PARIS – The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle could be in line to win its first export order even before the US Department of Defense makes a decision to order full rate production of the platform.
The UK's Ministry of Defence has revealed it is in talks with the Pentagon, which might lead to a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal. The British Army is interested in acquiring the Oshkosh Defense vehicle, set to replace the Army and Marine Corps Humvees, to meet part of a requirement known as the Multi-Role Vehicle-Protected (MRV-P).
"We can confirm that we are talking to the US DOD regarding package 1 [of MRV-P], to inform our understanding of an FMS option for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle," said an MoD spokesman.
In a separate move to the JLTV talks announcement, the MoD confirmed June 16 that it had drawn up a short-list of contractors to battle it out for a second element of MRV-P and had put a third piece of the requirement on hold for the time being. The MRV-P program is a British effort to equip the army with several types of small and medium, wheeled armored vehicles to support rapid deployment and regular forces with troop carrying, ambulance, command, recovery and other roles.
JTLV is being eyed by the British to provide what is known as package 1, the smallest vehicles for troop carrying and other light duties
Package 2 involves larger troop carrying and battlefield ambulance vehicles with package 3 involving light protected recovery vehicles.
Oshkosh Defense boss John Bryant declined to comment in detail about British interest in the JLTV when interviewed earlier this week but did acknowledge the company was following the MRV-P program "very closely."Talks with the British are taking place at a very early stage in the JTLV's life. The first low rate initial production vehicles are not scheduled to be handed over by Oshkosh until the fourth quarter of this year.
The US government doesn't normally do FMS sales until there is a full production rate decision on the equipment in question – in JLTV's case that's expected by November 2018.
That requirement is not carved in stone though.
"If the US Government thought it was appropriate, because of the maturity of the platform, to waive its normal requirement and allow a little bit of early production for an international customer in parallel with low rate initial production it could happen," said Bryant.
Bryant said though the US Government usually starts to work closely with international partners well ahead of full rate production to formulate a strategy for a particular FMS case.
"It wouldn't surprise me if discussions were commencing very very soon in order to create the conditions for success in a couple of years down the road," he said, without naming the US ally in question.
Bryant says there will be no problem accommodating overseas customers on the company's Oshkosh,Wisconsin, production line even when output for the US military reaches it's peak.
The US vehicle builder is expected to deliver around 17,000 vehicles to the US military over an eighth year period with orders for thousands more vehicles for the US military to come.
Bryant says there is plenty of capacity for what he reckons will be a significant number of overseas customers operating the platform by the end of the decade .
"At no time will JLTV production capability be stretched. Full rate output will involve about 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles a year compared with our M-ATV where we were producing 1,000 a month," Bryant said in an interview with Defense News at Eurosatory .
"I'd be astounded if there isn't a significant number of overseas operators using this vehicle by the end of the decade," he said.
In a second development on the British MRV-P program five international companies have been shortlisted by the MoD to compete for the final stages of a competition to supply the Package 2 elements.
The down selected companies have been notified in the last few days but the MoD said it would not publicly reveal the names for commercial reasons.
BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Rheinmetall and Thales are among the names being bandied about at the Eurosatory show as being the most likely to be on the list but there was no verification of that by any of companies contacted by Defense News.
"We have completed the pre-qualification questionnaire assessments on Package 2 and 3, and will publish an invitation to negotiate for Package 2. For Package 3, we have decided to place this element on hold whilst we conduct a further review of the required capability with Army headquarters," said the MoD spokesman.
The Package 2 requirement is for a platform able to carry a driver, commander and six seated passengers in its troop carrying role according to details released by the MoD in February inviting companies to respond to a pre-qualifying questionnaire on which the downselect was based.
Thales with Hawkei, the Rheinmetall Survivor and General Dynamics Eagle 4x4 and 6x6 were among company offerings to the MoD.
The MoD program announcement said the Army would initially require 150 troop carrying vehicles and 80 ambulances but incremental orders would take eventually the numbers up to 300 of each.
That's less than expected. A second industry executive said a requirement for an 8x8 mechanised infantry vehicle is eating into the MRV-P numbers.
The British want to make an MRV-P Package 2 contract award next year and achieve initial operating capability by the end of 2019.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.