The U.S. Army kicked off the next chapter in its attempt to modernize its Humvee fleet when the service issued a request for proposals Oct. 29 to find out what survivability and crew protection enhancements industry has to offer.
While previous efforts aimed at upgrading as many as 60,000 vehicles from top to bottom, the most recent document outlines a series of extremely limited goals focused on vehicle survivability by “making systematic improvements … through increased crew protection and vehicle survivability at a maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 18,500 lbs.” according to the solicitation.
The RfP for what has been dubbed the Modernized Expanded Capacity Vehicle — Survivability (MECV-S), is only the first of what Col. David Bassett, the Army’s deputy program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, described as a multistep process to revamp the Humvee fleet for potential future operations.
“We wanted to make sure that we could at least get good test results on all of the survivability improvements that industry had developed in anticipation of the original MECV program,” Bassett told reporters at the recent Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington. “So we set aside a portion of the fiscal year ’12 funding to evaluate, model and test those survivability solutions so at least we understand” what is out there.
The Humvee modernization program has had a curious history. At one point, the Army wanted to recap up to 60,000 Humvees, and in late 2011 it looked like the program might overtake the Army’s developmental Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) competition, whose cost and schedule were coming under fire from some members of Congress. But a revamping of JLTV requirements to reduce weight and cost led the program to receive full funding in the fiscal 2013 budget, and on Aug. 22, three engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contracts were awarded to AM General, Lockheed Martin, and Oshkosh for the 27-month EMD effort.
The same budget scuttled the Humvee modernization program (the original MECV), much to the displeasure of some in Congress.
But thanks to budget wrangling on Capitol Hill, the Army now has $48 million in R&D dollars to fund future MECV-related activities. While the Army earlier this year sought to transfer $28 million of that to other programs, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee refused to go along with that plan, and now the Army has to spend that money by the end of fiscal 2013 or lose it, according to budget rules.
According to the latest RfP, $19.8 million of that cash will pay for up to six contracts for the MECV-S program, with each contract calling for two identical MECV-S systems as well as two sets of computer aided design models. The RfP defines an MECV-S system as “an armored 4-door weapons carrier crew compartment on a rolling chassis.”
By separating the protection and survivability aspect of the program from the automotive aspect, “it allowed us to spend more of that money in a way that we thought was very responsible,” Bassett said. “If we were to try and add additional funds, we put this entire effort in jeopardy because we simply don’t have the dollars and the years” to do it.