JLTV from Oshkosh leverages C4ISR tech, open architectures

In this Q&A with John Bryant, Senior Vice President, Defense Programs at Oshkosh Defense in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, he discusses his company’s winning the () contract from the U.S. Army. He also details the capability of the JLTV, explains how the vehicle leverages to help deal with , talks on how the JLTV win is impacting the local Oshkosh community, and briefly addresses the current of the JLTV sole source selection.

MCHALE REPORT: Please provide a brief description of your responsibility within Oshkosh and your group’s role within the company.

BRYANT: I am the Senior Vice President of defense programs for Oshkosh Defense, a business division within Oshkosh Corporation. I lead the development, production, and sustainment of all vehicle and product platforms for Oshkosh Defense.

MCHALE REPORT: The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) award to Oshkosh is currently under protest by Lockheed Martin, with a decision reportedly expected by the end of this calendar year. Do you have any comments on the protest?

BRYANT: While I cannot comment on specifics of the JLTV source selection due to it being under protest, I can share my view of the process based on my experience as a program manager and also on having run the program manager course at the Defense Executive University. From that perspective I believe the Army efforts on the JLTV contract process and sole source selection were thorough and sound through and through, and the contract is very quantifiable. As it was such a robust process I believe it would be difficult for the JLTV source selection to be successfully protested. Now while I didn’t get to see the bids of the competitors, I did see our debrief, which was very detailed and thorough. The Army’s debrief was also provided absolute clarity that the Oshkosh JLTV was the best vehicle for the warfighter and the best value for the taxpayer.

MCHALE REPORT: Please describe the JLTV development and its features?

BRYANT: We had an advantage in developing JLTV that we already had the Oshkosh MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle (), which is really the only vehicle performing with a JLTV mission profile in theater. It is saving lives right now. So, if you look at the M-ATV and the JLTV capsule, you will see that the JLTV very much resembles the M-ATV capsule and that is not by accident as we leveraged our experience with those vehicles in theater and combat. We used our CORE1080 and optimized it for the JLTV, providing the M-ATV’s level of survivability in a platform that is one third lighter than the M-ATV.

That experience in theater and the more deliberate nature of JLTV program enabled us to design every component and piece of equipment – from the seats to the drive train – for survivability. Everything on the JLTV contributes positively to crew survivability. The survivability is not provided through sheer mass of armor either. A good analogy would be with NASCAR vehicles that are not encumbered by levels of thick armor, but when these vehicles crash into wall or are hit by another vehicle, the driver more often than not hops out and is fine. This is because NASCAR vehicles surround the driver with equipment and components individually designed for survivability.

The JLTV is also a third the weight of the M-ATV and has increased its extreme off road mobility by 70 percent when compared to the M-ATV.

MCHALE REPORT: How will the Marine Corps JLTV variant differ from that of the Army and vice versa?

BRYANT: There is not a unique Marine Corps variant. The JLTV is built on a common set of requirements that meet the needs of the Army and Marine Corps. Differentiation occurs on how the services configure the JLTV based on . The platform is designed for that plug and play configuration and not just for the Army or Marine Use, but for multiple configurations.

Through the converged set of requirements the JLTV satisfied the needs of both the Marine Corps and the Army while meeting cost targets. I think it is a model that someday will be taught in defense courses.

MCHALE REPORT: What types of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment will be leveraged in the JLTV?

BRYANT: The Oshkosh JLTV is essentially a mobile command center. It is wired for current and future C4 systems to [with scalability] to accommodate the installation of expansion packages as the infrastructure is already there. We can’t get into specific details about the C4 systems on board, but the JLTV can carry or support all current radios and electronic equipment. C4ISR capability on the JLTV includes electronic warfare devices and counter radio electronic warfare systems as well as GPS technology. It also has HF, VHF, UHF, SATCOM, and vehicle intercoms for communication. For on the move operations it has situational awareness systems such as shot detection, long-range surveillance, and silent watch power systems as well as visible light and infrared camera systems.

[While] many of today’s vehicles simply get configured and delivered, making it difficult to modify them for a specific mission, the JLTV in contrast, is flexible; C4ISR subsystems can be installed at the field level, enabling users to perform missions and reconfigure the vehicle for individual mission set requirements.

