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Mr. Linsky
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Joined: 16 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:12 am    Post subject: 'BY GOSH - IT'S AN OSHKOSH!' Reply with quote

'A Pentagon Contract Revives Jobs at Oshkosh'

Published: November 3, 2009 The New York Times

OSHKOSH, Wis. — United States Patent No. 5,820,150, for a particular design of independent truck suspension, is just one of the dozens of patents the Oshkosh Corporation has filed in recent years. But as the military shifts its focus to Afghanistan from Iraq, that single invention is proving to be worth billions of dollars to the company and a potential lifesaver for American troops in Afghanistan.

The special suspension is being used in new armored trucks, now being rushed to the front, that are nimble enough to veer off road and avoid the homemade mines that have killed or injured hundreds of soldiers.

Oshkosh, which has been pummeled by the recession, recently beat out several of the biggest military contractors for $2.8 billion in orders to build 5,200 trucks, and it expects another $600 million contract soon. The first trucks reached Afghanistan last month, and the company has hired or called back nearly 1,200 workers to deliver the rest by next spring.

The win by Oshkosh is the latest example of how the Pentagon is shifting its focus to more practical equipment and weapons to help troops in the field immediately, rather than investing in high-tech programs with long lead times.

As a result, companies like Oshkosh are better positioned to beat the biggest contractors for new business.

The Pentagon is buying the new off-road vehicles because it is scrambling to adjust from urban fighting in Iraq to the dirt roads and mountains in Afghanistan.

It spent $26 billion to buy 16,000 larger trucks — called mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs — for Iraq. But most of them are too bulky to climb mountain passes, and are prone to toppling over on Afghanistan’s steep and rutty roads.

As the threat increases from so-called improvised explosive devices, Oshkosh’s lighter and more agile truck, called an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV, will be able to go off road to avoid the bombs and chase insurgents.

The trucks, which can carry five soldiers, are capable of driving up 60-percent inclines, in either forward gear or reverse, and can lean as much as 30 percent to the side. The suspension system keeps the axles from breaking by allowing each wheel to slide up or down as much as 16 inches as the truck drives over rocks or through ruts.

The suspension is a lighter-weight version of one that Oshkosh began using in 1998 for larger military cargo carriers and later for fire trucks. Military analysts said it outperformed rival systems in the Army’s M-ATV tests, and Pentagon officials liked the suspension’s durability in the other uses.

In fact, the Pentagon is also paying the company an additional $146 million to install the suspension on 2,400 of the older MRAPs, which are being shifted to Afghanistan from Iraq.

“Everybody wants the all-terrain version,” said Rickey E. Smith, an Army official who recently ran a task force examining how the Army should update and deploy its equipment.

The Pentagon contracts help give new life to Oshkosh, which appeared headed for bankruptcy a year ago. Sales of its commercial construction equipment had plunged 70 to 80 percent last year, and the company had laid off 2,500 people, or 12 percent of its work force, as it cut $200 million in costs.

Its stock, which hit a high of $65.76 a share in 2007, plummeted to $3.92 last November. The shares rebounded when Oshkosh renegotiated $3.1 billion of debt in March and then surged again after it won the M-ATV competition on June 30.

And largely because of the new military contracts, the company on Tuesday reported its first profit from continuing operations after three quarterly losses and predicted that it would be “solidly profitable” next year, prompting investors to bid up the shares by 10.9 percent, to $35.29.

“The M-ATV has been a game-changer for our company,” Oshkosh’s chief executive, Robert G. Bohn, said.

Oshkosh’s interest in the M-ATV started on one of its grimmest days just over a year ago, when it lost a bid to build a different military vehicle.

Kenneth Juergens, a retired Army colonel who heads the program for Oshkosh, said he quickly sketched out how to combine its suspension with advanced bolt-on armor from an Israeli company to meet the Army’s new demands.

And even though the company’s finances were stretched thin, Mr. Bohn agreed to invest several million dollars to quickly prepare the bid and build five vehicles for the Army to test.
Oshkosh was competing against the contractors that built most of the larger MRAPs — BAE Systems, Navistar, Force Protection and General Dynamics — and military analysts viewed its bid as a long shot.

POSTER'S COMMENT; Too bad these Oshkosh's didn't come along eight years ago instead of those idiotic Hummmer's that killed so many of our troops with their 'cardboard' hulls!

Photos by Darren Hauck for The New York Times.

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY

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