Heavy-duty hauler pushes limits of truck technology.
The program, called the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, has been funded in the Marine Corps' fiscal 2003 budget. The spending plan includes nearly $25 million between 2003 and 2005. The Corps would like to have the LVSR truck in the fleet by 2007. Up to 1,200 vehicles could be purchased.
The LVSR is a heavy tactical transport vehicle for bulk liquids, ammunition, ISO containers up to 20 feet in length, tactical bridges and bulk cargo. This vehicle also would perform wrecker and recovery duties and tow semi-trailers carrying heavy-oversized equipment.
The Marines already have an LVSR prototype, which they call a "technology demonstrator," but they will not expect the final vehicle to look exactly like the demonstrator, said Lt. Col. Tom Manley, who manages tactical wheeled vehicle programs at the Marine Corps Systems Command.
The demonstrator is an existing LVS, upgraded with advanced technologies from the commercial trucking and automotive industry. The vehicle was built and tested at the Nevada Automotive Test Center and recently relocated to the Quantico Marine base, in Virginia, for more testing.
The contractors competing for the LVSR program will receive "performance specifications," but will not be instructed on how to build the vehicle, Manley told National Defense. "The technology demonstrator only shows the realm of the possible. It does not mean the vehicle has to look exactly like the demonstrator."
Only a year ago, the LVSR program was in budgetary limbo. But in recent months, it appears that delays in the Marine Corps' V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and next-generation amphibious vehicle programs freed up dollars for LVSR, said an industry source. Truck manufacturers are speculating that, if the program gets going this year, production could begin in 2005, with orders of up to 120 vehicles per year.
The Corps eventually will retire 1,800 LVS vehicles, but will buy fewer replacements, because they are more capable, officials said.
Engineers and industry executives who are familiar with the LVSR demonstrator hail this vehicle as the epitome for how military trucks should be built.
"The Marines are leading the way in military trucks," because they pick and choose from the most advanced technology available in the automotive sector, said an industry source. Unlike the other military services, he said, "they do business with less bureaucracy." When it comes to tactical trucks, he added, "The Marines have upstaged the Army."
One of the engineers who helped design the LVSR demonstrator is Goef Schmitz, president of Island City Engineering, in Schofield, Wis.
Even though the LVSR prototype includes commercial components--such as the engine and the transmission--its performance requirements are "very stringent," compared to non-military vehicles, he said. To make it externally transportable by CH-53E helicopter, for example, "you have to break the truck into two parts, so it disconnects in the center," Schmitz said. The vehicle has an autonomous front-power unit.
When taken apart, the LVSR front section becomes a two-axle truck. Either side has to weigh no more than 28,000 pounds to be transportable.
The Marines also have a strict turning-circle requirement, because the trucks must operate on ships. The existing LVS has a hinge in the center, but that is a complex setup, which has created stability problems, said Schmitz. The LVSR has four additional steering axles and multi-axle steering, which allows it to make a turning circle and a three-point turn on a ship deck.
One feature that the Marines appreciate in the LVSR is the off-road mobility, he said. Even though it's twice the size of the Marine medium truck, called the MTVR, the LVSR could operate in the same environment and has the same independent suspension as the MTVR, which is made by Oshkosh Truck Corp. The company also made the original LVS vehicles.
The LVSR demonstrator has stare-of-the-art electronics and can self-diagnose malfunctions. It has no batteries. Instead, it relies on two capacitors, which have a 10-year life expectancy and allow for quick start-up in cold weather. The vehicle only uses one fluid to service all the lubrication needs, from a single reservoir. With a single-fluid system, the oil only has to be changed every two years.
The vehicle also has a central tire-inflation system, which automatically readjusts to operate in various types of terrain. "It's designed to minimize operator effort," said Schmitz.
The automated tire-pressure system is synchronized with the engine transmission and the driveline, so the vehicle can be configured for a particular terrain and payload with the push of one button.
The Marines also like the "rapid refueling capability" in the LVSR, said Schmitz. The refueling receptacle is identical to the one used in Marine Corps aircraft. The truck can be refueled in less than 10 minutes.
Given the decline in the production of new trucks for the military services in recent years, companies are expected to compete aggressively for the LVSR award. An "industry day" hosted by the Marine Corps Systems Command late last year drew dozens of corporate executives. A contract award could come as early as March 2003.
