It turns out there weren’t six bidders competing for the latest Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) developmental contract — there were seven.
Hardwire LLC, maker of the Structural Blast Chimney technology that funnels the energy created by an underbelly explosion up through the vehicle, had submitted an unpublicized bid to the JLTV program office, but was not awarded one of the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contracts given to Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh and AM General on Aug. 22.
In the first public confirmation of its bid, Hardwire said in a statement on Sept. 4 that “Hardwire LLC, with a strong team, was the seventh prime that submitted a JLTV proposal. The vehicle had a hybrid electric drive train. At this time, we have no further comment.”
Multiple requests for comment sent to the Army/Marine Corps JLTV program office went unreturned, so it is unclear why Hardwire’s submission was shrouded in such secrecy.
Navistar protested on Aug. 31 the Army’s decision to award EMD contracts to three of its rivals (only to pull back the protest on Sept. 4), and a BAE Systems spokeswoman said that “while we are disappointed that the U.S. Army has bypassed our JLTV offering for the EMD phase, we respect their decision and will not contest it.”
Navistar has hinted that it may resubmit its bid when the competition is reopened after the EMD phase is completed in 27 months, but BAE said that it had not made a decision about its next step.
Hardwire’s chimney technology was unveiled at the Association of the United States Army annual convention in Washington in October 2010, where it was displayed on an AM General-produced Humvee. (Hardwire and AM General had teamed up on the demonstration.)
The chimney had been developed though a collaboration between Hardwire and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2009, company officials said at the time.
At the show, AM General and Hardwire displayed a 7-ton Humvee in an art gallery close to the convention center in downtown Washington, and only allowed military officials and select VIP’s in for a look.
George Tunis, Hardwire’s chairman and CEO, told Defense News after the show that the system had been tested multiple times at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. While the chimney would not replace the need for a blast-deflecting V-hull on combat vehicles, he said, it would instead direct the energy toward the center of the vehicle, where it would then be pushed up through the chimney. The thrust of the blast traveling upward would also drive the vehicle back onto to the ground.
When a blast struck the underbelly of a vehicle, the chimney technology would mean that a 15,000-pound vehicle would weigh closer 60,000 pounds, because the force of the blast traveling through the center of the vehicle would push the vehicle back down.