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Army delays future tactical truck project; today's fleet is in need of upgrades and more vehicles, says program manager.

The Army's new family of high-tech trucks, originally scheduled to be deployed in 2010, alongside the Future Combat Systems, will be delayed by at least five years.

The slip in the program is raising concerns that the Army will have to rely on older trucks to deliver fuel and ammo for the FCS fleet. Further, the Army recently transferred nearly a billion dollars out of truck accounts to help pay for FCS, prompting questions about how the service will be able to maintain and upgrade the current fleet until a new generation of vehicles comes along in 2015.

Even though the FCS vehicles will be lighter and more technologically advanced than current ground combat platforms and armored personnel carriers, the reality is that "tanks are going nowhere without trucks to move them," said Col. Robert Groller, the Army's program manager for heavy tactical trucks.

An FCS brigade (called a unit of action) will need 204 support vehicles, plus 155 utility vehicles. "In a lean Army, the logistics tail still is bigger than the combat force," Groller said at a conference of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. "We'll be a lean Army, but we still will have more support vehicles than combat vehicles."

The Army shifted about $900 million from truck programs to FCS accounts in the 2004-2007 budget. The medium-truck fleet lost about $450 million, the heavy fleet nearly $350 million and the light fleet $100 million.

Besides having to contend with budget cuts, Groller must deal with a growing demand for trucks, as the Army augments its deployments around the world. Altogether the Army operates 250,000 trucks, of about 40 different variants.

Groller reported that the National Guard is 500 short of its requirement for heavy trucks.

One Guard unit that needed to be activated on short notice this spring, for example, was so hard-pressed for trucks that Groller had to buy six used Freightliner vehicles off the lot. "Some trucks have 300,000 miles on them, but are still drivable," he said.

The Army will need to continue to upgrade existing trucks, until they can be replaced by the next-generation vehicle, the Future Tactical Truck System, said Groller. He predicted that the current fleets of heavy, medium and light trucks will be around until 2030 or beyond. Even after FCS enters service, most of the Army's equipment will be very much like it is today, he noted.

FTTS so far only exists in Powerpoint slides, and program requirements are likely to remain "hazy," until the Army decides what it wants FTTS to be. The Training and Doctrine Command last revised the operational requirements document in June. The FTTS ORD, said Groller, is a "living document."

Until March 2003, the goal was to field FTTS vehicles with the first version of FCS, scheduled for 2010. Now, the plan is for FTTS to enter service in 2015.

With 40 types of trucks in the inventory today--ranging from huge 70-ton tank transporters to ultralight Gators--the Army wants FTTS to consolidate the entire truck fleet down to just two variants: a medium/heavy and a utility version. Having fewer truck types could save billions of dollars just by not having to support as many supply lines for tires and engines.

One priority for the heavy fleet will be transportability aboard C-130 aircraft. Two of the Army's current workhorse trucks, the HEMTT (heavy expanded mobility tactical truck) load handing system and the PLS (palletized loading system) often cannot get "anywhere near a C130," said Groller. "The loadmaster literally will come out and throw himself in front of the vehicle." Even though the vehicles do fit in a C130, the problem is that soldiers operating the load handling system have been known to damage the airplane. "If you are not careful [with the load handling arm], it can rip the tail right off the C-130," he said. "We need a vehicle that can more easily be transported on C-130s."

The Army's National Automotive Center solicited industry proposals for FTTS concepts in February 2002. It received 70 white papers.

Another round of solicitations was scheduled for last month. Among the truck makers expected to compete in the FTTS program are Stewart & Stevenson, Oshkosh Truck Corp., AM General and the American Truck Company.

Groller said the NAC will award a $55 million contract by the end of the year to build seven heavy (5-ton to 13-ton range) and 10 light FTTS trucks. Then, he said, "soldiers will get to play with them for a while."

The light truck is likely to be similar to the current Humvee, and possibly larger what Groller called a "Humvee plus."

In Iraq, the Army saw many of its Humvees become "overloaded and overtaxed," said Groller. "Everybody and their mothers are sticking anything they want on there." Tank commander vehicles are severely "over-packed" with radios. "There is no room for the when you start sticking all the electron, When you have FBCB2 [force 21 battle command brigade and below] computers [and multiple radios] in the vehicle, I can't sit in the passenger seat."

