Magazine article National Defense

Rough Patch: Marines Likely to Curtail Ground-Vehicle Wish List

Magazine article National Defense

Rough Patch: Marines Likely to Curtail Ground-Vehicle Wish List

Article excerpt


BALTIMORE -- The Marine Corps is struggling to keep its ground-vehicle modernization plans afloat. A combination of overly ambitious technical requirements and higher-than-expected costs threaten some of the Corps' most prized vehicles, including its next-generation tactical trucks and armored personnel carriers.

Three multibillion-dollar vehicle programs--the joint light tactical vehicle, the marine personnel carrier and the expeditionary fighting vehicle--have encountered their share of problems, including schedule delays and significant price hikes, which have forced the service to rework its acquisition plans, officials said during a recent Marine Corps Systems Command briefing to industry organized by the National Defense Industrial Association.

The joint light tactical vehicle--or JLTV--will replace humvees with a far more sophisticated truck whose design must meet tough specifications for protection, payload and performance, said Brig. Gen. Andrew O'Donnell, director of capabilities development at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Marines want a truck with lighter armor, increased lethality and survivability, better gas mileage, improved speed and mobility-as well as reasonable prices, O'Donnell said.

An industry competition currently is under way for JLTV, and the Corps expects the program to proceed along, despite the anticipated technical hurdles.

But the financial pressures to fund JLTV--as well as the rising costs of war operations and equipment repairs--have forced the Marines to delay the procurement of their new armored personnel carrier.

The Marine personnel carrier (MPC) is a medium-weight troop transport that was intended to hold nine combat equipped infantry Marines. The MPC family includes three vehicle variants: the personnel carrier, a command and control platform and a recovery version.

The MPC was expected to undergo a major design review in April of this year, but the project was delayed by two years to fiscal year 2010, said Col. Michael Micucci, MPC and light armored vehicles product manager.

The service simply can't afford it right now, Micucci said.

Trying to put a positive spin on news that disappointed many contractors, Micucci said the delay will create a "window of opportunity ... to start teaming, make teaming arrangements to compete on the program. It also gives the program manager the opportunities to look at those emerging technologies that we need to mature."


Among the needed technologies are more survivable seats to protect the occupants of the vehicle, advanced suspension systems, more fuel-efficient propulsion and lightweight armor, Micucci said.

David Branham, spokesman for the Marine Corps Systems Command, said that the service will be partnering with the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to work on lightweight armor technologies.

Despite the delay, Branham stressed, the Marine Corps has a firm requirement for the MPC and does not plan to cancel the program.

"The Marine Corps recognizes it can't do everything it wants, but we still anticipate bringing it online," Branham told National Defense.

But Micucci says the MPC specifications and requirements will be reevaluated. "I will tell you we really need to look at the program, need to look at affordability, and probably re-map it out."

The uncertainties about MPC throw into question the overall plan for the future fleet. The troop carrier had been conceived as a stopgap for the troubled expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) program, which has been beleaguered by huge cost overruns and delays caused by design changes.

"The EFV was reduced from about 1,000 [vehicles] to 500, which gave birth to MPC," said Col. William Taylor, program executive officer for land systems. …

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