WASHINGTON — The new supplier of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, AM General, has picked Plasan North America to provide major components of the armored cab in a $300 million deal, the latter announced July 17.
AM General unseated JLTV-maker Oshkosh Defense in the U.S. Army’s competition to build more of the vehicles, winning a contract valued at $8.66 billion in February. Oshkosh protested the decision with the Government Accountability Office, but the watchdog rejected that protest in June, allowing AM General to set up production lines and make arrangements with subcontractors.
AM General’s contract covers five base years plus five one-year optional ordering periods to provide 20,682 JLTVs and 9,833 trailers for the U.S. military and foreign customers.
Israeli company Plasan’s U.S.-based branch was already supplying smaller subcomponents for the cab to Oshkosh when the latter was under contract to build the first JLTVs.
“It will be five times the amount of work that we were doing for the incumbent,” Plasan North America’s president, John Cavedo, said of the new contract with AM General. Cavedo led the JLTV joint program office as an Army colonel from 2012 to 2015.
With roughly 85 employees now, the company plans to hire another 170 over the next 18 months; the majority of those will be direct labor employees, Cavedo told Defense News.
Plasan North America took some risk in recent years — such as building a factory floor far ahead of time — in anticipation of winning a significant order that would allow the company to plant its roots more solidly in the United States, Cavedo explained. Because of those risks, the company won’t have to do much physical expansion of the manufacturing space at its headquarters in Walker, Michigan.
“You can’t capture a larger opportunity if you don’t have the experience and the expertise in your workforce. You can’t really capture those larger opportunities if you’re going to have [to] expand and get new buildings and new facilities in order to meet the timelines, in order to meet the lead time and what the customer demands,” Cavedo said.
Plasan already has 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space, much of which is unoccupied and was underused over the last several years, according to Cavedo.
“The last couple of years were extremely lean years,” he said. Now Plasan is “poised to ramp up very quickly because we don’t have to go lease new space, and we have a key cadre of people already in place.”
Additionally, the company has been investing in research and development projects, with the main effort its All-Terrain Electric Mission Module. ATeMM is a single platform that solves a variety of power capability and logistics issues. The technology looks like a trailer, but instead of sucking power from the vehicle towing it, the module provides power, essentially converting the attached vehicle into a hybrid one. The system can also supplement generator power at command posts and act as a mass mobile charging station for conformal wearable batteries.
Plasan continues to demonstrate the capability in the hopes it will turn into a program of record.
“Like everything in business, you’re trying to balance your costs and your revenue,” Cavedo said. “ATeMM was a significant cost in a company that was already operating on the thinnest of margins.”
The AM General deal is “a sigh of relief” for the ATeMM effort, he added. “It’s taking the government several more months or several more years to understand the totality of their need for battlefield circulation of electricity. I’m able to keep the lights on the ATeMM program longer now.”
To begin supplying armored cab components to AM General, Plasan will begin some initial components manufacturing to reach a testing phase expected by the end of the year. The company will then accelerate component production throughout 2024 so that, by the beginning of 2025, Plasan is able to meet AM General’s full-rate production quantity requirements.
JLTVs will be built in a military production facility at AM General’s 96-acre Mishawaka Manufacturing Campus in Indiana. Deliveries are expected to begin 17 months after contract award, according to the company.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.