National Defense Writes Article For Army Taking Mack Defense’s Tactical Truck Prototype Out For A Spin

The Army in 2024 will start testing four industry offerings for its Common Tactical Truck program, which the service hopes will provide soldiers with the necessary safety and mobility for the modern battlefield.

The Common Tactical Truck program, or CTT, is the family of vehicles that the Army seeks to begin fielding in 2028 to replace the M915 Line Haul Tractor, M1088 Medium Tractor, Palletized Load System and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in the Army’s tactical vehicle fleet. In January 2023, the Army awarded Other Transaction Authority agreements totaling $24.25 million to Mack Defense, Navistar Defense, Oshkosh Defense and a team consisting of American Rheinmetall Vehicles and GM Defense to provide three prototypes of each variant for the CTT family of vehicles, along with digital designs of all variants and a design study for a wrecker.

The Army has stated the goal of the program is to field heavy tactical vehicles that can support multi-domain operations, and the service believes a commercially based fleet featuring commonality across the family of systems could be the key.

“Commonality in the CTT family of vehicles will enable open modular designs and interchangeable repair parts across the fleet, resulting in streamlined supply chains, [a] reduced logistics footprint and total lifecycle costs,” an Army spokesperson said in an email.

Wolfgang Petermann, then-project manager for transportation systems in the Army’s Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, said in a press release when the awards were announced that commonality within the CTT family will allow the Army to “modernize at the pace of industry, integrating new technologies as they are developed.”

Topping the service’s wish list for the new trucks are drive-by-wire capability and active safety features, according to the Army spokesperson.

These capabilities enhance driver safety, reduce accidents and provide the basic components for an autonomous driving capability, the spokesperson said. While they won’t be fully autonomous, at least initially, the industry prototypes will feature “some level of features such as digital linkages, cameras and sensors that will enable acceptance of autonomy systems” in the future, the spokesperson added.

Mack Defense’s CTT prototypes feature a “full suite” of advanced driver safety technologies, the company’s president, David Hartzell, said in an interview. These include collision avoidance capabilities, blind spot detection, driver alert systems, anti-lock brake systems, traction control devices and vehicle dynamic controls to “assist in rollover situations.”

In December, Mack Defense announced it had teamed with BAE Systems to deliver an alternative propulsion solution for its Common Tactical Truck offering that will reduce fuel demand.

“The Army has talked a lot about the current operational mission profiles that they’re looking for is to operate in an environment of contested or denied logistics,” where it would be difficult to refuel or resupply a vehicle in a forward operating location, Hartzell said. “They want the vehicle to be able to operate longer on the same amount of fuel that they would carry today, just because it may not be able to get refueled in time in today’s theater of war.”

BAE’s Gen3 solution features an electric motor/generator and power electronics to create a more efficient mode of transportation for the trucks, utilizing advanced materials such as silicon carbide to increase electrical efficiency and enhance vehicle performance, a Mack Defense statement said. The system provides improved fuel economy, extended anti-idle operation capability and exportable power.

Having exportable power on the vehicle is important to keep charged the “increasing amount of electronic equipment” soldiers are bringing to the field, Hartzell said. These can include systems for command and control, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or even energy-based weapons that could be vehicle-mounted for protection, he said.

Onboard exportable power could also allow soldiers in a forward operating location to create a “microgrid” for power generation that can quickly be disassembled when it’s time to move out, he added.

GM Defense and American Rheinmetall Vehicles’ offering is the HX3 CTT, the next-generation variant of Rheinmetall’s HX family of tactical trucks. Mike Milner, vice president of business development and strategy at American Rheinmetall Vehicles, said in an email the HX3 CTT will feature modern capabilities such as advanced driver assistance systems, increased off-road mobility, cybersecurity hardening, autonomy readiness, superior survivability, improved fuel efficiency and demand reduction.

“The commerciality of the HX3 CTT will also allow the rapid incorporation of advanced technologies in the future and maximize the benefits of a streamlined, validated global supply chain,” Milner said. The platform is fully autonomy ready and could integrate an autonomy-enabling system such as Rheinmetall’s PATH A-Kit, which “provides the capability to make any vehicle autonomous,” he added.

The HX3 CTT possesses a high level of commonality and modularity across variants, having the ability to scale from 4×4 to 6×6 to 8×8 to 10×10 “to meet nearly any military need,” Milner said. “The common platform approach offered through the HX family provides crucial benefits to enable a more reliable, more efficient and ultimately a more capable logistics truck fleet that can support the nation in multi-domain operations.”

