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Fleet overhaul: army seeking $34 billion for new, upgraded trucks.

Senior Army officials have okayed a $34 billion plan to refurbish the service's truck fleet. Between now and 2018, the Army would acquire 70,000 new vehicles and upgrade more than 200,000 from the existing inventory.

The proposal, which also lays out a strategy to equip every truck with armor, was heavily influenced by the Iraq experience. By the military's own account, the lack of armored trucks at the outset of the conflict contributed to hundreds of casualties, who were killed or maimed by roadside bombs.

The Army spent the past two years rushing to Iraq thousands of armored Humvee trucks and applique armor kits. Now that most of the urgent hardware needs have been filled, officials say it is time for the Army to commit to a long-term effort that will prevent it from getting caught flat-footed again.

The 12-year plan, code-named "tactical wheeled vehicle fleet transformation strategy," would expand the Army's inventory from 235,000 to 280,000 trucks. The growth is attributed to the conversion of the Army's 10 divisions into 77 independent brigades. Each brigade will need to deploy with its own logistics assets, and no longer will rely on division- or corps-level support. The upshot is a sizeable increase in the number of trucks required to outfit each brigade, explains Army Lt. Gen. Claude V. Christianson, deputy chief of staff for logistics.

A light brigade support battalion, for example, would grow from 92 to 584 trucks. The logistics battalion for a heavy brigade would expand from 539 to 657 trucks. The ranks of truck drivers consequently will grow by nearly 15,000 within the next four years.

Although Christianson cautions that the numbers still are being refined, there is little question that the Army's truck fleet will be substantially larger.

Under the modernization plan, every truck will be manufactured with a common frame specifically designed with hooks and hinges to hang armor, if needed. Add-on kits would be made in enough quantities to equip up to 20 brigades. According to preliminary designs, each kit would provide armor appliques for the truck's roof, door, belly and side, in addition to transparent armor for windshields and windows.

"The technology is available for most of this," says Maj. Gen. Brian I. Geehan, chief of Army transportation.

This approach to armoring makes sense because not every truck needs the same level of protection, he asserts. Funding for the kits, which would cost between $7,000 to $11,000 each, is not included in the $34 billion modernization plan.

Since October 2003, the Army has spent more than $4 billion on truck armor, in addition to $300 million for contractor labor to install the kits. That also includes more than 10,000 armored Humvees.

All new and upgraded trucks, meanwhile, will have to be sturdier and outfitted with more powerful engines and transmissions in order to withstand the weight of the armor. Most steel-armor kits weigh between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds. Although there are lighter armor options available, such as composite ceramics, only steel has met the Army's requirements so far, says Geehan. Lighter armor is showing significant progress, however, and may be incorporated into future kits in the next two to three years, he adds.

Future armor kits, unlike current systems, will be purchased and installed by the truck manufacturers, rather than bought as an after-market product.

"Designing vehicles from the ground up and armoring them at the factory is the right solution for today's soldiers," says Archie L. Massicotte, vice president of International Truck and Engine Corporation.

Once the Army signs off on the kit design specifications, it will direct truck manufacturers to compete the armor work, says Brig. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, the Army's chief procurement official for combat-support vehicles. This will open the market to multiple suppliers, and will ensure that the Army no longer is dependent on a single vendor, O'Reilly says.

Only one company today makes armored Humvees--O'Gara-Hess, a division of Armor Holdings Inc. The firm also owns the design patent for the armor. "This is because the Army chose not to purchase the design of the up-armored Humvee when it initially ordered them in 1994, since the Army did not foresee ordering a large quantity in a short period of time," says O'Reilly.

"Once the Army determined last year that we needed to surge our procurement of up-armored Humvees, we requested that O'Gara-Hess quote us the price of the technical data package," explains O'Reilly, "However, O'Gara-Hess replied to our request by stating they would not sell us the TDP. They never gave us a price."

The Army consequently faced three choices. It could opt to continue to buy the armored Humvee from O'Gara-Hess. It could "reverse engineer" the design, which would take several months. Or it could embark on a new design, which would have taken even more time to develop, test and produce, says O'Reilly,

Armor Holdings maintains that the Army requested the price quote for the design rights in January 2005, when most of the Humvee orders already were near completion. Just a few weeks before that, soldiers in Kuwait had asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to explain why armored trucks were in short supply. That exchange sparked a media frenzy and raised questions about the Army's decision to have only one supplier of armored Humvees.

Robert F. Mecredy, president of Armor Holdings, says the company responded to the Army's inquiry on the technical data package by vowing to produce as many armored Humvees as were needed, and to turn over the design rights at no cost if the company failed to satisfy the orders. Subsequently, the Army "stopped all negotiations" and indicated it intended to pursue other options, says Mecredy. Most recently, he adds, Armor Holdings has begun discussions with the Army about starting production of a newer variant of the up-armored Humvee.

