WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's chief weapons tester released a report this week that sheds light on how three separate offerings for the Army and Marine Corps’ Humvee replacement fared in tests with Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh vehicles meeting force protection requirements while AM General’s fell short.
The US Army awarded Oshkosh a contract to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) in August. Oshkosh beat out Humvee-maker AM General and defense titan Lockheed Martin on the largest Army contract award in recent years that could be worth up to $30 billion.
With the JLTV, the Army and Marine Corps intend to restore flexibility and expeditionary capability lost when roadside bombs in Iraq forced the military to move from the lightweight Humvee to up-armored variants and heavily armored mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) trucks.
The Army said the JLTV offers underbody and side-armor protection similar to Oshkosh's M-ATV, an MRAP, at about two-thirds of the weight, with a larger payload and greater reliability than a Humvee. It could be carried by a CH-47 Chinook, CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter and by amphibious vessels — a near impossible proposition for an MRAP.
Lockheed Martin protested the contract award in September and the Government Accountability Office dismissed the protest when Lockheed filed a lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims in December.
Now that litigation is underway with most of the proceedings sealed from the public, the Army and industry have been tight-lipped, but J. Michael Gilmore, the director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test & Evaluation Office, released his annual report reviewing the JLTV program and lays out how each company’s prototypes performed in a Limited User Test (LUT).
Gilmore found that both Oshkosh and Lockheed prototypes “met all threshold force protection requirements and some objective-level requirements,” he wrote in his report. The protection, Gilmore said, is “superior” to the up-armored Humvees and similar to Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) “without the underbody improvement kit across all spectrum of tested threats.”
Oshkosh, Gilmore said, drove its experience building M-ATVs into its JLTV offering, providing levels of underbody protection on a lighter vehicle.
And Lockheed provided protection “on par” to an M-ATV, the report stated.
Yet AM General’s prototype would “require a significant redesign” to meet threshold requirements in force protection, Gilmore noted.
More details on vehicle protection, he added, is included in a classified report.
Oshkosh’s vehicle showed marked improvement in mission reliability compared to the Humvee, demonstrating 7,051 “Mean Miles Between Operational Mission Failure” versus the Humvee’s 2,968 miles. AM General’s had less mission reliability, demonstrating 526 miles between operational mission failure. Lockheed demonstrated 1,271.
Units testing the JLTV prototypes generally experienced “delays in maneuvering” while waiting for the vehicle suspension to adjust and due to the Central Tire Inflation System, Gilmore stated.
“The slow suspension and CTIS adjustment times affected the Army and Marine Corps units’ ability to quickly react to changes in the tactical situation and in some LUT missions increased the units’ susceptibility to threats,” he wrote.
Gilmore found Marines equipped with JLTV had “enhanced” capabilities to complete air assault missions over the Humvee and since the prototypes can be lifted with armor using a CH-53E helicopter, “units have better protected maneuver capabilities to counter threat activities at the Landing Zone compared to units equipped with [Humvees].”
Yet Army units could not accomplish air assault missions with armored JLTVs because the weight exceeds external lift capability in a CH-47F helicopter, Gilmore said.
Gilmore also found that while JLTVs were able to conduct amphibious assault missions during testing, they were “slower to load, prepare for fording and transition to maneuver ashore” than the Humvee because they are larger and also due to the waiting period to adjust the vehicle suspension and tire pressure.
JLTVs generally also don’t have “sufficient capability” to carry equipment, supplies and water longer than a day-long mission, Gilmore reported. “This limits the types and duration of missions for which JLTV is effective,” he writes,” or will require more vehicles or trailers.
Also, while it’s not a current JLTV requirement, Gilmore noted that the utility variant does not have the same capability as the Humvee Cargo/Troop carrier.
The prototypes also “suffered from poor command, control, and communication equipment integration by the vendor affecting the unit commander’s ability to command and control platoons, maintain situational awareness, and complete mission tasks during the LUT,” Gilmore wrote.
Moreover, because of small rear windows and blind spots, Gilmore noted, the JLTVs do not provide the crews with “sufficient” visibility during missions.
Overall in the Limited User Test, platoons with Oshkosh’s vehicle accomplished 15 out of 24 missions similar to the platoon equipped with Humvees, according to the report. AM General platoons accomplished 13 out of 24 missions and Lockheed platoons finished 12 out of 24 missions.
Gilmore noted the majority of the failed platoon missions were attributed to combat losses for Oshkosh and Lockheed’s JLTVs while AM General’s and the Humvees' platoons had less against the “opposing force” during missions.
Yet AM General’s vehicles experienced reliability failures on nine missions.
Gilmore recommended the Army submit its Milestone C Test and Evaluation Master Plan before governmental testing begins and to develop a plan to address recommendations he made in a classified report before production begins.