Additionally, the JLTV’s integrated network means the equipment and systems within the vehicle can be used independently or are interoperable with one another, providing a common sight picture. The network and vehicle enable users to display the vehicle configurations. For example, the driver has the capability to pass control to someone in the backseat if necessary. The network system also enables users to share information.

MCHALE REPORT: Will the JLTV’s vehicle electronics (vetronics) leverage the VICTORY architecture and what will the VICTORY architecture bring to the platform?

BRYANT: A VICTORY compliant architecture is integrated through smart displays and centralized computers. Any combination of radios and C4ISR equipment can be added with a capability to handle larger requirements in the future.

MCHALE REPORT: How does the JLTV enable power management through its various systems especially with all the C4ISR technology?

BRYANT: We provide ten kilowatts of power to handle a wide variety C4ISR configurations and we provide growth capacity as our onboard digital architecture allows integration of a wide variety of C4ISR suites tailored to commanders needs.

MCHALE REPORT: Will the JLTV make use of COTS and open architectures to leverage high-performance commercial technology and also manage obsolescence issues?

BRYANT: Many of the CORE1080 components today are COTS, however items such as vehicle displays are fully ruggedized to meet military environmental specifications. These are not desktop systems by any means.

Regarding obsolescence the JLTV design absolutely reduces life cycle costs. A key factor in JLTV development was enabling scalability to perform upgrades cost effectively. Components on the Oshkosh JLTV themselves are not high cost so if they break there are not large operations and support cost burdens. We also designed high reliability at the system level so those low cost components don’t break very often. Lastly we provided superior fuel economy to help drive down operational costs.

Many of the design team at Oshkosh served as mechanics to ensure that the final JLTV platform will be maintainable for cost and protection. It also designed so that maintenance of the vehicle does not result in excessive downtime. Nobody wants an available vehicle part that takes 48 hours to get. Downtime will be minimal so the JLTV can get right back to the fight.

MCHALE REPORT: What types of human factor feedback have you received from vehicle operators that you have integrated into the JLTV design?

BRYANT: Small things that make operators lives easier are typically what get suggested. For example we added cup holders to our seats so they have a place to put their drinks and we re-designed the re-designed the seats so that an operator wearing a camelback may sit without it pressing into his back. It helps that we have many ex-military and current military personnel working for us and also advising us on the design. The JLTV capsule has more room for the occupant as a result of that operator and former operator input.

MCHALE REPORT: When is the first JLTV expected to be deployed?

BRYANT: The current plan the government has published will see a full rate production decision in 2018 followed by the Army first unit equipped in 2018 with Marine Corps initial operating capability reached in 2018 as well.

MCHALE REPORT: The JLTV award is a positive boost to the military vehicle market, which has been flat for a few years as the U.S. military pulled back its global footprint. That said how do you view the military vetronics over the next five years -- growing, shrinking, or flat? Why?

BRYANT: We’ve seen a decline in the defense budget, but actually Oshkosh received significant awards for their family of heavy tactical vehicles through Army re-capitalization contracts. The JLTV will offer stability as those medium and heavy programs start to drop off in the coming years. As JLTV ramps up to full rate production, it will provide stability for our work force. We also expect international sales to increase.

MCHALE REPORT: Large contracts like the JLTV and others before it have been shown to have positive long-term impacts on the winning company’s local community. How will this contract impact Oshkosh, Wisconsin?

BRYANT: It has had a positive impact already in the Oshkosh community and a large portion of the supply base in Wisconsin and significantly in Oshkosh. When we win a program like JLTV or receive orders for the M-ATV the positive economic impact extends well beyond Oshkosh Defense to the entire local and state community. Its local economic impact goes well beyond Oshkosh Defense.

John Bryant is the senior vice president of Defense Programs for Oshkosh Defense where he leads the development, production, and sustainment of all vehicle and product platforms and programs for Oshkosh Defense, Integrated Product Support (IPS), and contract administration. He previously served as vice president and general manager of Joint and Marine Corps Programs for Oshkosh Defense and was responsible for programs, such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV), and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). As a retired colonel, Bryant brings a 28-year history of service with the Marine Corps to his role at Oshkosh. As a program manager, he led several acquisition programs, including Tank Systems, Light Armored Vehicles and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles. Prior to joining Oshkosh, he was a professor of program management at the Defense Acquisition University. Bryant holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University. He also received Level III certification in program management from the Defense Acquisition University.