Oshkosh — The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle has been called the “little brother” of the heavily armored military trucks built by Oshkosh Corp.
On Wednesday, the truck was the center of attention at a gathering of company and elected officials who are counting on the vehicle to save lives on the battlefield and pump billions of dollars into Wisconsin’s economy.
Tuesday, the U.S. Army awarded Oshkosh Corp. a contract that could be worth up to $30 billion and provide 25 years of work to thousands of Wisconsin employees building the new truck in Oshkosh or supplying parts for it.
The company topped defense contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. and AM General LLC in the bidding and vehicle evaluation process that included hundreds of thousands of miles of testing.
The Army plans to buy up to 50,000 of the vehicles, at a cost of about $250,000 each, while the Marine Corps would purchase 5,500. In addition, there could be years worth of parts and service work for the multipurpose vehicles, which are meant to replace thousands of military Humvees.
The initial contract is for $6.75 billion to build 17,000 of the vehicles, plus associated services. However, over a period of 25 or 30 years, it could top $30 billion for 55,000 vehicles and services.
“This is the biggest contract in our history,” Oshkosh CEO Charles Szews said at an unveiling of the JLTV at the Oshkosh Defense plant.
“For us to get to $30 billion would be a challenge. But having said that, we will start immediately to market this vehicle to international (allies) … and we think there will be significant demand,” Szews said.
The JLTV succeeds the Humvee, which has been a U.S. military troop carrier for about 30 years but wasn’t designed for protection against improvised explosive devices that killed many troops in Afghanistan.
“We learned that through painstaking casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense.
It’s smaller than the Military All-Terrain Vehicle, known as the M-ATV, that Oshkosh designed and built for the war in Afghanistan in one of the defense industry’s most dramatic buildups since World War II.
“The JLTV looks like a little brother to the M-ATV. We have packed M-ATV protection into a platform that’s one-third lighter,” said John Bryant, a senior vice president at Oshkosh Defense and a retired Marine Corps colonel.
“There’s not a sacrifice in troop protection. Vehicle weight does matter, and you do benefit from it in protecting troops. But what we were able to do with the JLTV was to look at every single component in the vehicle, and under the vehicle, with an eye towards how that component behaved in a blast event or other threat,” Bryant said.
“The JLTV is like a NASCAR vehicle that hits the track wall at 200 miles per hour, flips over three times, is hit by another car, and the driver walks away unharmed. That’s what we did with the JLTV,” he added.
The new armored truck is much faster and more agile than the M-ATV, which until now was the “gold standard” for these types of vehicles, according to Bryant.
“Across any given terrain, no matter how rough, our JLTV will go 70% faster than the M-ATV, which is the best there is,” he said.
400 horsepower diesel
The new vehicle has a 6.6-liter General Motors Duramax diesel engine that produces about 400 horsepower but has been throttled back some to increase reliability.
“The JLTV is definitely more fuel efficient, simply because it’s a lighter vehicle and because we had the time to optimize the design of our drivetrain and protection system. The M-ATV was built under an ‘urgent needs’ requirement. The JLTV program was much more deliberate, so we had the time to optimize the design,” Bryant said.
The smaller, lighter vehicle can be lifted by a helicopter, and it fits better on transport ships. It also has a suspension system that Oshkosh says reduces a lot of the strain on troops who sometimes drive 10 hours straight in off-road convoys.
The JLTV can utilize Oshkosh’s driverless vehicle system that allows a truck to run autonomously or by remote control. With that system, convoys of trucks could cross a desert with no drivers in them, or maybe a driver in every fifth or sixth vehicle.
The new vehicle also functions as a mobile command post.
“It’s made so that you can plug and play any combination of radios and computers. … It’s an amazing capability,” Bryant said.
The JLTV replaces the Humvee, which replaced the Jeep, which replaced the horse, Szews said. It has the blast resistance of a light tank, the mine protection of a larger armored vehicle, and the speed of an off-road Baja desert race car.
“This vehicle will be in the field with our Marines and soldiers for decades to come. The Department of Defense can’t afford to change out a whole fleet of vehicles every other year,” Urias said.
“We are very proud of this vehicle because we know what it’s going to mean in terms of saving lives in the future,” he added.