Navistar Defense’s offering is based on its ATLAS family of vehicles, a highly common, scalable and modular set of platforms “that can handle the full spectrum of mission roles, from long-range highway logistics to navigating severe off-road trails,” a company fact sheet stated.

Navistar Defense chief growth officer Michael Gray said in an email the company’s offering is built off a “long lineage of successful commercial vehicles that supports the government’s desire for affordability, commonality and commerciality. … All of [Navistar Defense’s] CTT variants are based on the same commercial platform, thus achieving a high degree of commonality.”

Navistar Defense’s prototype will be “integrated with various mission-purposed technologies required by the CTT program,” Gray said. The ATLAS family of vehicles features an armored protection kit, allowing the platform to “morph into an incredibly mobile, highly survivable, easily transportable, aggressive tactical vehicle that no doubt can handle the extremes of military missions, all while maintaining the commercial pedigree and all the sustainment benefits that come along with a mass-produced vehicle,” the fact sheet said.

In its Climate Strategy Implementation Plan, released in October 2022, the Army set out a goal to develop hybrid-drive components for tactical wheeled and combat vehicles, including the Common Tactical Truck, by fiscal year 2027. Gray said the commerciality of Navistar Defense’s offering means “future hybridization and electrification are certainly attainable for CTT. [Navistar Defense] has the ability to leverage Navistar Inc.’s electrified powertrains for future demand reduction initiatives — in line with the Army’s climate strategy.”

Oshkosh Defense’s offering is based on its “battle-tested” Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles, integrating the Army’s desired capabilities “while maintaining the many strengths of the FHTV, including force protection, survivability and the ability to operate in extreme environments,” the company’s chief programs officer Pat Williams said in an email.

Many of the CTT capability requirements are “backward compatible” with the existing Oshkosh Defense platforms, “providing the opportunity to expedite modernization, reduce lifecycle costs and benefit from economies of scale,” he said. The prototype features the company’s Bi-Wire Active Safety System that can be paired with an autonomy applique kit, warfighter machine interface and a radio network interface, as well as subsystems “optimized for fuel efficiency, application of electrification and integration of commercial technologies that minimize fuel demand while moving and at idle.”

Additionally, Oshkosh’s offering is “designed to incorporate proven FHTV components, major end items and common mission equipment that have already been provisioned by” the government, reducing logistics burden and cost, emphasizing technical maturity and increasing component availability, Williams said.

The Army anticipated receiving all prototypes for evaluation by mid-January, the service spokesperson said. As of press time, none of the four industry teams nor the Army indicated there had been a delay in delivery.

Following prototype evaluation, the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, in conjunction with the Army’s sustainment requirements community, will present the subsequent Capabilities Development Document to the Army Requirements Oversight Council, with a decision expected in fiscal year 2026, a service release stated.

Assuming requirements are approved, the Army will then conduct a full and open competition, requiring the competitors to deliver production-representative vehicles for run-off testing leading to a production contract.

Common Tactical Truck product lead Alvin Bing previously told National Defense in a November 2022 email that the vehicle was slated to enter low-rate initial production in fiscal year 2026, with fielding to commence in fiscal year 2028. When asked if this was still the case, the Army spokesperson said: “The Army is considering multiple options for the CTT production path forward.”

Hartzell said it will be difficult for the Army to move at the pace of industry but added that the service’s private sector partners are ready to help however they can.

“The Army made very clear that they don’t want a situation where they have a vehicle that’s 30 years old, and it’s so far apart from current vehicle technologies that are out there,” he said. “They want to be able to maintain these vehicles and upgrade the vehicles at the pace of commercial industry. I think that’s a challenge for the Army because of their sustainment methodologies that they utilize today — and quite honestly, there needs to be conversations with the Army in that regard.”

Commercial vehicles evolve rapidly mainly because of regulatory demands for things such as emission reduction and fuel economy or safety system improvements, he said. “So, the Army wants to be able to leverage some of those types of technology insertions and developments over time,” but to do so effectively, “we’re asking the Army, ‘Look, break away from some of your traditional methodologies … and leverage the industry — not just for our products, but for the sustainment piece of it as well.’”

Companies have trained technicians “strategically located all around the world that could service those products, or assist the soldiers in servicing … those products,” which would enhance the Army’s ability “to maintain those vehicles going forward,” he said. “I think that would be probably my key message.” ND

1/30/2024 – By Josh Luckenbaugh

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This effort was sponsored by the U.S. Government under Other Transaction Authority number W15QKN-17-9-1025 with the National Advanced Mobility Consortium. The U.S. Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation herein. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Government.