Armor: Chinese Jeeps, Hummers and JTLVs

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February 17, 2019: China openly copies a lot of foreign military equipment designs, often in many variations because multiple manufacturers get involved. While the Chinese military thought the American hummer (HMMWV) was a useful design it was not adopted widely. The basic tactical vehicle in the Chinese military is the BJ2022 (Brave Warrior or “Yongshi”). The BJ2022 entered service in 2007 after being developed as a joint venture between a Chinese firm and Chrysler. Because of that American connection, the BJ2022 was legally based on the Jeep Cherokee (but a bit larger). BJ2022 comes in two versions, with one being a bit longer and serving as something similar to the old American ¾ ton truck. Most of the BJ2022 are basically much updated World War II American jeep designs that borrow much from SUV and four-wheel drive innovations. The basic version can carry a payload of 500 kg (half ton) and seats four. The longer version carries 750 kg and seats up to eight. These are four-wheel drive vehicles have manual transmissions and are mainly used on roads or flat terrain.

Chinese hummer-like vehicles are popular with Chinese and foreign special operations troops. The Chinese armed forces are not buying a lot of these vehicles (a few thousand or so a year at most) although civilian versions became popular with Chinese and export customers. The most popular of these hummer clones comes from Dongfeng, which initially produced some hummers under license. Dongfeng has since produced a number of hummer variants, including armored models equipped to handle RWS (remote weapons systems). These were nicknamed Mengshi (“east wind warrior). The latest of these, the CSK-181 is an eight ton armored hummer design similar to the new American JLTV. One characteristic of the Chinese hummers is the built-in night vision cameras (one in front and one in the back with a flat-screen display for the driver to use) and satellite navigation system.

Although China tried Russian and European designs in their search for a new tactical truck (similar to the American hummer), they finally settled on a hummer clone of their own. China still uses the Russian and German designs for most of its tactical vehicles but it is also buying a growing number of locally made hummer clones.

China got their hands on an American hummer (M998 HMMWV) in 1988. Initially, Chinese military officials felt the hummer was too expensive. But the performance of the hummer in the 1991 Gulf War, plus the growing presence of the American civilian version of the hummer (especially those brought in by oil companies for use in remote areas), changed minds. By 2003, two Chinese companies were producing hummer clones and the Chinese Army adopted one of them as the EQ2050. Within a decade there was armored version was developed as the EQ2058 followed by several other variants, including a longer 6x6 vehicle.

Meanwhile, the United States developed a new hummer like vehicle, the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) hummer/MRAP replacement. The first export customer, Slovenia, ordered 38 in late 2018 with the first one arriving in 2021. Several other nations are considering JLTV, including Britain (seeking to buy 2,500 vehicles). Export versions sell for up to $400,000 each depending on accessories. Buyers like Britain order vehicles that allow for a lot of substitution of some American components with British equivalents and the use of British accessories. The American designer and manufacturer, Oshkosh, has been promoting the JLTV to military and police organizations worldwide and already has several other NATO allies discussing JLTV acquisition.

Mass production for JLTV begins in late 2019 with most of those vehicles going to the U.S. Army, which currently plans to buy 49,000 vehicles to replace armored HMMWV (hummer) vehicles as well as many armored trucks (MRAPs). As of early 2019, about 12,000 JLTVs had been produced. Thousands of American soldiers and marines already have experience with JLTV because low-rate production began in 2015 with orders for 657 vehicles and that has since been increased so that the American military (mainly the army) can get their personnel used to the new vehicle. These users also provided a lot of feedback, which is understandable as the initial JLTV design was based on a lot of troop feedback and online discussions (especially on message boards only accessible to the troops) about what worked and what didn’t in combat, especially with regard to armored hummers and MRAPS. The military wanted to avoid relearning lessons about vehicle protection learned and forgotten after World War II, Korea and Vietnam. That means constant feedback from users and that is most important before mass production begins.

The first low-rate production orders came months after the Oshkosh L-ATV was selected as the winner of the design competition. The Oshkosh JLTV is a light armored vehicle that provides a high (MRAP) level of 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 were all improvements on the HMMWV. After two years of testing, the army selected Oshkosh. The initial order was for 16,901 vehicles costing about $400,000 each. There are eight models, which is normal for vehicles like this and reflects different needed (basic personnel carrier, scout, ambulance, cargo and so on). About a quarter of the first JLTVs are for the U.S. Marine Corps. Additional vehicles will be built for foreign and non-military customers. Because the U.S. is producing this new vehicle design (which contains a lot of expensive new tech) the per-unit cost is lower than most nations can match by developing their own comparable vehicle. That was a major attraction for the British.

As JLTV enters service this year it signals 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. Nearly 300,000 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, the overall U.S. death rate in Iraq and Afghanistan 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 up to 70 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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