One of the competitors surely will be Oshkosh, whose rivals fear that the company already has the inside track in this project, given the success so far of the MTVR program.
According to one industry source, who attended the industry day, several executives from truck manufacturers "walked out," peeved about alleged favoritism toward Oshkosh.
A newly formed company, called the American Truck Company LLC, is expected to compete for LVSR business. The firm makes an "Americanized" version of the heavy-duty trucks made by Tatra, a 150-year-old company based in the Czech Republic.
For U.S. customers, the company would assemble the trucks at the Wilmington, N.C., plant of Terex Corp., which recently purchased 40 percent of Tatra. The American Truck Company is a joint venture of Terex, Tatra and STV USA.
The firm will assemble, market, and sell off-road heavy-duty vehicles, primarily to military customers, based on the Tatra design. The vehicles will be marketed under the Terex, American Truck and Tatra brand names.
Tatra vehicles are well known among U.S. military truck makers. The company supplied the Soviets with gigantic tractor-trailers to transport intercontinental ballistic missiles. Tatra trucks also have been used in U.S. test programs as performance benchmarks against which to evaluate U.S. tactical vehicles.
Industry insiders give high marks to the Tatra suspension, which reportedly enhances the truck's mobility and allows it to negotiate rough terrain with significantly less vibration than most other vehicles. Tatra sold 2,000 trucks last year, and is now looking to expand its U.S. business.
The American Truck Company plans to compete for both the LVSR and the next-generation Army Future Tactical Truck, which is now in the early stages of design.
RELATED ARTICLE: Marine Carps Logistics Vehicle System Replacement Performance Goals:
* 22.5 ton on-road payload
* Towed loads of up to 200,000 lbs.
* On and off-road capability
* Room for a two-person crew, protective gear and M16A2 rifles
* Crew survivability against ballistic and mine threats
* ISO container compatibility
* No reliance on external materiel handling equipment
* Range of at least 300 miles
* Transportable on amphibious and commercial shipping, rail and C141B aircraft
* Externally transportable by CH-53E helicopter
* Ease of maintenance
* Corrosion resistant
* Compatible with Marine Corps semi-trailers, Army Palletized Load System flat racks and Army Container Roll-on/Roll-off Platform.
Marines Re-Examine Needs for Light Trucks
Recent operations in Afghanistan have tested the performance of the Marine Corps' fleet of light trucks and also have triggered possible changes in future buys, said Brig. Cen. James M. Feigley, chief of the Marine Corps Systems Command.
Among the "lessons learned" from these operations is the need for high-performance, high-endurance vehicles that can survive in an "extreme expeditionary environment," such as Afghanistan, Feigley said in an interview.
Light trucks got heavy use in Afghanistan, he said. The Humvees continue to be favored by the Marine Corps, particularly the newer version, the A2, said Feigley. The A2 has a "special anti-corrosion package that is of great interest to us." The Corps plans to buy 15,000 Humvees by 2007.
Another popular truck in Afghanistan was the so-called fast attack vehicle, which is a Mercedes-Benz 0-Class rugged SUV, distributed in the United States by Advanced Vehicle Systems. The Corps has bought 92 trucks, for about $50,000 each. According to AVS President Mark Stanley, these vehicles have participated in 15 deployments.
The Marines started a program for a new ultra-light truck, called the Internally Transportable Vehicle. The ITV was supposed to fit inside a V-22 tilt-rotor or a CH-53E cargo bay, and the vehicle also was to be used by U.S. Special Operations Forces. The Marines budgeted $6 million for the TV in 2002-2003.
Two companies--AVS and Flyer Corp.-- received contracts two years ago to make four vehicles. After a downselect scheduled for last fall, the winner would have produced hundreds of trucks.
The two competitors, however, were told in December that the program was on hold, pending a review by the Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council. According to Feigley, the issues of most concern for the MROC were the TV payload and aircraft interface. "The requirements we originally set a year ago are being reevaluated, based on the experience in Afghanistan," said Feigley. "The MROC scrubbed the requirements and will be making a decision in February ." At press time, however, Marine officials declined to comment on the outcome of the review.
Feigley explained that the ITV requirements may have to change, so it can be more useful in operations from ships and "extremely austere environments, across many different types of terrain, with little physical infrastructure." Initially, he said, "the TV was conceived for more conventional operations."
It is not clear when, or whether, the ITV program will resume.