Growler gets their b*lls busted - watch out for turtles?

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Tanner

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From Raleigh News & Fishwrap - Thursday 01/24...

Osprey's assault vehicles can't haul ammo -
Aircraft go to Iraq without them

Joseph Neff, Staff Writer
When the Marines shipped their V-22 Osprey aircraft to Iraq last year, they had to leave behind the assault vehicles and mobile mortar system that fit inside the planes.
The Marines' new mortar system can't safely carry its ammunition.

That conclusion, from a government audit, is the most recent bad news for the Marines' attempt to ferry firepower inside the Osprey. The Defense Department inspector general is investigating the program, which is two years behind schedule and $15 million over budget.

The system consists of a jeeplike vehicle called the Growler that pulls trailers carrying mortars and ammunition.

The Growler, made in Robbins, N.C., costs $127,000 each and cannot safely pull its ammunition trailer, according to interviews and the report from the Government Accountability Office. The trailer has a tendency to bounce or tip over, which could crush a Marine riding in the back of the Growler. A Growler, not pulling a trailer, was reported to have tipped over last summer when it swerved to avoid a turtle in the road.

The Marines won't discuss the program, known as the Expeditionary Fire Support System, because of the Defense Department's investigation.

The problems were predictable, said Philip Coyle, who directed the Pentagon's weapons testing from 1994 to 2001. The Marines decided to start production before testing the vehicle and mortars, Coyle said.

"It is a sign of rushing to failure," he said.

The Osprey is a rotorcraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter and tilts its huge rotors forward to fly like an airplane. The aircraft, which costs $119 million each, has suffered cost overruns, a string of crashes that left 30 dead, and repeated watering down of specifications during its two decades of development. The Pentagon has declared that most of the Osprey's problems have been fixed, and the first squadron of 12 Ospreys went to Iraq in October.

In 1999, the Marines decided the Osprey program needed assault vehicles to carry men and mortars on the battlefield. Some Growlers will pull the mortar systems on trailers. Others will be outfitted with a machine gun. The Ospreys are designed to take off from ships and go inland faster than helicopters. Once they land, the Growlers would provide assault firepower or machine gun cover for Marines on foot.

In soliciting bids in 2004, the Marines announced they had "an aggressive schedule."

In November 2004, the Marines awarded the contract to General Dynamics, which produced the mortar system. The defense giant uses a company in Robbins, Carolina Growler, to build a modified dune buggy with a design that recalls Vietnam-era jeeps.

Gov. Mike Easley awarded Carolina Growler a $25,000 grant, and U.S. Rep. Howard Coble helped get a $300,000 grant and a $112,000 loan for the company from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Contract complaint

The contract award was controversial because the founder of Carolina Growler, Terry Crews, is a retired Marine colonel with strong connections. The Defense Department received an anonymous complaint claiming that Crews was a close friend of Brig. Gen. William Catto, who headed the agency that awarded the contract, Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

The complainant, who identified himself as a career procurement professional, said Catto steered the contract to Carolina Growler and General Dynamics.

After demonstrations from three companies, the selection committee recommended the contract go to a team of United Defense, which supplied the mortar, and Rae-Beck Automotive of Michigan, which built a new vehicle from scratch. According to the complaint, the United Defense bid was technically superior and cost less, while the Growler flunked crucial tests and was coupled to a much more expensive mortar system.

The Marine Corps inspector general corroborated much of the complaint but concluded that Catto did not influence the contract award or create a sense of impropriety. Its investigation was separate from the Defense Department's investigation, which is continuing.
Catto, who has been promoted to the U.S. European Command, could not be reached. Crews declined to be interviewed.

Jerry Bazinski, who owns Rae-Beck, said he designed his vehicle to meet all the original specifications. Most important, Bazinski said, his vehicle carried the mortar and ammunition. He said his system was faster, safer and more stable because it avoided using a trailer.

"Anybody worth their salt will tell you when you introduce a trailer, you have greatly diminished mobility and stability," Bazinski said. "You've increased the probability of rollover by multiple times, especially behind an extremely narrow 60-inch vehicle."

Specs diluted

Before the contract was awarded, the Marines eased critical requirements. The vehicle had to reach only 5 mph off the road, the equivalent of a brisk walk. The requirement to climb a 12-inch obstacle, such as a downed telephone pole, was dropped. A Growler pulling a trailer could never have met the original requirements, Bazinski said; the changes allowed the Growler to stay in the running.

