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AUSA 2011: Navistar Defense Targets Light Tactical Vehicle “Gap” with Saratoga

At the same time that myriad industry efforts are positioning to support the two primary pillars of tomorrow’s Light Tactical Vehicle fleet – Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and HMMWV Recap/MECV [HMMWV Modernized Expanded Capacity Vehicle] – Navistar Defense, LLC used the venue of the 2011 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and symposium to unveil its own new light tactical vehicle (LTV) design. Dubbed “Saratoga,” the design is in one sense “neither fish nor fowl” but in another sense is actually both.

As described by company representatives, Saratoga was designed for superior survivability, mobility and transportability to “target the gap” that they identify between those two programs.

Sam Homsy, director of Army programs at Navistar Defense, characterized the development of Saratoga as, “anticipating a requirement and being ready to put into production a truck that is needed – a truck that is wanted – in the field before any of the other light tactical vehicles that could be put in the field by the Army or any other partner under traditional processes.”

“We named it Saratoga [a battle seen as a turning point in the American Revolution] because we see this vehicle as a turning point in our response to what we see as a battlefield need – as well as the ability to put it in the field right now,” he said.

Homsy said that the new truck design addresses three major things: survivability; affordability; and transportability.

“We looked at what was needed out there,” he explained. “We included a survey of different requirements – JLTV, LPPV [Light Protected Patrol Vehicle] from the British, and HMMWV Recap. We did a survey of those requirements and used that to establish our end goal. We looked at all of the important requirements but we also had the overriding goal of getting the cost down to around $250,000 per copy in a ‘B-kitted’ or armored format.”

Homsy added that the Saratoga project was started by Navistar “about a year ago” and that the $250,000 goal has been a key aspect from the beginning.

To date the company has accumulated over 25,000 test miles on two prototype vehicles.

The vehicle on display at the AUSA annual meeting was prototype number four.

“We’ve obviously made improvements and corrections as we’ve gone along,” Homsy noted. “And we have been testing mobility as well as blast testing all along the way.”

“You get the survivability of an MRAP – the 1X underbody blast – and you also get the 76 inch transport height that fits on maritime ships,” he said, adding, “We know how important it is to do a 1X blast in the presence on the government, because it gives you credibility. So we did that back in September. And if we didn’t have the 76-inch transport height we could get to a 2X protection on the truck. We just did on October 6, and were very satisfied with those results as well.”

The 2X blast test was conducted to help the company understand full system potential for possible international defense applications.

Homsy was quick to clarify that Saratoga “is not a JLTV. For JLTV we are partners with BAE Systems. We know we have a good [JLTV] truck that went through the TD phase. That is a partnership that’s working and it gets stronger every day. So what we have with BAE Systems is our JLTV submission. But what we have here is something that fills a gap between HMMWV Recap and JLTV.”

“One of the most important things about filling this gap is that it is available now,” he added. “It is an affordable solution and it is available now. If someone were to walk up to us this week and say, ‘I need 1,000 trucks.’ We would say, ‘OK, we’re ready to do the engineering releases on those and get them into production.’”

Noting that Navistar will also use elements of the Saratoga design in their response to the upcoming HMMWV Recap/MECV program, he acknowledged that the full Saratoga did exceed the $180,000 now identified as the upper cap for that program.

“The government wants to keep that down to $180,000,” he said. “And the way I see it, the only way you can keep it to 180,000 is to reuse some of the HMMWV parts. So we will do that. And we will also use proven components from Saratoga. And that is going to be our HMMWV Recap solution.”

In addition to U.S. requirements, Homsy identified marketing potential in several Allied nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...