AUSA: Last month’s Association of the US Army conference in Washington was a chance for contractors to show off their biggest programs, and they don’t get much bigger than the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, a $15 billion-plus program to replace the Humvee.
But for one of the three companies competing to build the JLTV, the program is in fact relatively small. That would be Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, best known for high-tech and high-cost programs like spy satellites, the F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed does work on some ground vehicles, and its JLTV partner BAE builds even more, but they’re hardly central to Lockheed’s business.
“It’s a big deal,” insisted the head of Lockheed’s JLTV program, Kathryn Hasse, in an interview at AUSA. “We are absolutely committed to the JLTV,” she told Breaking Defense, and Lockheed has invested millions of its own money in development, although she wouldn’t specify how much.
Lockheed’s approach is considered the most high-tech of the three contestants’, with rivals Oshkosh and AM General building instead on the strength of their existing military trucks, the M-ATV and Humvee respectively. “We’ve taken a very different approach to Oshkosh and AM General,” Hasse said. “We started with a white sheet of paper.”
That fresh start gives Lockheed more room to innovate, but it makes it harder to control costs — not a Lockheed strong point on the F-22 or F-35. Hasse insists the company can meet the military’s $250,000 per vehicle cost cap. In fact, she said, the Lockheed-BAE team has already moved away from the boutique production typical for prototypes and built two JLTVs on a full-speed production line, the former Stewart & Stevenson factory in Sealy, Texas. It’s in Sealy that the Lockheed JLTVs will be mass-produced — if the aerospace giant gets the contract.