Interview with Oshkosh Defense-JLTV Program Update
VP, General Manager, Defense Programs JLTV
A&M: Please provide an update on the current status of JLTV testing and delivery.
Diersen: The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program is currently in low rate initial production going through reliability qualification, and production qualification testing. We have over 100,000 miles of reliability testing completed as well as many additional test miles completed. At present, Oshkosh Defense has delivered over 600 vehicles to the U.S. Army customer and the program is on schedule and on budget.
A&M: Can you speak to the armor protection system of the JLTV and differentiating factors?
Diersen: From the armor protection perspective, we can’t really get into depth as far as what levels of protection we have. The armor protection system is what we call Core1080 – it’s our holistic approach to survivability of the vehicle. It goes from the ground up throughout the vehicle and is all about the occupant safety and survivability, taking that to the next level ensuring that everything we do on the truck, whether it’s changing out a bolt or washer or whatever needs replacing. We take any part replacement into account before making the change because it’s really tied to that survivability of the individual, the occupant, as part of the Core 1080 system. Off the production line, the base vehicle is armored and we have kit armor for vehicles where we take them to base-level MRAP protection. In addition, we also have other levels of protection available should they be needed, such as for rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), explosively-formed penetrator (EFP), or other threats, so the vehicle is flexible and modular enough to be able to take multiple armor kits, providing multiple options based on the threat or commander’s needs at the time.
A&M: I understand that you have received requests from the overseas military. Is this affecting any of the orders for the Army or Marines?
Diersen: The UK has been looking at the JLTV for their Multi-Role Vehicle Protected (MRV-P) program and is planning on a foreign military sale (FMS). Associated with FMS sales, those orders would come through the current contract for the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Those quantities and potential quantities for other countries will be folded into our normal production so from a production capacity standpoint, there are really no issues precluding the transaction. It benefits the U.S. conducting FMS sales in that additional quantities can then be rolled into one contract, not as U.S. sales, but quantities that will affect U.S. sales by bringing program pricing down. For example, if you’ve got 0 – 100 bucket pricing and then 101+ and the U.S. needs 95 and the foreign customer needs six, as long as the order is together as one, next level pricing can be achieved. So, in that way, it’s a big benefit to the Army and Marine Corps to have FMS sales incorporated within their own orders.
A&M: So, FMS sales will not affect product availability needed to ensure delivery to the Army and Marines?
Diersen: Not at all. Our current projected quantities for the Army and the Marine Corps are such that we’ve got plenty of capacity for additional ramp up for potential foreign customers. Or should the Army or U.S. Marine Corps need to ramp theirs up as well. Either way, we have the capacity.
A&M: Has the U.S. military placed any restrictions or requested modifications on orders placed by foreign militaries?
Diersen: One of the benefits of the JLTV Program and potential foreign military sales is a commonality. The thrust of the JLTV program is to keep the vehicle the “SAME” if you will, because that maximizes better pricing since everyone is essentially buying the same truck. The after-production type stuff, as in some of the kits customers might want to accommodate a different radio kit or different electronics, can be adjusted down the road and it’s too early to say what military allies might want. So, for now, the base vehicle will remain the same.
A&M: In speaking with PEO Combat Service and Combat Service Support, I understand there will be deliveries of vehicles in the March 2018 timeframe?
Diersen: We have already delivered over 600 vehicles. This coming March, we will be supporting the multi-service operational test and evaluation (MOT&E) event starting early next calendar year, on the west coast. That’s where we’ll have sold and turned over production vehicles to the Army and Marine Corps where they then will take those vehicles and have soldiers and Marines operate them. They will put them through their paces and make sure they’re operationally suitable and effective. That’s a major milestone in program test and evaluation that they will be doing early in 2018. They need to get that done prior to a full-rate production decision which is scheduled for the end of next calendar year (2018).
A&M: Can you talk about payload capacity, protection, performance, flexibility, and adaptability for future combat needs?
Diersen: In a nutshell, basics on the vehicle such as payload, the payload of the four-door variant is 3500 lbs with the two-door utility being 5100 lbs. Levels of armor are classified, other than what I mentioned regarding flexibility to use different types armor packages and kits with the vehicles in addressing different threats or requirements. The hallmark of the base vehicle is that we designed it from a modular standpoint and flexibility perspective. As an example, the vehicles were not designed around the gun systems that we have on them right now (30mm and SHORAD), but flexible modularity enables the vehicles to adapt to them. Likewise, the radios currently in use had to be integrated into the vehicles. We optimized the vehicles themselves from a capability set, then extended that through flexibility needed to integrate all different types of mission systems so that adaptability and flexibility will extend the vehicles life for over 20 – 30 years, since we know that the vehicles they’re buying today will likely be in use for 40 plus years. We have tried building that flexibility and room for growth into all of our vehicles so they can change them when needs change because we don’t know how they may be needed, or in what ways armoring, weapons system, or electronics and other optional needs may change. In short, we think we have designed in the flexibility needed to support whatever future requirements may be.
A&M: What makes the Oshkosh JLTV different than others who participated in the bid/proposal process?
Diersen: I could say a lot on that as well. We don’t make pianos, we make tactical vehicles. Oshkosh is known for severe duty off-road mobility vehicles. Whether it’s a tactical vehicle like the JLTV or a heavy vehicle like the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT), or the Logistics Vehicle Systems Replacement (LVSR), or a cement truck, that’s what we’re known for. We do those heavy-duty vehicles and offer quality products at good prices. We show that by producing all the heavy and medium vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is no different: a high-quality, affordable product from a trusted supplier.