A change that has Bazinski fuming concerned the Marines' requirement that the vehicle be capable of "driving onto/off the aircraft in both forward and reverse directions."

At the demonstration in the summer of 2004, Bazinski's vehicle had trouble backing up the ramp into the Osprey with a full load of ammunition. The Marines told him he had 48 hours to fix it or fail the test.

A colleague flew in from Michigan with a larger gear for reverse, and Bazinski and his crew installed it. The vehicle passed the test within the 48-hour frame, he said.

The Growler, however, could not drive in and out of the Osprey with its trailer attached. In August 2004, the selection committee recommended Bazinski's vehicle and the United Defense mortar.

Two months later, the Marines gave the Growler a second chance by reinterpreting the requirements: Trailers should be loaded separately instead of being driven on or off the aircraft by the vehicle. The trailer could be pushed or winched onto the plane.

Within a week, the Growler passed after being allowed to take the test again.

"From what I've seen," Bazinski said, "the performance specs were chasing the vehicle, rather than the vehicle being built to fit the specs."

Bill Crisp, the president of American Growler, disagreed.

"There has been no watering down of functional specs as far as I know," Crisp said.

Crisp, however, would not answer specific questions, referring questions to General Dynamics or the Marine Corps.

Tends to tip over

David Best, an investigator with the Government Accountability Office, said that three times during testing the trailer tipped over or ran up on the vehicle. There could have been serious injuries had someone been in the back of the vehicle, where a third Marine sits.

In September, as the Marines were poised to give final approval to the full order of 66 mortar systems and 600 Growler assault vehicles, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Marines to postpone the decision so the Government Accountability Office could investigate.

Levin wrote the letter after complaints from Bazinski and after a Detroit television station reported that a Growler traveling at 22 mph, without a trailer, had rolled over at Camp Lejeune when it swerved to avoid a turtle.

Crisp, the Growler executive, wouldn't discuss the turtle report, saying the accident report was classified: "That may or may not have been true."
 

Tanner

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Kinda reminds me of the stories of the Abrams M1... something about having to change the prototypes' air filter every few miles due to silt? Or the turrets that could be blown off with an RPG due to 'design issues'. Did have a tank driver tell me that 47 rotations CCW would unscrew the turret -

Tanner
 

Tanner

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Growler isn't using any Mutt suspension parts - the Growler uses custom tubular A-arms with coilover shocks, some with adjustable air bag / air shock suspension. Different body tub than Mutt, turbo diesel engine, etc. Not a Mutt.

Growler is, however, offering new Mutt tubs with the rest of the Mutt bits on it - basically, a new Mutt once it's finished.

I know this because I've been on a tour throught the entire facility - No inside pictures available -

'Tanner'
 

glengar

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I'm looking at buying a GROWLER for my farm in MD...maybe replace my M-274 MULE
Does anyone out there have one?
I see a lot have already been sold by GOVPLANET... wonder who bought them?
TIM in MD
 

cucvmule

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After reading the thread I did not know that the Marines were making the Growler fit the Osprey. With the problems, why was add on duals after drop or landing not considered as a solution, or maybe so?

Was the Growler a secret or embarrassment? I think by the little exposure that I have, it had to be a necessary piece of gear towards the mission.
 

NDT

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There are some exceptionally boring YouTube videos about them. Goofy Brazilian engine, too narrow, and fugly. I don't want one either.
 

coachgeo

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Saw some place else state Italian engine... now it well could be Italian but manufactured in Brazil. BTW.... the Italian Lombardini (now owned by Kohler) is one **** of a fine diesel. In the past Lombardini was one of the best small diesel manufactures out there. Not sure what will change with Kohler as owner... only been a few years since they bought the company (or part of it... not sure the whole details)

there is some other high quality diesel manufactures out of Italy that others put their names on and sale with good reputations.

so now curious whom this engine manufacturer is
 
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TehTDK

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Kinda reminds me of the stories of the Abrams M1... something about having to change the prototypes' air filter every few miles due to silt? Or the turrets that could be blown off with an RPG due to 'design issues'. Did have a tank driver tell me that 47 rotations CCW would unscrew the turret - Tanner
47 rotations clockwise would make it stick solid?. :-D
 
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