29 Jul 2011 By MICHAEL HOFFMAN DefenseNews
The U.S. Army insists it plans to go forward with its open competition for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle following completion of its two-year technology development phase even as many defense analysts have the program pegged for cancellation.
Tim Goddette, director of Sustainment Systems, said in a July 28 statement that the program has taken steps forward, refining the requirements during the technology development phase in order to "meet the designated capability gaps."
A program that could be worth up to $20 billion already has a host of defense companies, including BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, Lockheed Martin, AM General and General Tactical Vehicles, all vying to build the next-generation light vehicle.
Army officials hope to build a spree of capabilities into JLTV to include "fortified improvised explosive device, or IED, protections designed to withstand blast attacks, off-road mobility, variable ride height suspension, exportable power and essential command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, capabilities," Goddette said.
However, budgets are shrinking and the Army also plans to field the Ground Combat Vehicle in the next seven years and complete a recapitalization of the Humvee fleet. Army leaders know JLTV costs can't spiral out of control in the current budget environment.
Originally intended to replace the Humvee, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee wrote in the 2012 defense spending bill that "the operational niche to be filled by the JLTV appears to be shrinking," and cut $50 million off the Army and Marine Corps research and development budget request.
"We gained valuable insight into the cost of each capability and effect that one capability might have on another," Goddette said in the statement. "We've learned that some trade-offs are necessary to pursue an overall strategy that best synchronizes requirements, resources, mature technologies and a cost-reducing acquisition strategy."
One such trade-off could be to not include add-on armor known as B-kits to each vehicle. Goddette said the Army does not expect every JLTV will need that level of armor and protection. He also expects more lightweight protective material to be developed in the coming years.
Goddette also tried to dispel the belief that the Army no longer needs JLTV if it recapitalizes the Humvee fleet, integrates MRAPs and delivers the GCV. He said JLTV and the Humvee recap "complement one another as part of an integrated Light Tactical Vehicle strategy."
"These two competitive efforts are also synchronized with one another to invest a limited amount of resources up front enabling a 'try before we buy' approach and capitalize on the vast experience our industry partners have gained over that past five years," Goddette said.