vehicles were subjected to underbody blasts, and the Humvee was not built to survive that,” said Kathryn Hasse, JLTV program director for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
To protect the crews, the military tried adding heavy armor kits to the Humvee, but the vehicles lost mobility and the ability to carry as much gear. Then it introduced the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, but these slow-moving behemoths hampered troop mobility.
In 2004, a program was created to give defense companies a chance to show what they could do with light tactical vehicles.
“What JLTV brings back to our servicemen and women is the level of blast and ballistic protection that they have in the MRAP vehicle,” said Hasse, who has worked on the program since its inception nearly 11 years ago at Missiles and Fire Control. “With the JLTV, we return them to protected mobility, and we do it in a vehicle light enough to be transported by a helicopter or fit in our transport ships.”
The JLTV is expected to have several variants, as did the Humvee, which was introduced in 1985 to replace the versatile Jeep.
And, like its iconic predecessors, the JLTV is likely to become ubiquitous.
The Army wants to buy 49,000 of the vehicles, and the Marines 5,500.
“Just as you see Jeeps in old war movies and Humvees in current war movies, I expect over time the JLTV will be as iconic an image in its genre as its predecessors,” Hasse said.
The military has said that the cost per truck would be capped at $250,000 and the initial production run limited to about 18,000 over five years. But a U.S. Department of Defense report in May 2013 said the trucks would cost about $400,000 each.
The “Army, in defense of its $250,000 per-unit cost estimate, noted that the larger report cost estimates include associated vehicle hardware and other costs, such as add-on armor, fielding, new equipment training, spare parts, and managerial and technical personnel associated with the vehicle program,” said the Congressional Research Service.
Missiles and Fire Control has about 2,700 workers in Grand Prairie. A long, lucrative contract would mean job stability for workers there in program management, engineering and prototyping.
The manufacturing would take place in Camden, Ark., where the division has a large facility.
Workforce numbers aren’t being disclosed since that’s a competitive part of the bid.
A defense acquisition board is expected to make a decision by August. The winner will be awarded a low-rate initial contract to produce roughly 17,000 JLTVs.
Missiles and Fire Control is not as well-known as its flashier fighter jet counterpart, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth. But it is just as well-regarded by its government customers.
The division had $7.8 billion in net sales in 2013, making such things as air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, naval rockets and missiles, launchers and defense systems, and anti-tank weapons. Its ability to intricately weave various systems together is another reason the company is a finalist to build a military truck.
“What they bring is real expertise in systems integration,” said Philip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis for Teal Group, a defense industry research firm. “That’s their strength, and that’s what they’re hoping will help distinguish them from their competitors.”