Troops driving Humvees for 20 more years, maker says
By JIM MEENAN | South Bend Tribune, Ind. | Published: July 8, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- Despite beliefs to the contrary, the Humvee will remain a viable product at AM General for many years to come.
That's according to Chris Vanslager, vice president for business development and program management at AM General.
The vehicle is in Department of Defense plans for the next 20 years, he said.
AM General is the only original equipment manufacturer of the Humvee, and it has been the main product at the company for more than 20 years. Today, the company employs more than 2,000 -- most of them in South Bend and Mishawaka -- and also helps support numerous suppliers in the region.
Vanslager said he also believes in the Humvee's future because the company sells Humvees to many foreign countries that are U.S. allies. "We have lots of foreign military sales and foreign direct sales," Vanslager said.
Despite news some time ago that the Humvee's days with the military are winding to an end, there's been a bit of a shift change in philosophy since then, Vanslager said. "From the standpoint of the Department of Defense, they have 150,000 Humvees that are out there," he said.
And the current plan is for the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) to replace only about one-third of the Humvees the U.S. uses, said Vanslager, adding that production of the JLTV is probably about three years away.
"So two-thirds of the light tactical vehicles will be Humvees," Vanslager said. "So they're not going away. It's already been identified that they are going to be available for the next 20 years."
AM General has developed improvements to take the Humvee to the next phase of its military life, said Vanslager, a Washington High School and West Point graduate.
"At the higher level, there's been concept studies and structure studies that identified that you still need that capacity for the next 20 years," he said of the Humvee.
In a March article for the National Defense Industrial Association, Christopher Lowman, assistant deputy chief of staff and director of maintenance policy and programs for the Department of the Army, said, "We're going to continue to sustain the Humvee.
"We're going to continue to have a requirement for recapitalization. We're going to continue to have a requirement for Humvee parts and the supply chain that goes along with that."
It's nothing but good news for AM General. "It's tremendous news for AM General," he said.
But that's not the only reason Vanslager is pretty optimistic about AM General's future in the military field.
AM General is in the competition for the JLTV. It has two of the six finalists competing for $65 million to be awarded Aug. 24 for up to three companies to build 22 vehicles for further testing. The $5 billion program calls for production beginning in 2015.
AM General's entry is the BRV-O, or Blast Resistant Vehicle-Offroad. It partnered with General Dynamics Land Systems to produce the other entrant, called Eagle IV.
The eventual winner could receive in a five-year deal with the military. But even if AM General is not selected, the company could end up producing its own version for U.S. allies, Vanslager said.
"AM General will continue to go ahead and promote the products it has both from the Humvee line, which has the protection and survivability (elements), as well as the JLTV," Vanslager said.
"We not only have the JLTV future, we also still have to sustain the Humvee that's out there," for both foreign and U.S. markets, Vanslager said. "We have opportunities to go ahead and sell."
©2012 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)
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