Search continues for elusive vehicle to fit aboard Osprey
For 14 years, the military has struggled for an answer to a seemingly simple proposition: Develop a jeep-like vehicle that will fit onboard the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey and then drive off the plane and into battle.
The Marines finally deployed their version of the vehicle in combat two years ago. Special Operations Command, which has a long wish list of capabilities it wants the vehicle to have, is still waiting.
But it's getting closer. Last week SOCOM extended part of General Dynamics Ordnance and Technical Services' contractor support deal for another year because the command ordered a third vehicle as part of $5.8 million deal to provide 10 of the SOCOM variants of the vehicle.
That's because, the SOCOM document says, General Dynamics "is the only company with the expertise and knowledge to fully support the requirement in order to successfully execute the V-22 ITV contract."
Just like the Osprey itself, which was grounded early in the last decade for a series of fatal crashes, the quest for what the Pentagon calls the Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) is a long one filled with reports of management failures in the Marine Corps, major cost overruns and allegations of favoritism and corruption.
A 2009 Pentagon inspector general report said the Marine Corps System Command mishandled key elements of the contract and allowed development to continue without performing adequate testing.
The Marines have two different versions of the ITV, the M1161 light strike vehicle and the M1163 prime mover, which is built to tow artillery carried on the Osprey. They are the result of a General Dynamics partnership with American Growler, which adapted a 1950s-era M151 jeep to fit on the Osprey.
The U.S. government sold versions of that jeep to the Dominican Republic for $30,000, while the Pentagon was paying $100,000 for the Growler vehicle in 2005.
Since then, the price has jumped to more than $200,000 a vehicle.
One part of the delay is SOCOM's extensive wish list. It must, among other things, do the following:
■ A 350-mile range while loaded with a 2,000-pound payload and driving an average of 45 mph. It should travel 450 miles unloaded.
■ Carry three wounded troops with room inside for medical personnel to work without sticking out from the inside of the vehicle.
■ Operate in temperatures ranging from -25 degrees to 125 degrees.
■ Drive off the Special Operations version of the Osprey, the CV-22, in 60 seconds after landing.
■ Drive up a "60 percent slope both in the forward and reverse direction at a constant speed, stop, shut off engine, restart engine, and continue on grade with no loss of stability."
Whether the vehicle ultimately works for special operations missions remains to be seen, but the demand for their version of Osprey is growing. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the CV-22 may be going to bases in Central Africa to help in the fight against messianic warlord Joseph Kony. That mission, USA TODAY reported in September, could last deep into 2015.