By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
WEST POINT – The 85 workers at Navistar Defense plant here have helped the company deliver retrofitted armored vehicles ahead of schedule – a testament to the quality of their work, officials said.
In February, Navistar Defense received a $23 million contract to put armored cabs on the Navistar medium tactical vehicle, or MTV.
Six weeks later, the first two vehicles were tested, and now 48 of them have been delivered to Afghanistan. The work should be done by July – two months ahead of schedule.
“That’s the best business card we can have,” said Jim Mitroka, senior program manager.
The MTV is used for a variety of purposes – general troop transport, water tankers, fuel trucks, recovery vehicles and cargo trucks. Thousands of them have been delivered to Afghanistan.
But the cabs are vulnerable to mines and improvised explosive devices, so armored cabs were ordered for 205 vehicles.
“On average, eight Afghan soldiers die daily,” said Lt. Col. Graham Compton, U.S. Army product manager for allied tactical vehicles. “But now we have the capability to deliver a more protected vehicle by modifying the cab.”
Compton said during tests, when explosives went off under the vehicle, tires flew, the hood was tossed and several pieces of the MTV were heavily damaged. But the armored cab remained intact, proving the effectiveness of the design.
Mitroka said the retrofitted vehicles – which will be be used by the Afghan National Security Forces – will cut their casualty numbers dramatically.
That, in turn, will help ease the transition as U.S. and NATO forces withdraw as planned by the end of 2014 and hand over security functions to the ANSF.
Of the 205 vehicles to be delivered, 185 will go to the Afghan National Army, with the rest going to the Afghan National Police.
The current order of 205 vehicles is the first of additional contracts, officials hope, but they acknowledged budgetary concerns in Washington could have an impact.
But the plant has work beyond the current project. A spokeswoman for Navistar said the West Point plant is working on four vehicles for a confidential customer, and also is turning out 95 orders a month as part of an $880 million upgrade package for its mine–resistant, ambush–protected, or MRAP, vehicles.
That January contract will upgrade 2,717 of the company’s International MaxxPro MRAPs with a rolling chassis to improve its off–road capability. That work should be finished by October.
Navistar has delivered thousands of MRAPS, many of them assembled in West Point.
Mitroka said the success of that program in West Point helped it land the contract for the armored cab retrofit.
“It’s proof–positive we can help them,” he said.