Navistar Defense in West Point saves lives by making safer military vehicles

by Becky Gillette

Published: March 1,2013

Tags: Afghanistan, defense, Iraq, Navistar Defense, Pentagon, West Point

In mid-February Navistar Defense, LLC received a $23-million contract for an urgent delivery order from the U.S. Army to retrofit armored cabs onto Navistar medium tactical vehicles (MTVs) currently in use by the Afghan National Security Forces.

“Delivery of these orders are scheduled for completion this summer,” said Lauren McFarland, spokesperson for Navistar Defense.

Navistar Defense employees will replace the current commercial cab with a specially designed armored cab — providing savings by re-using the original components of the MTV to protect the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) from ballistic and blast threats in the theater of operations. The order also includes enhancing additional vehicle elements for improved survivability to provide Afghan National Security Forces with the capability to conduct route clearance missions with mine roller applications.

“This order reflects Navistar’s strong partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense in providing high-quality vehicles on very aggressive schedules in support of protecting the soldier on the ground,” said Archie Massicotte, president, Navistar Defense. “We are proud to continue to support the vehicle fleet that we have provided to the Afghan National Security Forces and deliver on our commitments to the U.S. military and allies on this very important project and program. Threats continue to change and it is our responsibility to stay out ahead of those threats with the best technology available.”

Additional hiring will depend on additional contracts received, as the contracted workforce fluctuates based on current contracts, McFarlane said. “Currently there are about 100 employees working at Navistar’s West Point facility,” McFarlane said. “Thirty of these employees were brought back this month to support the build of HTTs (Heavy Transportation Trucks) for the U.S. Navy. Employees are also working to complete units for the long wheel base chassis program for the MaxxPro upgrade.”

McFarlane said the Navistar MTV is an extremely flexible platform that is already in service in Afghanistan in a variety of key missions including general troop transport, water tankers, fuel trucks, recovery vehicles and cargo trucks. Since 2004, Navistar has provided nearly 9,000 MTVs to the ANA and ANP. There are another 14,000 Navistar MTVs in service with military units around the world.

Employees, as well as other local residents of West Point, have a strong sense of pride being able to contribute to the military by giving soldiers a means to be protected from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), said Cynthia S. Wilson, director of community development and West Point Main Street for the West Point/Clay County Community Growth Alliance.

“Navistar is an important part of our industrial community here in West Point. They have some high-quality, good-paying jobs,” she said. “Those became particularly important after West Point lost so many jobs with the closure of Bryan Foods\Sara Lee and Flexible Flyer. We lost a lot of jobs during that period of time between 2006 and 2007. Navistar has been a stable part of our industrial community since then.”

Ron Maloney, vice president of economic development for West Point and Clay County, which is part of Golden Triangle Development LINK, has found it inspiring to watch how quickly and efficiently workers at Navistar Defense rebuild vehicles to make them safer from attacks.

“They’ve got a state-of-the-art facility with a highly-trained workforce,” Maloney said. “I’ve literally watched them bring a vehicle that was in service abroad, strip it down to the chassis, and rebuild it right back up. It is amazing to watch them do it.”

Maloney said that roadside bombs are designed to come up through the chassis into the cab to kill occupants. The armoring deflects the blast out the sides of the vehicles instead of the floorboards.

“Since these vehicles have gone into service, the number of deaths of soldiers has dramatically decreased,” Maloney said. “The technology and the vehicles they provide are essential to the military, especially safeguarding the soldiers being transported in them.”

The company’s mission statement states that “the people of Navistar Defense share a common purpose to build and support the best military vehicles in the world for one reason: We know that our vehicles can make a difference for the troops who risk their lives for all of us.”

Navistar Defense is a subsidiary of Navistar International Corp. The company has it roots in one of the country’s oldest farm equipment companies, International Harvester. The International MaxxPro MRAP was introduced in 2007.

In September 2012, Navistar Defense received a delivery order for up to $282 million to provide more than 2,300 survivability upgrade retrofit kits for International® MaxxPro Dasg MRAP vehicles. The order from the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command will upgrade MaxxPro Dash vehicles in theater with additional protection in response to evolving threats in Afghanistan. The order also includes parts and service.

“We also understand the balance of keeping our service men and women well equipped at a reasonable cost to taxpayers,” said Massicotte. “We will keep offering integrated solutions as well as alternatives to buying new vehicles so that we can keep our Armed Forces modern and ready for future operations.”

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