WASHINGTON — One of the US Army's most important armored vehicle contests moved closer to resolution Tuesday when manufacturers AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh Defense delivered proposals for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

The Army plans to make a Milestone C decision and award of a firm-fixed-price contract to a single vendor later this year. The award period will cover three years of low-rate initial production and five years of full-rate production. The Army plans to buy approximately 50,000 JLTVs for the Army, and the Marine Corps would buy 5,500.

Billed as filling the gap between legacy Humvees and the larger, less mobile mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle fleet, the JLTV is intended to restore light tactical mobility to the Army's fleet.

The competition pits AM General's Blast Resistant Vehicle-Off road (BRV-O), Oshkosh's Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV) variant, and a joint Lockheed Martin-BAE Systems offering. The three companies each announced on Tuesday that their submissions were in.

The solicitation follows Army and Marine Corps limited-user testing for prototype vehicles, part of engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contracts, awarded to the three companies in 2012. Each company delivered 22 vehicles and six trailers for the most recent test phase, which included ongoing reliability, armor and blast testing. The ongoing limited user test involved soldier and Marine participation.

AM General, in its announcement, touted the BRV-O's modular armor, whose components can be replaced if damaged, as a life-cycle cost saver. It can also, according to the statement, "negotiate open terrain and maneuver effectively in urban environments" and "provide every crewmember connectivity in joint and coalition operations."

Oshkosh's L-ATV offering includes four-seat and two-seat variants and the company's TAK-4i independent suspension system, for off-road mobility, maneuverability and ride quality. The company claims the TAK-4i provides 25 percent more usable wheel travel and 70 percent faster speeds in off-road terrain compared to "today's best-performing tactical wheeled vehicles."

Lockheed noted its JLTV offering's power plant, an alternative to an alternator, if you will. The Power Generation Exportable Power solution provides 15kW and will be "expandable to as much as 75kW in the future." It also boasts an Allison 6-speed transmission, a Meritor independent air bag suspension system and a Cummins 4.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine, for "greater displacement than many V6 engines, with superior fuel efficiency."

In spite of budget wrangling to come on Capitol Hill, Army officials have characterized the JLTV program as safe. Army force development chief Maj. Gen. Robert Dyess told reporters earlier this month that officials with the service — which included $308 million to purchase 450 vehicles in the 2016 budget submission — have been very satisfied thus far.

Once the Army makes its choice, the first Army unit is not expected to expected to be equipped until fiscal 2018. The Marines anticipate an initial operating capability in fiscal 2018, with its fielding complete in fiscal 2022.

Army procurement will last until approximately 2040 and replace a significant portion of the Army's legacy light tactical vehicle fleet with 49,099 new vehicles across four configurations: general purpose, heavy gun carrier, close combat weapons carrier and a utility vehicle.

On Dec. 12, the JLTV joint program office posted its final draft of the request for proposals, which contained source-selection criteria for the production phases and set a value for a company offering the data rights to their offering. The service set a threshold price for the data package of $511 million, above which contractors will see no effect on their rating, as described in the last draft and first reported by Inside the Army.

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