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Truck manufacturers show their wares.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md.--Trucks and trailers sat in two facing rows under a white tent here on a warm summer day. Out front were company representatives eager to grab passersby to brief them on the merits of their cutting edge technology.

Systematically moving clown the rows were Army and Marine representatives with clipboards in hand inspecting the goods.

At a setting that resembled a used car lot--with dozens of "salespersons" ready to pitch their products--Army officials stressed that the three-week event was not a forum for them to buy products.

"It's not a source selection ... it's simply market education," said Army Col. John Myers, who serves as the program manager for future tactical systems.

The vehicle demonstration was designed to show the military what industry has to offer before program managers begin writing requirement documents. The idea is to speed up the notoriously slow acquisition process by ensuring that the Army and Marines don't ask for features that contractors can't deliver or would take years to develop.

"What is in the realm of the possible? And what can industry provide?" These are the questions the evaluators with the clipboards in hand are seeking to answer, Myers said. The military will be looking for better survivability, increased fuel efficiency and higher payloads for its new family of trucks, he added.

Well-known vendors--such as AM General, Lockheed Martin, International Truck and Engine Corp., and General Dynamics Land Systems--hauled the best they had to offer to Aberdeen. Evaluators spent one week at the static displays crawling into the cabs and "kicking the tires." The process then moved on to road tests on a nearby track for two weeks.

The evaluators included a cross section of disciplines--maintenance technicians, ordnance personnel, program managers and logistics officers. The Army and Marine Corps are working together on this effort, since Congress mandated that the next generation of tactical wheeled vehicles must be jointly procured.

While Army officials would be loath to liken the Aberdeen demonstration to a used car sale, there were at least a handful of "recycled" prototype vehicles there. Two of them were runners-up to the Marine Corps competition to build a scout vehicle small enough to fit inside the new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

James Flynn, business development manager at General Dynamics Land Systems at Woodbridge, Va., talked up the vehicle's ability to provide stealth, blast protection, sensors and advanced communications. It uses lithium ion batteries to accelerate and operate silently for several hours.

Weight problems as the Osprey's requirements changed sunk General Dynamics' chances of winning the contract, but the contractor still hopes the money it invested will pay off.

The mock-up's chassis would be the base for five different light vehicle models.

"We want to be a player. Our concept is to establish a baseline ... then be able to add modules to that," Flynn said.

General Dynamics, meanwhile, was awarded a contract to design and build a prototype "joint light tactical vehicle," which is intended to replace the Humvee.

Fred Wehlri, chief of the mobility division, material systems directorate, at the Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va., will be one of several officials responsible for writing the requirements documents for future trucks.

Seeing the technology first-hand, he said, "Will make us smarter writers."

Along with the Aberdeen demonstration, the Army has been sponsoring the quarterly expedited modernization initiative procedure, informally known as "truck rodeos," to look at components that may be attached to the vehicles.

The next step in the process will be a military utility assessment to allow troops at Fort Lewis, Wash., to put some of the light tactical vehicles through the paces and give their assessments, Wehrli said.

Those tests, and the reports from various rodeos, will shape joint requirement documents "that we can all agree on," he said.
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Author:Magnuson, Stew
Publication:National Defense
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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