The joint US Army/Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program may see its testing schedule pushed back by as much as four months by the end of this fiscal year, top Army leadership testified on Capitol Hill on May 8.
Lt. Gen. William Phillips, the top acquisition adviser to the secretary of the Army, told a Senate budget panel that the automatic cuts necessitated by sequestration are having a serious effect on all Army modernization programs, and the JLTV is only one among many programs whose schedules are being thrown into flux due to the legislation.
Michael Clow, an Army spokesman, told Defense News in a May 9 email that “across-the-board sequestration cuts and potential furloughs threaten JLTV’s planned schedule — particularly the test-intensive EMD phase currently underway, which could be delayed an estimated three to four months due to sequestration-imposed changes.”
He added that while the Army is “exploring mitigation strategies” in order to keep any significant impacts on the program to a minimum, “it remains unclear if the uncertainty surrounding future budgets will eventually require delaying the Milestone C decision into the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2016,” which would be a slip from the current plan to award a low-rate initial production contract in fiscal 2015.
The Army plans to buy about 49,000 JLTVs and the Marines 5,500 beginning in 2015 at a cost of about $250,000 per vehicle, before armor packages are factored in.
Despite some earlier bumps in the road, the program has been sailing along relatively smoothly since last August when three industry teams led by AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh Defense all won engineering and manufacturing development contracts. Each team is preparing to deliver 22 prototypes to the Army for testing this August, a program milestone that remains on track, sequestration or no.
All three contractors declined to comment on the potential testing slippage, referring all queries to the Army.
In another somewhat surprising comment, Phillips said that the Army won’t decide until later this summer whether to go ahead with the much anticipated replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, the Armed Aerial Scout.
After a well-publicized “fly-off” last summer in which Army leaders visited all of the competitors interested in bidding on the work, it appeared that the service was happy with its initial look at what industry could offer.
But Phillips flipped that on its head on Wednesday, saying the results of the fly-off were disappointing, and “we didn’t find a single aircraft that was out there that could meet the Army’s requirements, so if we were to go forward with an Armed Aerial Scout it would essentially be a development program.”
The Army initially planned to decide whether to go forward with the program in December, but pushed that back to the spring. AgustaWestland, Boeing, EADS International and Bell Helicopter have all expressed interest in the program, and the Army visited each of them last summer.
This latest go-around represents the Army’s third effort to replace the Kiowa after the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was killed in 2004 and Bell Helicopter’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter was scrapped in 2008.
Lt. Gen. James Barclay, deputy chief of staff of the Army, added another glum note during the hearing, telling the senators that due to sequestration, “all acquisition priorities and many equipment modernization programs may face unanticipated schedule or cost impacts in the out-years.”