Armor: JLTV Gets Apache Cannon

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September 8, 2016: The U.S. Army is equipping some of its new JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) to perform reconnaissance missions. That means going into unknown territory, coping with some opposition and reporting back. In addition to some more communications gear the recon JLTV will be armed with a 30mm autocannon that is basically the same 58 kg (127 pound) M230 30mm weapon used on the AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship. The AH-64 uses the M230 like a RWS (Remote Weapons Station) autocannon found on some army vehicles. The AH-64 M230 normally carried 1,200 1,200 30mm rounds. Since these would weigh 407 kg (895 pounds) the JLTV may carry fewer.

The most common round used by the AH-64 M230 is HEDP (high explosive dual purpose), meaning that the round not only penetrates up to 50mm of armor, but generates fragments that kill or wound personnel within four meters (12 feet) of detonation. Each round costs about $100 carries and weighs 339 grams (11.8 ounces) with the projectile accounting about two-thirds of that. Effective range of this round is about 4,000 meters. Time in flight to 3,000 meters is 12 seconds. The fire control system takes care of all the necessary aiming adjustments for long range shots. The AH-64 also uses a red-dot laser indicator for the 30mm cannon. This reduces friendly fire incidents. When in doubt, the AH-64 gunner can flip on the red-dot and asks the guys down below if the right target is about to be hit. The red-dot also has an intimidating effect on the enemy, if you are trying to induce them to surrender. It is not known of the JLTV version will have the red dot laser.

In mid-2015 the army chose the Oshkosh L-ATV as the winner of the design competition to be the JLTV. This vehicle will replace armored HMMWV (hummer) vehicles. Oshkosh is also flogging its JLTV candidate to military and police organizations worldwide. The L-ATV is a 6.4 ton light armored vehicle that provides MRAP level protection against roadside bombs and mines while also carrying a crew of two and up to 2.3 tons of passengers or cargo. Top road speed is 112 kilometers an hour and it has a hatch in the top that allows for installation of a manned machine-gun or a RWS. Range on internal fuel is 480 kilometers and it has an improved suspension for a smoother ride off-road. The diesel engine can also generate 70 kw of electrical power.

In 2013 the U.S. Army received the first 66 prototypes of the JLTV, 22 each from three manufacturers (Lockheed, Oshkosh, and AM General). Each design was different but adhered to the basic design specification. The three JTLV designs all were improvements on the HMMWV. After two years of testing the army selected Oshkosh prototype to be the JLTV. The initial order is for 16,901 vehicles. These will cost about $400,000 each and there will be eight models. About a quarter of the first JLTVs are for the U.S. Marine Corps.

When the JLTV enters service in 2019 it will signal the end of an era. The HMMWV (“hum-V” or “hummer”) was an iconic and revolutionary vehicle and the most innovative military transport to show up since World War II. About half the annual sales of HMMWV vehicles went to the U.S. Army, with the rest going to other branches of the American military and foreign customers. Over 200,000 hummers have been produced so far, in dozens of variants and versions. The army will continue to use the hummer for a decade or more after the JLTV enters service, but the unique vehicle design is now beginning to fade away.

The 6.4 ton JLTV that replaces the 4 ton armored HMMWV (2.4 tons unarmored) is heavier because of the JLTV being more robust and better protected. The hummer itself replaced the 1.1 ton jeep and the 3 ton M37 "3/4 ton" truck in the 1980s. The JLTV marks a notable design direction for tactical vehicles. The JLTV is designed to absorb combat damage and be quickly equipped with two different armor kits. In effect, the World War II concept of the unarmored light vehicle for moving men and material around the battlefield has been radically changed.

This began in Iraq, where it was demonstrated that you can fight your way through a hostile population on a regular basis and defeat a guerilla force constantly attacking your tactical and logistical vehicles. This has never worked before but it worked this time, in part because U.S. troops promptly armored their hummers and trucks and quickly developed "road warrior" tactics that defeated roadside and suicide bombs. Even though these bombs created a lot of American casualties, that casualty rate was a third of what it was in Vietnam and World War II. This was in large part because of the armored hummers and trucks. Few people outside the military noted this event, a watershed moment in military history. But it was recognized within the military and produced this sharp shift in design philosophy for tactical trucks, and the result is the JLTV.

The U.S. Army began replacing the World War II era vehicles with the HMMWV in 1985. This was the first new unarmored combat vehicle design since World War II when the jeep and ¾ ton truck was introduced. The HMMWV was expected to last for three decades or more. But that plan changed once Iraq was invaded. As expected, hummers wore out a lot more quickly (in five years) in combat than during peacetime use (14 years). So the army and marines began developing, ahead of schedule, a new vehicle to supplement the hummer in combat zones.

In addition to being built to better survive mines and roadside bombs, the JLTV will be able to generate 30 kw of electricity (for operating all the new electronic gear and recharging batteries), have an automatic fire extinguishing system, and jam-resistant doors. Like the hummer, JLTV will be easy to reconfigure, for everything from a four seat, armed scout vehicle to an ambulance, command vehicle, or cargo or troop transport.

The hummer will continue to be used outside of the combat zone, where most troops spend most of their time. But the JLTV will be built to better handle the beating vehicles take in the combat zone, including a design that enables troops to quickly slide in armor and Kevlar panels to make the vehicles bullet and blast proof.

 


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