The top two primes of US military light tactical vehicles have been shoulder to shoulder for over a decade, with Oshkosh Defense seemingly in the lead as the incumbent producer of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) since 2015.
Since then, Oshkosh was assured it was the company that would be tasked to deliver these JLTVs, which were set to replace AM General’s legacy Humvee fleet, well into the future.
However, almost out of nowhere, AM General gained the lead on 9 February this year when it was awarded a contract to manufacture over 20,000 JLTVs. With this, AM General is now set to produce Oshkosh’s own JLTV A2 design for the US Armed Forces.
In a competition-based contract environment that is designed to provide the most efficient and cost-effective service for the US Army, bidders do not have a guarantee for programme success when contesting a tender issued by the US Department of Defense (DoD).
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But it does not end there. To leave no question as to the prime contractor in this industrial competition, AM General has expanded its operations to provide different forms of light tactical vehicles for a range of different purposes.
On the heels of winning the follow-on production contract for JLTVs, AM General showcased another design at the 2023 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) held in the UAE: the Humvee Saber Blade Edition concept.
Meanwhile, Oshkosh says it is currently “pursuing a debriefing from the [US] government on the basis of the source selection decision”.
Oshkosh added that it “remained committed to designing and delivering the world’s most capable light, medium, and heavy tactical wheeled vehicles for the US Armed Forces now and for many years to come”.
The company remains true to this commitment, having acquired a contract worth $11m for wheel and tire assemblies on 14 February for the JLTV A1 vehicles it has produced for the US Army in the past.
As well as this, on 27 February, Oshkosh also received a $10m contract to provide Joint Light Tactical Vehicle regional field service representative support. Its continued efforts in supporting the JLTV family of vehicles demonstrates Oshkosh’s sustained presence as a competitor in this industry, and as a major consultor on JLTVs.
What gave AM General the edge?
In discussion with Army Technology, John Chadbourne, AM General’s EVP in business development, provided several reasons to explain the company’s selection for the follow-on production contract.
“We believe we are the only Department of Defense OEMs [original equipment manufacturer] that have been IATF [international automotive task force] certified for quality at the factory. It’s a standard that you see in commercial automotive… that proves the level of quality in your production process,” Chadbourne said.
This certification served the company well considering that part of the DoD’s evaluation criteria for this recompete was the quality of the production process. Since Oshkosh has been producing this vehicle for so long, “we had to show them and prove to them that we could do it as well”.
Chadbourne added that AM General went beyond the proof of capacity for the programme by looking at what enhancements it could make to the JLTV.
“To make the JLTV better, the government was very clear on some things they want to work on. They focused in on about seven areas that we had to show how we would meet them.”
Another aspect that gave them an edge is believed to be its supply chain.
“We have a tremendous supply chain that we have developed over years and years of producing the Humvee… and we leverage that supply chain to show how we could make the JLTV as cost effective as possible,” detailed Chadbourne.
This goes a long way considering the purpose of the competition-based contract, which is to give the DoD the means for price determination of the platform in the future.
What has benefitted AM General, beyond superseding Oshkosh, is its plan for the range of services and capabilities it provides the operators today.
“The JLTV and the Humvee are both great vehicles, and they are complimentary to each other. The JLTV is perfect for certain mission sets, certain countries, and the Humvee is a proven enduring vehicle for other missions.”
Now, as the provider of both vehicle families, AM General has enabled itself to rise to become a top prime contractor for military trucks. The producer has already leveraged its product portfolio at IDEX, where they have showcased their new Humvee Saber.
Chadbourne told Army Technology that “the Humvee Sabre is very unique, we feel that it perfectly fits in between the upper armoured Humvee and the JLTV. For the right amount of transportability, mobility, but protection as well. It’s more protected than the armoured Humvee. But it’s more mobile and more transportable than the JLTV”.
Controlling the output of these two different vehicle families will establish the company as a formidable contractor. It will not only bolster its position as a top choice as DoD contractor, but also tap into wider channels of the JLTV supply chain. It will also gain a larger consumer base for different services, on top of its existing consumers in over seventy countries.
AM General seems to have consolidated a prominent place in this industry going forward.
Production so far
AM General has begun to put up the new assembly line for the JLTV A2, but the two buildings would be side-by-side producing JLTVs and Humvees.
Chadbourne was assured that AM General’s ability to produce the same or more quantities for modern Humvees will not change as “there is a huge demand for the motorised Humvee”.
The company has already made progress, with the latest contract received in relation to the JLTV production programme awarded on 24 February. The DoD provided $20m for 108 packaged kits to support JLTVs in conjunction with the follow-on production contract.