In only a matter of weeks–perhaps as few as two–one of three companies vying to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) will be asked to fire up its production line and get to work delivering trucks.

All three competitors–Oshkosh [OSK], AM General, and a Lockheed Martin [LMT]-BAE Systems team–have built and delivered 22 vehicles apiece for the Army to test during the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase.

JLTV Photo:Oshkosh Defense
Photo:Oshkosh Defense

Lockheed Martin, not traditionally a ground vehicle manufacturer, has bought and expanded a plant in Camden, Ark., to build its offering. To prove the facility can handle the job, the company will preemptively build eight production-model JLTVs. Lockheed Martin spokesman John Kent said the vehicles were being built simply as a test of the readiness of the Camden facility.

The three companies submitted their final proposals in February in anticipation of an Army decision this year of one candidate to undergo three years of low-rate initial production and five years of full-rate production. Kent said the JLTV joint program office has said the decision will come no sooner than Aug. 28.

Both Oshkosh and AM General feel they have an advantage over Lockheed martin, not only because they are incumbent military vehicle suppliers, but because both companies built their EMD JLTVs on the same lines they will use if awarded a contract.

AM General built its EMD-phase trucks on the same line it uses to produce other military vehicles and will use it to build JLTVs. As the original manufacturer of the Humvee, the company is technically the incumbent, though the JLTV is seen as a generational leap from that vehicle, which has been upgraded and up-armored to deal with wartime threats to the point it little resembles the original design.

Am General's JLTV offering, the BRV-O
Am General’s JLTV offering, the BRV-O

“We are ready now. Our light tactical vehicle line is hot, tooled up with all processes in place,” Christopher Vanslager, vice president of program management and business development, told Defense Daily.

Vanslager declined to say what production rate Am General would be able to achieve at its South Bend, Ind., production facility. Though JLTV will not completely supplant the Humvee, the production figures are nonetheless huge. The Army plans to buy 49,909 JLTVs between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal 2040. Another 5,500 vehicles will go to the Marine Corps beginning in fiscal 2015 with the last one delivered before fiscal 2021, according to a Congressional Research Service report on the program published in March.

“The rate is established by our contract requirements per year,” he said. “Regardless, AM General has demonstrated time and again of our ability to meet any and all light tactical vehicle demands with our proven production capabilities.”

AM General is offering its Blast Resistant Vehicle-Off Road (BRV-O) as its JLTV solution that has modular, replaceable armor that can be swapped out if damaged.  

The Army’s tactical wheeled vehicle strategy sets fiscal 2018 as the date by which the first unit must be equipped with JLTVs. The fleet should be 77 percent fielded by fiscal 2035 to meet the final fielding date of fiscal 2040.

Oshkosh is offering a lighter cousin of the M-ATV, the light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle (L-ATV), to replace the Humvee and said it is already performing the Army’s desired mission profile in the field by providing MRAP-level protection and Humvee-type mobility.  No stranger to building military trucks, Oshkosh holds contracts for both heavy and medium tactical vehicles in the thousands, not to mention being one of several companies that surged MRAPs into Iraq and Afghanistan to protect troops from roadside bombs.

“Oshkosh built its EMD JLTVs on the same active, proven production line as the heavy, medium and MRAP vehicles we build for our current military programs,” company spokeswoman Jenn Christiansen, told Defense Daily. “Following EMD, we have continued to build JLTVs to prepare for the production phase.”

The company has demonstrated its ability to surge production in the past in response to an urgent military needs. Within six months of receiving a contract to build mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, the company was rolling more than 1,000 off its production line every 30 days, she said. Oshkosh built a total 10,000 MRAP all-terrain vehicles (M-ATV) for the U.S. and allied partners.

Both a government review and one done by the company during the EMD phase found the production line was ready to begin production of field-ready JLTVs immediately, Christiansen said.   

“Oshkosh has successfully launched more new tactical wheeled vehicle programs into production for the U.S. military than any other OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer),” she said. “Our highly experienced workforce is already in place, so we don’t bring the risk of building our very first production vehicle to the JLTV program.”