Test Phase Critical
Gearing up to begin Limited User Testing (LUT) involving warfighter participation, the JLTV program continues to progress through an intensive, 14-month test portion of a 33-month Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) phase.
By Christian Sheehy, TDM Managing Editor
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is poised to fill a key gap between today’s fleets of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), better known as the Humvees, and the larger, less mobile Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, providing a critical balance of payload, performance, and protection. The JLTV Family of Vehicles (FoV) is designed to support military operations across the spectrum by restoring light tactical mobility and ensuring commanders no longer have to choose between payload, mobility, or protection regardless of enemy, terrain, and environmental conditions.
JLTV will also address challenges in maintainability, connectivity, and performance as it provides major operational improvements in protected mobility, network connectivity, fuel efficiency, and reliability, along with the growth potential to meet future mission requirements.
“The Army is fielding JLTV specifically because of today’s unpredictable, dynamic, and full-spectrum environments,” noted Colonel John Cavedo, Jr., the JLTV Joint Program Office Project Manager. “Warfare and soldiers’ needs have changed, as recent conflicts blurred ‘front lines’ and ‘rear areas’ and illustrated the need for a protected mobility solution that substantially improves protection without sacrificing payload, performance, and maneuverability.
“The draft Request for Proposals (RFPs) for initial production have been released, and we anticipate releasing the final RFPs in FY15, leading to source selection evaluation in the second and third quarters of FY 15,” said Cavedo. Overall, the JLTV program remains on track for a Milestone C and Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) award decision in the fourth quarter of FY 15.
Cavedo anticipates awarding the LRIP contract in FY 15, with the first vehicles being delivered in early FY 16. “At present, our plans have the first Army unit equipped in FY 18. It is important to note that as fieldings begin, the LRIP phase itself will also include a substantial amount of additional testing lasting into FY 18,” he added.
Army procurement will last until approximately 2040 and replace a significant portion of the Army’s legacy light tactical vehicle fleet with 49,099 new vehicles across four mission package configurations: General Purpose (GP), Heavy Guns Carrier (HGC), Close Combat Weapons Carrier (CCWC), and a utility vehicle. The Marine Corps’ purchases of 5,500 vehicles are front-loaded into the plan, and their fielding is scheduled to be completed in FY 22.
“We are on track to reach Milestone C in 2015 and initial operational capability in 2018,” Lieutenant General Kenneth Glueck, Jr., Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told A&M in July. “You have to remember JLTV is in development to meet a critical long-term need and is subject to the full development processes, unlike the urgently needed and rapidly fielded MRAP [program]. We are working closely with our Army partners on the JLTV and together have set rotary wing and maritime prepositioning force amphibious lift transport as defining system boundaries,” Glueck added.
The Marine Corps’ approach to JLTV is an incremental acquisition. The objective for Increment I is 5,500 vehicles to meet the most critical need in the light combat mission roles. “By replacing a portion of our HMMWV fleet, the JLTV will help to preserve the MAGTF’s expeditionary nature and provide a modern level of protected mobility,” Glueck said.
AM General’s Blast Resistant Vehicle-Off Road (BRV-O) prototype is presently being refurbished in preparation for LUT, which is scheduled to run from September through November 2014. Part of BRV-O packaging is built-in commonality with various crew cabin systems for compatible operability with existing and legacy applications as well as fully integrated situational awareness and on-demand access to critical diagnostic information. Vehicle design includes advanced suspension, transmission, and powertrain systems and a modular cabin that provides considerable interior space for mission equipment.
The BRV-O has accumulated over 300,000 operational test miles to date on all major chassis components. “Our 22 prototype vehicles have performed as expected through reliability, availability, [and] maintainability (RAM) testing, meeting all government requirements … heading into the LUT phase,” said Chris Vanslager, Project Manager JLTV, AM General. “The vehicle design was purposefully made to be adaptable to all current and future DoD missions, to include emerging threats and the technologies that will address these threats,” said Vanslager.
The BRV-O offers command and control capabilities by way of an integrated backbone using open-standard architecture and clustered computing power that enable the crew to access all required applications. A lightweight, high-performance engine, 6-speed transmission, self-leveling suspension system, electronic braking, and stability control are integrated into a modular design which is compatible with many mechanical parts used in AM General’s HMMWV platform.
“As [AM General is an] experienced tactical wheeled vehicle supplier to the U.S. military, BRV-O users will definitely see and feel the aspects of the platform that separate it from the competition,” Vanslager noted. “The entire platform package is backed up by proven program management capabilities, design, engineering and manufacturing expertise, and scalable production facilities as well as technical training and parts availability on a global scale.”
From a mobility and survivability standpoint, BRV-O’s crew cabin design has successfully passed ballistic and blast testing with battle-tested, modular equipment that is readily replaced on mission, reducing the time and cost associated with depot-level repairs. Chassis design for both two-door and four-door BRV-O variants is one hundred percent the same. “The front half of the hull is exactly the same, with at least 75 percent commonality between variants,” Vanslager emphasized. “We used a kitted, bolted hull design without individual welds, meaning that no special tools or skills are required in the manufacturing or upgrade and repair of the vehicle chassis. This ultimately means that as threats change, no wholesale redesign requiring massive architectural alterations will be necessary to adapt the vehicle, just unbolt and bolt on any old or new systems.”
On the protection front, BRV-O has built-in layers of “swap in or out” armor kitting adaptable to any mission scenario.
With sustainability key, AM General has addressed several contributing factors, least of which includes BRVO’s compatibility with the proven 6.5 liter engine design in the company’s trademarked HMMWV propulsion system but with a 25 percent increase in fuel efficiency over previous models. “We are in full control of any future design or performance changes the customer might request which allows for streamlined integration of new parts and systems with minimal impact to existing configurations,” Vanslager claimed. “From a lifecycle perspective, parts obsolescence is greatly minimized by the fact that commonality exists with HMMWV system sustainment, something supported by established depot-level and mechanical skills training, reducing logistics footprint and creating economies of scale for long-term positive investment.”
Lockheed Martin has successfully completed RAM testing (200,000 miles) for the JLTV EMD contract. The company says their JLTV has accomplished every EMD contract milestone to date.
“Our JLTV offering provides a fully integrated C4ISR suite that is net-ready and information-assured,” said Kathryn Hasse, JLTV program director for Lockheed. “Extensive systems integration experience will continue to be applied to JLTV to ensure readiness as C4ISR architectures and systems continue to evolve.” Hasse stressed that the JLTV is “more than just a truck,” citing “a proven design in all testing to date; low-risk in terms of being able to close the iron triangle, and reliable.”
The Oshkosh Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV) accomplished every EMD contract milestone to date and completed 200,000 miles of RAM testing.
“With lean processes, flexible assembly lines, and rigorous quality checks, we will deliver our JLTV solution on schedule and with industry-leading quality,” said Colonel John Bryant (ret.), senior vice president of defense programs, Oshkosh Defense. “We believe that no other light tactical vehicle platform offers a comparable combination of proven technology, systems integration, and manufacturing readiness at an affordable cost.”
Top photo caption: AM General’s BRV-O
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Armor & Mobility magazine.