GM to get Army’s Jeep replacement?
The latest replacement for the original Jeep (Willys MA and MB) might be made by GM Defense.
Field tests in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, led the Army to select three prototype Infantry Squad Vehicles for further development. One, made by GM Defense, was based on the Chevrolet Colorado; it uses both custom and desert-racing parts. The GM ISV uses a 186 horsepower diesel engine with a six-speed automatic transmission; 70% of the parts were not custom designed, including the racing components.
The other prototypes were made by Oshkosh Defense and Flyer defense, and by SAIC and Polaris. GM is the only company bidding on its own for the vehicle, which is to go into production next year. Each group was awarded $1 million to build new prototypes, to be field-tested this November in Maryland and then assessed by soldiers in Fort Bragg. Only one vehicle will actually be purchased; it will be added to vehicles already in use, and won’t necessarily replace any.
In spirit, the ISVs are replacements for the original, lightweight Army jeeps. They have to be light enough to be slung from a Blackhawk helicopter, small enough to fit into a Chinook helicopter, yet large enough to carry nine soldiers with their gear; it has to run at high speed under extreme conditions, or on pavement. GM’s participation in offroad racing helped them to develop parts.
The other teams, Oshkosh/Flyer and SAIC/Polaris, already produce similar vehicles, and the Army might lean that way for parts-sharing reasons. The Army is seeking a vehicle that uses more off-the-shelf parts to reduce costs—both up-front and in maintenance and repair.
While many may know of Oshkosh Defense, Flyer, and Polaris, SAIC may be less familiar, and some may mistake it for the Chinese automaker with the same acronym. However, the Chinese company was created as Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (it later used its acronym as its only name), while the full name of the Virginia-based company is Science Applications International corporation, and it was founded in 1969. The current American SAIC was spun off from the larger company (which renamed itself to Leidos) in 2013, to avoid conflicts of interest in some government contracts; the Chinese SAIC was created in the 1940s under Chairman Mao, owns MG, and has joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.