Washington: The Army and Marine Corps have pulled out all the stops to save the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, but those efforts could end up killing the entire program.
The Army claims it can buy the JLTV for just over $200,000 per truck, after drastically paring down the vehicle’s requirements. Previous estimates put the truck’s price tag upwards of $350,000 per copy.
But the cheaper JLTV the Army ends up getting won’t be much different than the iconic Humvees the service is also retooling — which could mean the end of the JLTV program.
With so many of the features that made the JLTV a cutting-edge combat truck gone, it is now “indistinguishable” from the upgraded Humvee, according to Loren Thompson, senior analyst with the Lexington Institute and a member of Breaking Defense’s Board of Contributors.
In a an op-ed in Forbes, Thompson argues the Army will be hard pressed to convince the Hill to pay for two separate combat vehicle programs, especially since the two programs are now so similar.
“That inevitably will lead members of Congress to ask why the service needs to spend $270,000 for a new light vehicle when it can get a refined version of the existing vehicle for two-thirds of that amount,” Thompson writes.
Industry competitors for the Humvee recapitalization program have argued the Army needs both the Humvee and the JLTV. The revamped Humvee is intended to pave the way for the more-capable JLTV, with both vehicles working off each other in the field.
The recapitalized Humvee was never designed to take the place of the JLTV, even with the toned-down requirements in the current program.
“There are constraints to what can be done with any vehicle, and a 30-year-old Humvee is certainly no exception,” Eric Lindsey, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, told me recently.
But lawmakers still seem unconvinced, and have written their doubts into the upcoming defense spending bill. Senate appropriators already decided to kill the JLTV in their version of the 2012 defense budget. Their House counterparts took $50 million from the program in their draft of the legislation.
The Army is still pushing hard to build JLTV, but if that newly-defined combat truck is rendered obsolete by the new Humvees — at least in the eyes of Congress — it could mean the end of the program even before the first production truck rolls off the line.