The US military has started full-scope testing of the joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) prototypes at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, US.
Involving 22 vehicles and six trailers from each of the three JLTV vendors, Oshkosh Defense, Lockheed Martin and AM General, the 14-month trials will include protection-related testing and rigorous reliability testing over various terrains and in different weather conditions.
The prototypes have been manufactured as part of 24-month JLTV engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contracts awarded by the US Army in August 2012.
Stressing that the JLTV programme remains on schedule with commencement of the testing, the joint programme office manager, colonel John Cavedo, warned however that the budget considerations brought on by sequestration may cause delays.
"We're doing everything we can to keep the programme on track," Cavedo said.
"We've managed to hold cost down by promoting better competition between vendors, incentivising productivity and conducting an analysis of alternatives."
Commenting on the vehicle, Cavedo said the JLTV closed the military's capability gap by addressing "the iron-triangle of payload, performance and protection'', while simultaneously meeting the commander requirements for a range of missions.
Some of the vehicles are scheduled to be fitted with heavy weapons, including TOW missile systems, whereas others will be used as light utility vehicles.
Equipped with armour kits and command, control and network gear to enhance protection, the vehicle's 'plug and play' open-architecture technology is also expected to enable installation of future networks and electronic devices without a redesign.
Beginning in early 2015, the programme's source-selection evaluation is set to complete by July of that year with selection of a single vendor.
Full-scale production of a total of 49,000 JLTVs for the army and 5,500 for the marine corps will begin in 2018 and conclude in the 2030s.
The roll-out of the first army brigade with new JLTVs is scheduled to take place by 2018.
Image: Three joint light tactical vehicle prototypes currently undergoing testing at three military sites across the US. Photo: courtesy of US Army.