Saturday, May 18, 2019

Oshkosh Corp. remains optimistic about JLTV future despite budget cut, some negative early reviews

Photo by Sgt. Quanesha Barnett/U.S. Army
This March 2019 photo shows two JLTVs going through during an after action review at Fort Stewart, Ga.

By Miles Maguire

Oshkosh Corp. officials remain optimistic about the future of the company’s Humvee-replacement vehicle in the face of budget cuts and some negative early reviews.

The Trump administration announced in March that the Army is cutting its 2020 order for the company’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, by 505 vehicles, a nearly 17 percent decline from previous projections.

Trump officials have given mixed signals about the long-range outlook for the program. As Oshkosh CEO Wilson R. Jones pointed out, “the Army has not reduced its acquisition objective,” which “is still 49,000 vehicles” over several years. He said next year’s drop in funding is just a matter of pushing purchases into future years. 

But Ryan D. McCarthy, Trump’s undersecretary of the Army, has signaled otherwise. In a story published by the official Army News Service, McCarthy was cited as saying that the service planned to cut $800 million from the program and take delivery of 1,900 fewer JLTVs.

"The JLTV is a new vehicle--more survivable than a Humvee, more maneuverable than a [mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle]," the news service quoted McCarthy as saying. "There's no doubt the Army needs it in the future, just not at the numbers of the original program of record when the requirements of a high-intensity land conflict are considered."

Oshkosh hailed its 2015 contract award as a “historic win” for the company, and the JLTV was widely described as the replacement for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee. The Humvee was criticized for its poor performance in protecting soldiers from roadside bombs in Iraq.

But based on McCarthy’s remarks it now appears that the military plans to maintain a roughly equal mix of Humvees and JLTVs. Last month the Army put in an order for $185 million worth of Humvees outfitted to serve as ambulances, just a few weeks after Oshkosh said it would start building an ambulance version of its light vehicle.

While the Army appears to be shrinking its projections for the JLTV, the Marines have other ideas. “The Marine Corps has raised their objective from 5,500 to 9,000” units, Jones told stock market analysts last month. He said the JLTV’s order backlog now stretches into 2021.

The company is “hearing good customer feedback,” Jones said.

"It's a top-notch vehicle compared to what we used to have," Sgt. Richard Saunders said in an article on the Army’s website. 

"I noticed a lot of positive differences between the Humvee and the JLTVs, like the turning radius, braking system and it being more high-tech,” added Spc. Kourtney Patton. “It allows us to be more capable in doing more operations." 

Oshkosh has also heard, however, some negative comments. The most recent were contained in a May report from the Government Accountability Office. JLTVs were found “not operationally suitable because of their high maintenance needs, low reliability, training and manual deficiencies, and safety shortcomings,” the GAO said. This criticism echoes an earlier report from the Army, which Oshkosh officials have said they are addressing. 

That Army report also raised the possibility that the JLTV, designed at a time of desert operations in the Middle East, may not be ideally suited for battlegrounds in Europe or Asia because of its size and the noise it makes. As the Army evaluators put it, “The JLTV has large visual and loud aural signature increasing detectability.”

Some of these issues are to be expected with any new weapons system, and the Humvee was also criticized when it was initially deployed. But another factor, facing all military contractors, is that the Defense Department is looking for savings across almost 100 weapons systems so that it can finance a modernization program. 

For now the Army has delayed giving Oshkosh the go-ahead to ramp up production to full speed, which had been expected late last year.

“We're optimistic about the full-rate production here in the next few months,” Jones said in late April.

“Really what delayed [the ramp-up] was the modifications that our customer decided to add, which are good mods. But as I mentioned, too, the fielding is going really well,” Jones said. “We're getting these out with the Marines and with the Army, and the feedback has been very positive.”

The JLTV issue is apparently a sensitive one. The company did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the United Auto Workers local that represents Oshkosh employees. Also nonresponsive were Rep. Glenn Grothman and Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican lawmakers in Washington who represent the Oshkosh area and the state, respectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment