It is a never-ending struggle: Balancing the immediate needs of today’s warfighters with the anticipated needs of tomorrow’s warfighters. Moreover, that struggle has only been exacerbated by today’s continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – regionally grouped together but so geographically different as to alter the nature of combat operations.
A classic example of this challenge was highlighted during the June 9, 2009, U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on the fiscal year 2010 Defense Budget.
During that hearing, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about operational differences between the recently fielded fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and an emerging variant called MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV).
According to Gates, the M-ATVs are “primarily being designed for use in Afghanistan, where the extraordinary weight of the regular MRAPs we’ve designed, for Iraq, sometimes makes their usefulness, particularly off-road – limits their usefulness off-road.
“So what we have done, in the all-terrain MRAP, is to try and provide essentially the same level of protection, but with a different design that will give it more capability off-road. And there is money in the budget that, both in the overseas contingency operations funds and also in the base budget, that will fund most of the requirement for the all-terrain vehicles,” he added.
As such, the M-ATV provides an archetypical example of an urgent government and industry team development effort targeting the needs of today’s warfighters. Across the time spectrum, many of the same team members are also engaged in the ongoing Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program that is being designed and developed to meet projected future needs.
Although possessing different schedules and urgencies, the M-ATV and JLTV efforts share the common goal of providing U.S. warfighters with “the perfect beast” for the broadest spectrum of modern combat operations.
The foundation for the program that would become M-ATV was established on Aug. 21, 2008, with the release of a government market survey and a “Request for information regarding industry’s ability to provide a lighter, more agile, maneuverable, mobile vehicle with MRAP protection level capabilities.”
According to that announcement, the information being sought by the Program Executive Office-Ground Combat Systems (PEO-GCS) on behalf of the warfighter targeted “an optimal solution that maximizes achieving both the indicated protection levels and the needed agility, maneuverability, and mobility, understanding that such solution must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
Acknowledging that, “Providing the agility, maneuverability and mobility of a HMMWV, including off-road, while continuing to provide MRAP protection against mine blasts and other IEDs is anticipated to be more expensive than current MRAP vehicles,” the request noted “The primary thrust of this Market Survey/Request for Information is to achieve a vehicle with MRAP protection levels, with the agility, maneuverability and mobility of a HMMWV that is operationally supportable and effective. It is, therefore, recognized that it may be necessary to trade some requirements to achieve the primary goal.”
The request went on to outline a range of notional mobility and agility characteristics (as in a curb-to-curb turning diameter of 49 feet or less) as well as design considerations (as in a horsepower-to-weight ratio of no less than 23 HP per ton).