Sunday, October 23, 2011

U.S. Military Sees JLTV Development Gain Speed

The U.S. military's program to replace the Humvee has had more ups and downs than the road on which they are tested, but things look to be moving forward.
Above, an artist's rendering of Lockheed Martin's entry into the JLTV competition. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps leaders trimmed a lot of extras to cut the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) cost by $100,000. This also will slice 16 months from the $52 million engineering, manufacturing and development phase, which will end in May 2012. That means the $270,000 base vehicle will come cheaper and sooner, as a single contract award is now scheduled for 2015.
The Army wants at least 20,000 JLTVs with the potential for a larger buy for the program with an estimated worth of $20 billion. Army officials plan to replace a third of their 150,000-vehicle Humvee fleet with the JLTV. The Marine Corps plans to buy 5,500.
The services are now trying to convince the Senate Appropriations Committee, which had recommended the JLTV program be terminated, to come along for the ride.
"We spent all the time with the Marine Corps getting the requirements right that we frankly didn't tell the story to you all, to the Senate, and particularly the Senate Appropriations Committee about the good work that is going on," said Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army programs.
The new vehicle, outlined in an Oct. 3 draft request for proposal, will have the survivability of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, better mobility than a Humvee and the ability to add mission kits. It will be transportable by ship or helicopter and be able to provide 30 kilowatts of exportable power. Six variants with companion trailers will make up the JLTV family, which will include a four-seat, close-combat weapons carrier, a two-seat utility carrier and shelter, a four-seat general purpose vehicle, a heavy guns carrier and command-and-control-on-the-move vehicle.
The latest changes include an increase to allowable weight from 12,600 pounds to 14,000 pounds. The original number was needed so the Marine Corps' CH-53 Sea Stallion could sling load the JLTV at high altitudes and high temperatures. But industry teams would have to experiment with exotic materials to reach such weight, said Katheryn Hasse, Lockheed Martin's director of tactical wheeled vehicles.
And while most initial entries could produce as much as twice the required 30 kilowatts of external power, the new standard will cut weight and cost.
Critics have ripped the program's lengthy technology development phase, but service officials wouldn't have been able to reach the requirement consensus without it, said Col. David Bassett, the Army program manager for Tactical Vehicles.
Four defense teams led by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh Defense and General Tactical Vehicles, a joint team of General Dynamics Land Systems and Humvee-maker AM General, have developed prototypes and will submit bids for the EMD phase. Three will be selected to move forward. Officials are mum on a lot of the details, as they don't want to show their hand before placing their bets. But here is a taste of what is to come:
BAE Systems
BAE Systems delivered 11 JLTVs for the TD phase, which is 12 months of rigorous government testing.
The vehicle, now in its fourth generation, is designed with payload, protection and performance in mind but is scalable for future technologies, said Deepak Bazaz, program manager.
If the decision were made on looks alone, the sleek BAE vehicle would have this in the bank. But this isn't a beauty pageant, and BAE knows it. So its bottom-up design is centered on the soldier. The company even calls the vehicle a "Valanx," a combination of the ancient Greek "phalanx" formation designed to protect soldiers in combat, with a nod to the V-shaped hull designed to deflect a mine blast away from the vehicle.
BAE also teamed with the existing commercial base in a strategy to keep production and spare parts costs down, Bazaz said. Northrop Grumman has the lead on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The vehicle comes with a Navistar engine, Allison transmission and Meritor suspension.
Clip structures forward and back take the load into the suspension system to provide greater survivability. Ground height is not set, though earlier variants had a 24-inch max standoff. Simply put, the higher the vehicle is, the farther away the soldier is from a roadside bomb blast.
Officials said they "prefer not to share specific numbers" as the program approaches the EMD competition but are "very confident" the vehicle will meet reliability and fuel economy requirements. Bazaz also said the vehicle will achieve weight standards "with margin."
"It all comes down to performance against the requirements," he said. "We've got a very compliant vehicle at an affordable price point because of our commercial relationships and our partner strengths with our expertise in survivability. When you put all of that together, you get a very strong combination that we can bring to the Army."
General Tactical Vehicles
The General Dynamics/AM General team is finishing the redesign on a vehicle that combines the General Dynamics' skills in survivability with AM General's experience in this arena. And the influence of the latter is evident when looking at the vehicle, which some have described as a "Hummer on steroids."
The GTV JLTV incorporates the Stryker's double-V hull, said Mike Cannon, senior vice president of ground combat systems for General Dynamics.
"Lessons learned out of the TD phase are really going to inform us on the EMD phase," Cannon said. "We did not pay enough attention to quality going in the TD phase, but we're going to be dead on it in EMD. We're going to be all over it."
The tag team is also exploring other nondevelopmental capabilities, primarily relief from the height requirement. The company looked to negotiate a change during a private, two-hour session with program leaders that was offered to each company last week. Cannon said the height requirement would force them to reduce either the space between the vehicle and a roadside bomb or the crew space, and the company is not interested in an adjustable suspension because it adds a lot of cost.
"We have a really strong partner," Cannon said. "We have strong capabilities, systems integrators, systems engineering and survivability. That's our forte."
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed's JLTV is designed to bridge the capability gap between the Humvee and MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle by boosting mobility, payload and force protection, Hasse said.
The V-hulled vehicle achieved MRAP-level blast protection Oct. 4 while weighing 40 percent less than the M-ATV. Lockheed, which has partnered with BAE Global Tactical Systems, has logged more than 160,000 testing miles and has a fuel efficiency of 12 miles per gallon with the Gunner Protection Kit - a 50 percent increase over a Humvee with no armor. The company also is designing the JLTV to 13,800 pounds to provide a margin for growth and is confident it will hit the reliability requirement of 3,600 mean miles between failure.
"Are we there today? The answer is no," Hasse said. "But we will begin the EMD phase at a very substantial level of reliability … about 3,600 mean miles between hardware mission failure. That is a very reliable base to continue to tweak the design and take the corrective actions to achieve the level of reliability the government desires.
Soldiers will especially like the user-friendly crew cab, which was designed around the war fighter. Lockheed leveraged its aerospace background and systems integration experience to incorporate a substantial amount of capability into the dashboard, which frees space for the war fighter.
"We're going to provide the levels of force protection that the Army requires, which are substantially more than JLTV was and originally intended to do, and we're going to do it in a package that is very reliable," Hasse said. "We've already proven that in our TD program and our internal testing program."
Oshkosh Defense
Despite its strong showing with the M-ATV, Oshkosh is the new kid on the JLTV block as it did not participate in the TD phase.
But that doesn't cause Rob Messina, vice president for defense engineering, to lose any sleep. His Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV, is the sixth generation in a light vehicle family in which Oshkosh has invested more than $60 million. "We can show reliable history, well-developed components and performances that are in the range the customer is looking for," he said.
This latest evolution leverages the M-ATV's modular and scalable protection. It replaces the diesel-electric power train with an electric power train, but its key strength is its mobility. The vehicle includes the TAK-4i intelligent suspension system. Built on 10 years of operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the system provides up to 20 inches of independent wheel travel. These combine to provide a vehicle that is 50 percent faster off-road than the M-ATV, Messina said.
Improved shock absorption also allows high speed on rough terrain while keeping passengers comfortable and lowering driver fatigue. Messina would not say where the L-ATV stands on reliability, fuel efficiency or weight, but he said the Marine Corps' high-hot requirement, which is 12,600 pounds, is achievable with the base variant.
Messina said he is confident Oshkosh can provide a "threshold or better performance" at the cost requirement - so confident, in fact, that Messina said he will be asking Army leaders to change their policy and give credit for performance above threshold.

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