Sometime in 2015, the Pentagon will choose the successor to the venerable Humvee. But for now, the competition is still going, with battle-tested ground vehicle manufacturers like Oshkosh and AM General preparing for a "production readiness review" courtesy of the governmental decision makers come August. While Oshkosh and AM might be the big names in the contest to choose America's next top fighting vehicle, formally known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, there is another competitor that's preparing to kick off production of its own truck – Lockheed Martin.
Despite the wide-open nature of the competition, the big-name defense manufacturer is set to flip the switch on a line at its Camden, AR factory. Why so soon? Because the company was essentially forced to relocate its JLTV challenger from the Sealy, TX factory of its partner, BAE Systems, after the British company shuttered the plant responsible for building Lockheed's prototype trucks.
That's left the company in an interesting position.
"This isn't a new line; we literally picked up the line and moved it," Scott Greene, VP of ground vehicles in the Missile and Fire Control division, told Breaking Defense.
That's not a disadvantage, though, as Harold O'Neal, the VP of product operations, told BD.
"We could [turn on the line] today, but we're [first] verifying every single adjustment and modification we've made," O'Neal said. That sort of stringent, comprehensive checking and rechecking is nothing to scoff at, particularly considering how important the JLTV is to the company.
The Camden factory has never actually built trucks before, and following the well publicized problems plaguing some of LM's latest products, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and USS Freedom littoral combat ship, one could say the need to get this one right is high.
Still, O'Neal seems confident of the new product and the team in Camden.
"We have a skilled, trained, certified workforce in Camden," O'Neal told BD, calling it a facility with "all the combined process skills, process certification, process training."