[UPDATED with Pentagon confirmation] The better-protected, more-mobile replacement for the Humvee took a big step forward this month, when all three competitors’ vehicles completed a crucial series of military tests. All three have also completed a government Production Readiness Review to certify their ability to mass-produce their vehicle. Next comes the final Request For Proposals (RFP) for the $23 billion program, expected any time now. Then, in mid-2015, the government must make a winner-take-all decision on which company gets to build the actual Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) for the Army and marines.
While only Oshkosh has issued a formal press release so far, that has nothing to do with the performance of their product and everything to do with the aggressiveness of their press shop. As a company whose main business remains the commercial marketplace — and who faced difficult financial times in recent memory — Oshkosh seems quicker to tout itself than the traditional defense contractors with which it’s competing: AM General, which built the original Humvee, and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. But calls and emails to the two companies confirmed that they, too, have finished Limited User Testing. [The Army subsequently confirmed that all three competitors have completed LUT].
Each of these very different companies has very different strengths and strategies. AM General touts the excellence of its automotive systems, derived from decades of experience dating back to the original jeep of World War II. Lockheed Martin boasts of its superior technology and new advanced manufacturing facilities in Camden, Ark. Oshkosh can point out it designed and built the lightest and most mobile version of the otherwise notoriously heavy Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks, the M-ATV (All-Terrain Variant).
JLTV is a huge program – potentially. Despite the pressure of sequestration, the Army and Marines still plan to buy about 50,000 vehicles. But with the automatic budget cuts likely to return in the 2016 budget, every weapons program is on the table.