Overloading Humvees is a safety hazard, he said. "God help up if you have an accident. You'll be having the FBCB2 screen for dinner. That is how close it is."

The vehicle was not intended to haul that much equipment, said Groller. "It was designed to replace the Jeep, which only carried two radios."

The Army Communications and Electronics Command outfitted a stretched version of a Hummer (the commercial variant of the Humvee) as a command-and-control vehicle. These stretch vehicles would accommodate all the extra equipment, but civilian Hummers do not meet the ruggedness standards of the Humvee.

The manufacturer of the Humvee, AM General Corp., has discussed with CECOM about possibly expanding the capacity of the Humvee without necessarily changing the chassis. Stretching a Humvee is a risky proposition, said a company source, because it raises "engineering issues and air-transportability concerns."

A more realistic option would be to keep the basic chassis and have a bigger enclosure. "It's a fairly significant reworking but not a complete redesign," said the source.

A similar challenge applies to the heavy fleet. The HEMTT trucks used in Fort Lewis, Wash., as part of the Stryker brigades, have multiple radios, computers and satellite receivers. "I have five antennas on top of the HEMTT," said Groller. "It was not designed for that."

The FTTS trucks are expected to address the demands for high-tech equipment, but these vehicles will cost at least twice what current vehicles cost. Groller said the average price for a HEMTT wrecker is $285,000, the medium FMTV trucks are $120,000 and Humvees about $70,000.

"If I come in at double the price, I'll consider myself lucky, given the requirements," Groller said. The Marine Corps is not interested in FTTS, except for possibly the light utility version.

Regardless of what happens with FTTS, he stressed, "we need to backfill the current programs" to keep up the fleet for the next two decades.

One effort under way is the development of a hybrid-electric HEMTT A3, slated to begin production in 2006 by Oshkosh Truck Corp. The current engine goes out of production in 2005, said Groller.

The medium fleet received a boost in April, when the Army awarded Stewart & Stevenson a five-year, billion-dollar contract to build 7,000 FMTV medium trucks and nearly 4,000 trailers. The current FMTV engine also is going out of production due to environmental regulations.

Stewart & Stevenson officials said the FMTV award positions the company to compete for FTTS work. "We have demonstrated an 11-ton variant working off the FMTV chassis," said Dennis M. Dellinger, vice president for engineering. "We are pursuing some additional technologies applicable to the FTTS."

For the FTTS competition, Oshkosh is expected to capitalize on the success of the Marine 7-ton truck, the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement. The MTVR received high marks in Operation Iraqi Freedom, particularly for its advanced independent suspension and ability to carry more cargo than its predecessor.

Unexpectedly, however, many MTVR windshields shattered, as they "were unable to withstand the overpressure of the artillery's higher charges (charge 8 super)," said an unofficial "lessons learned" report written by Marines in Iraq.

The operators of the MTVR were members of the 11th Marine Regiment, the unit that provided the artillery support to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. During the conflict, the Marines repeatedly dropped 155 mm howitzers right off the back of the trucks and fired them on a high charge, directly behind the trucks. The overpressure of the charge would shatter just about any vehicle's windshield, if the windows are not kept open at the time of the firing, said an Oshkosh official. "If you don't have the side windows open in the vehicle, it creates such an overpressure, such a powerful charge that it breaks the windshield."

Charge 8 super is the highest-charge artillery round, allowing the howitzer to shoot a projectile out to 30 km. The amount of powder determines how far the round will go. A charge 1 would be a light charge, for a short-distance shot.

As to why the truck operators didn't keep the windows open, a plausible explanation is that many crews never had fired the gun at such high charge before. Typically, during peacetime exercises, the firings are at short range.

The Marine Corps Systems Command said that the lessons-learned report--widely circulated on the Internet--did not necessarily reflect the service's official position. "There is obviously some feedback there," said a command spokesman, "but nothing that would necessarily lead to policy changes."

Oshkosh so far has delivered more than 4,300 trucks. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force received the first vehicles in the summer of 2002.
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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