A&M: How many JLTV’s have been delivered to the Army and Marines?
Diersen: I haven’t segregated them by Marine Corps and Army from an ordering perspective. They’re still in the test phase right now so the initial orders we received equate to over 600 deliveries jointly for Marine Corps and Army. The Army’s total requirement in the program is approximately 49,900 and the Marine Corps is set around 5,500. Having said that, the Marine Corps has indicated that we know our current requirement numbers are set at 5,500, however, we may be looking to a little over 9,000, so there will be some flexing of the numbers as requirements change.
A&M: Is Oshkosh able to meet those requirements and deliver such quantities?
Diersen: Yes, definitely. Just to go back a bit in history when we won the M-ATV contract. Within about 9 months of contract win, we were delivering over a thousand M-ATV’s a month while delivering all the other vehicles on contract. The JLTV numbers, even if we were to include the numbers from Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and foreign military, are not expected to tax the production capacity at Oshkosh. Should there be a number that’s even higher than that, we have other options and opportunities from an Oshkosh perspective for production. As we say, “How many do you want and do you have the money? If you’ve got the money, we will find a way to do it.”
A&M: With urban warfare on the minds of many, is Oshkosh prepared to support future urban combat missions?
Diersen: That’s one of the hallmarks of the JLTV. First and foremost, JLTV is designed to restore the payload protection and performance lost with the High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee). The Humvee had to be up-armored to address combat needs but still, they are unable to use the Humvee today in combat as it doesn’t have the survivability needed. The JLTV is replacing the up-armored Humvee and we’ve designed it to assume any and all previous Humvee roles with much greater protection and equal or greater mobility. For instance, transportability, Humvees have to go on amphibious transport shipping, with some really low areas they need to fit into. We’ve got a suspension that’s adjustable so you can actually lower the suspension all the way down and still get into those areas. You’ve got urban areas so we’ve got a very tight turn circle and radius on this vehicle. You’ve got a very good suspension to go over tough terrain and other obstacles which were not possible to conquer by the Humvee even before being up-armored. The capability of the JLTV, with its modern automotive and modern engineering, brings it head and shoulders above Humvee from both capacity and capability standpoints.
Speaking of age, the Humvee came out when it was introduced to the military in the early 80’s. The Humvee was a great product for what it was designed for. It was designed to move people; it was designed to move material and product. It wasn’t designed for 21st-century armored mobility and armored protection requirements. Once you started doing all those things (armoring the Humvee), you gained some protection, however, you lost in payload and never get the underbody protection, so you lost in performance as well. JLTV restores all of those, it balances the Iron Triangle as we say. So, the Humvee again was a great platform for its time and purpose. 100 years ago, the Army used horses. Fast forward to World War II, the Jeep replaced the horse. Then fast forward almost another 40 years to the Humvee, a great vehicle for what it was designed to accomplish. Fast forward to today and the state of combat need dictates JLTV.
A&M: From a ballistics survivability perspective, can you talk about advances with the Humvee under armor?
Diersen: The one thing about the up-armored Humvee, they did the perimeter armor above but could never figure out how to, because of the weight class of the vehicle and the structure, absorb all that weight on the bottom as well. A couple of things from a ballistics perspective, generally the heavier the vehicle, the more capable from a ballistics survivability perspective. The higher off the ground you are, also the better survivability. The Humvee, especially with all the armor on it weighed down, puts you very close to the ground so it’s not very survivable, especially when you don’t have armor on the bottom. So, going over an IED means the blast force goes straight up into the vehicle. I have a lot of friends who have been in those types of incidents, it’s just not good. Today’s combat simply requires an armored underbody as well as the entire vehicle from a survivability standpoint.
A&M: Are there any major differences between the Army vs. the Marine variant of the JLTV?
Diersen: From the base vehicle perspective, they’re identical. Once you start getting into some of the kit type equipment, the Army and Marine Corps variations are a little different as they have several separate weapon systems, use different radios, with kitting that is a little bit different.
A&M: You mentioned there were no restrictions or modification for the UK vehicles?
Diersen: Not at this time. Should they want some adjustments in the vehicle, we have a very flexible production line capable of accommodating any change requirements.
A&M: Where is Oshkosh in terms of the autonomous vehicle?
Diersen: From an autonomy perspective, it’s not a requirement on the JLTV. However, Oshkosh Defense has been working on autonomy technology for many years. TerraMax is our autonomy technology that started out on a larger platform, the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). We participated in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge and other events with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and DARPA for autonomy. Fast forward a few years now, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research Development Engineering Center (TARDEC) is working on some autonomy programs for heavier vehicles so Oshkosh has been involved with that working with a robotics consortium so the technology is developed for those Oshkosh platforms and can be transformed over to other platforms such as JLTV. Should there be a need or desire for an autonomous JLTV or kit, we can integrate that fairly easily.
A&M: I do remember seeing a prototype of an autonomous vehicle presented by Oshkosh a few years ago. Has there been any movement on that program?
Diersen: That would have been the TerraMax or an MTVR as it used to be one of my programs. There has been a lot of movement on those recently within the Army. The Army is putting some autonomy kits on Oshkosh HEMTTs and PLSs I believe for logistics vehicles so TARDEC is working on those. Oshkosh Defense is working with TARDEC with a robotics consortium to make that real. A program of record is being funded so that means the Army is actively looking.
Sonia Bagherian, Publisher, Tactical Defense Media, Armor & Mobility/November 2017