Battelle used the venue of the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), held May 14-16, 2013 in Tampa, Fla., to highlight its recent receipt of a contract to provide special operations forces with modified and armored commercial vehicles to meet the needs of USSOCOM’s Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles (NSCV) fleet. The three-year Blanket Purchase Agreement was awarded by the General Services Administration.
Under the NSCV effort, prime contractor Battelle takes existing vehicles, reengineers them with protective armor, and adds other durability features, such as stronger suspensions for operations in rugged terrain and enhanced alternators to withstand extreme climates.
In performing the work, Battelle is supported by the skills and expertise of seven different sub-contractors, including small businesses that are disabled veteran-owned, and Native-American owned companies. Battelle’s teammates include:
- Action Group of Blacklick;
- Hollingsworth Logistics in southwest Columbus;
- Defense Logistics Services;
- Gryphon Group;
- GS Engineering;
- Triad Services, and;
- UPI Manufacturing.
According to Jim LaBine, project manager for system development at Battelle, the program is forecast to acquire 90 vehicles per year for the next three years, “And they will be variants of either a [Toyota] Land Cruiser or a [Toyota] Hi-Lux truck. We don’t know how many variants of each type will be required yet. The plan right now is to build three of each, with those six vehicles then going into durability testing. The user wants to run those tests before they enter large production.”
He added that the company just received authorization to buy those first six vehicles and had placed those orders the week prior to SOFIC.
“If I had to guess it would be late summer or early fall before we deliver those first six vehicles for durability testing,” he said.
Using the example of the prototype Toyota Hi-Lux on display in their SOFIC exhibit, LaBine explained, “We tear down the commercial vehicle, basically almost to the frame, but the body is still on. Then the armor goes in first. A lot of the armor is in large plates and actually goes in through the windshield before being put together inside the vehicle.”
Asked if the internal armor design reduced operational volume inside the vehicle, he acknowledged that it was reduced “a little, but it’s actually not as bad as you would think because we remove all of the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] trim inside.”
Interior armoring is then followed by the installation of MOLLE surfaces that allow occupants to configure their internal passenger space to meet their operational needs. Accessories like OEM door handles are also replaced by simple pull latch designs.
“The armored glass overlaps with our sheet of steel,” LaBine said. “In fact, any seams overlap – we call them returns.”
“We’re in the middle of preliminary design reviews and vertical design reviews,” he added. “So we’re still working out the final design details – things like, ‘Is that a flat head screw?’ As soon as that is done we will receive final authorization to build the first six, and then it really just depends on how long the testing takes.”
Manufacturing of the vehicles will take place at a Battelle facility just outside Columbus, Ohio.
In addition to the “armored” NSCV design developed by Battelle, USSOCOM representatives acknowledged an ongoing source selection for an “unarmored” NSCV configuration, with an award announcement expected for that effort by the end of this fiscal year.