Lockheed Martin [LMT] has decided to build eight production examples of its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) offering to ensure its new Camden, Ark., production line is humming ahead of a decision by the Army on which of three competing designs to purchase.

The Army is expected to downselect from three competitors – AM General, Oshkosh Defense [OSK] and Lockheed Martin – to one, sometime between now and December. Each of the three companies has delivered 22 JLTVs under engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contracts. Those vehicles are being evaluated by the Army to inform the contract award.

Lockheed Martin's JLTV offering. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin’s JLTV offering.
Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin, which is teamed with BAE Systems for the program, announced Aug. 4 that it was building internally funded vehicles at its Camden, Ark., production facility. At least one vehicle has been sent to Lockheed Martin’s test track in Dallas where they are being evaluated by company officials.

“We are just getting our production line optimized and performing general risk reduction,” John Kent, a spokesman for Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control, told Defense Daily on Wednesday. “If we do win, this way we can hit the ground running.”

Scott Greene, vice president of ground vehicles at Lockheed Missiles and Fire Control, said in a June webcast from the Camden plant that if the company won, it would not deliver a vehicle to the Army for nine to 10 months after contract award. Greene would not disclose Lockheed Martin’s per-unit cost, but said it would come in under the $250,000 price tag set by the Army.

Lockheed Martin did not say how much it is spending on the eight production vehicles, but confirmed that the lot would be built with internal funding.

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Am General’s JLTV offering, the BRV-O

JLTV will replace a portion of the Army and Marine Corps Humvee fleets. The winning vehicle will have the mobility and speed of a Humvee and provide the blast protection of a much larger and more heavily armored mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle.

Nothing in the EMD phase requires any of the companies to build production vehicles ahead of a contract award. Kent said the production design is “fundamentally the same as our EMD vehicle design.” Some design tweaks have been made like the use of round headlights instead of rectangular and the newer vehicles have a redesigned snorkel air intake that allows the engine to breathe in high water, Kent said.

All 22 EMD vehicles were built at BAE Systems’ plant in Sealy, Texas, which is now shuttered. Building production vehicles at the Camden facility allows Lockheed Martin to reduce technical risk, optimize the advanced production processes at the Camden assembly plant, and to exercise and prepare the supply chain, the company said in a statement.

Greene said the eight production vehicles “are confirming that our processes work just as we knew they would.”

JLTV Photo:Oshkosh Defense
Photo:Oshkosh Defense

Lockheed Martin purchased the 300,000-square-foot Camden plant in 2013, site director Colin Sterling said during the webcast. Lockheed Martin has invested $30 million in the plant with another $125 million budgeted over the next six to seven years, he said. About 650 employees will be supported by JLTV fabrication, he added.

DoD requested $457 million in fiscal year 2016 for JLTV, enough to procure a total low-rate initial production (LRIP) buy of 559 vehicles: 445 for the Army and 109 for the Marine Corps. The Army, on behalf of itself and the Marine Corps, will select a winner and issue a single contract award.

The winning contractor would build about 17,000 JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps throughout three years of LRIP and five years of full rate production (FRP). The first Army unit would be equipped with vehicles by fiscal year 2018.