WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is putting the finishing touches on its request for proposals to industry to officially open a competition worth up to $12 billion to build more Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.

The contest could unseat incumbent Oshkosh Defense, which won the initial JLTV contract in 2015. The Army always planned to conduct a follow-on competition as it reached the end of the initial contract. To prepare, the service incentivized companies participating in the first competition to provide as much technical data as possible.

Wisconsin-based Oshkosh has built about 10,000 vehicles and is under contract to build more than 66,000. The contract is expected to amount to roughly $30 billion by 2024.

The Army conducted initial market research once the JLTV was approved for full-rate production in 2019. This followed a delay of almost six months related to a series of alterations made to the vehicle in response to soldier feedback.

The service then made the decision to move forward with a new competition, holding its first industry day in February 2020, Mike Sprang, the JLTV Joint Program Office’s program manager, told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.

Since then, the office has conducted multiple industry days, released several draft RFPs, updated section elements and answered 400 questions from industry.

“We have an incumbent who’s already built over 10,000 vehicles,” Sprang said. “Any time we anticipate having an effective competition, you have to make industry part of the process to understand what do they need to make business decisions.”

Another update to the draft RFP is expected in October, he noted.

The Army plans to release the RFP in January 2022 and award a contract to one team in September 2022, he said. At one point the Army had considered awarding contracts to two teams, but the service determined “there just wasn’t funding support for dual sources,” he added.

With technology advancing and becoming cheaper since the JLTV was first designed, the Army hopes to add several new capabilities to the vehicles. Corrosion protection, for instance, is very important, Sprang said, especially for the Marine Corps. The goal is to move from a 20-year protection level to a 30-year level.

For the Army, which uses the vehicles for training and frequently moves them around, improved fuel efficiency is a desired attribute in a new version of the vehicle, Sprang noted. The service set forth in its draft RFP a fuel efficiency improvement goal of 5 percent, and asked for an anti-idle capability.

“Looking at it, we believe that we can actually save on average 15 to 20 percent fuel consumption yearly,” Sprang said.

The Army also plans to include lithium-ion batteries in the base capability of the new JLTV. “We’re saying use that architecture to not have to turn on your engine when you first need radios, when you first need HVAC [heating and cooling], and when the battery is drained to a certain point the engine turns on, charges, then shuts off again,” he said.

The Army wants a next-generation vehicle architecture that can accommodate the power needed for an increase in capability. The service plans to offer incentives to the manufacturer depending on when it’s provided.

“If they provide it within two years, we’ll pay for it, it will be a part of the contract,” Sprang said, but if the manufacturer brings it in on Day One, the Army will issue incentives.

The new JLTV will also incorporate some “driver-centric” technologies, Sprang said, like 360-degree awareness with multiple cameras around the vehicle, blind-spot monitoring, better backup cameras and hill-decline capability.

Other capabilities the program office would like to consider are tactile response features, like a seat that vibrates if the vehicle is getting too close to something or is in a dangerous location, rather than relying on an alarm or a display warning.

Ten years ago, some of these capabilities wouldn’t have worked for a military vehicle, but the commercial industry has driven the price down through its own development efforts, “and now is a good time to look at applications in military vehicles,” Sprang said.

“JLTV is a fantastic platform to get that capability,” he added. “We don’t necessarily require all of it. It’s up to every vendor to decide which ones they’re going to propose as they do their own best-value calculation.”

Sprang said the number of industry engagements as well as the number of companies who have leased current JLTVs to assess them means the program office expects a robust competition.

Navistar, AM General and GM Defense have publicly said they are considering competing for the contract.

Once an award is made, the winner will have 12 months after signing to start delivering vehicles to the Army, Sprang said.

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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