The Army, for its part, "would have preferred to have had a price submitted by O'Gara-Hess so that the Army could have determined if it was advantageous to buy the technical data package," says O'Reilly. Nonetheless, "it was determined to pursue a sole-source acquisition strategy to deliver the up-armored Humvee to the field as rapidly as possible."

Even if there had been more companies providing armor, the Army only has one supplier of Humvees, AM General, which has doubled its truck production since 2004 to nearly 48 trucks per day. About 28 from each run are shipped to O'Gara Hess to get armored.

The possibility of opening up another Humvee assembly line was considered but quickly ruled out, says a procurement official at the Army Material Command, who asked to not be quoted by name. "To be blunt about it, who in the world could ramp up, find the suppliers and get production in place in less than a couple of years?" the official says. "There is a misperception that you can hand someone a technical data package and produce it overnight."

One lesson for the Army, nevertheless, is that it does not want to depend on a single supplier in the future, O'Reilly says.

Army truck buyers also are turning more attention to vehicle performance and maintenance. "The emphasis is on reliability," says O'Reilly.

Many of the current Humvees, which were built in the mid-1980s, have engines that only last 16,000 miles before they have to be replaced or overhauled. By comparison, modern commercial truck engines run for more than 200,000 miles. The maintenance burdens on the current truck fleet in Iraq are significant, O'Reilly says, considering that the 35,000 Army vehicles there log at least 1 million miles a week.

The Army expects at least a 20 percent reduction of the current inventory, as a result of combat losses and wear-and-tear. Most of the fleet will undergo upgrades under a massive "recapitalization" program that could encompass up to 200,000 trucks and 50,000 trailers, says Geehan.

He notes that of the current fleet of about 120,000 Humvees, at least 74,000 are 20 years old. It is yet to be determined how many will be replaced and how many will be overhauled. The Army is evaluating industry bids for a new engine and transmission for the Humvee fleet. A contractor will be selected later this year.

The medium-size fleet of 2.5-ton and 5-ton cargo vehicles also is aging and will receive an influx of new vehicles and improvements.

The Army is considering adding advanced features, such as pull-down night-vision screens, navigation tools that track each vehicle in a convoy and computer software that predicts failures, Geehan says.

Among the unanswered questions in the truck strategy is whether the Army will continue to buy enhanced versions of the existing makes and models or whether it is ready to bring new vehicles into the mix.

The production contracts for the Army's key truck programs--the Humvee, the family of medium tactical vehicles, the M915 tractor trailer and the heavy expanded mobility tactical truck--all expire in 2007.

This opens a window of opportunity for the Army to make a "sea change" in its tactical wheeled vehicles, says Geehan.

"To shape their buying decisions, Army officials are hosting "truck rodeos," where truck makers and component suppliers showcase their products. The first of these rodeos was conducted in January at the Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. Another will take place next summer, at a location yet to be determined.

Among the deciding factors in future truck procurements will be the outcome of a $70 million four-year research project that will be completed in 2006. Called the "future tactical truck system," the program will deliver six prototype trucks--four light-utility and two medium-heavy cargo--for the Army and the Marine Corps to evaluate. While the Marines own and operate their own truck fleet, they may join the Army in future vehicle buys, says O'Reilly.

By 2007 or 2008, the Army would be poised to solicit industry bids for replacement vehicles. Incumbent vendors--AM General, Stewart & Stevenson, Oshkosh Truck and Freightliner--are expected to be challenged by new competitors vying for a share of the market. Potential contenders include International Truck & Engine, American Truck Company and General Purpose Vehicles.

The procurement strategy for future trucks will be much different than it was in the 1980s, when the Army was buying large quantities of vehicles. The current fleet, O'Reilly estimates, cost about $30 billion.

The projected buys for the next 12 years will be for relatively small quantities. "In the 1980s, we were buying almost 20,000 Humvees a year. We would go through spikes and then not buy any for a while. This strategy looks out 20 years and procures trucks maybe at a lower level, but at a prolonged level." He declines to provide specific numbers for future truck production.

A source with access to draft documents not yet approved by the Army says that Humvee production is projected to grow from 1,900 in 2005 to 2,000 in 2006, 3,400 in 2007 and 10,000 by 2009.

The forecast for the medium fleet (FMTV) includes 3,600 trucks for 2005, 2,700 for 2006, 3,900 for 2007 and 4,100 for 2008.

The Army would purchase 1,200 heavy-cargo (HEMTT) trucks in 2005, 600 in 2006, 400 in 2007 and 2008 and 190 in 2009.

These numbers would indicate that, even though the Army could end up introducing new types of trucks to replace current versions, the existing variants will remain in production at least until 2010 or 2011.

O'Reilly and Geehan, who updated National Defense on the truck strategy in late June, expressed confidence that the Army would stick with the funding commitment in the 12-year plan. Although they cautioned that the strategy is likely to see periodic revisions. "Numbers will change according to priorities and funding allocations," says Geehan.
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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