Armor: JLTV For The World

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May 12, 2014: One of the three firms competing to replace the American armored HMMWV (hummer) with the new JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) is not waiting for a Department of Defense contract. Oshkosh is also flogging its JLTV candidate (the L-ATV) 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 remotely controlled weapon. 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, which will eventually replace the current HMMWV vehicles. Three manufacturers (Lockheed, Oshkosh, and AM General) each provided 22 versions of their interpretation of the design specification. The three JTLV designs all look like improvements on the HMMWV, which is basically what they are. AM General was behind the original HMMWV and is the “incumbent”. The winner of the JLTV contract will be decided after two years of testing the 66 prototypes. These cost $2.73 million each but the production models will cost about a tenth of that, depending on options added. One of these designs will be the JLTV that will enter mass production with the army planning to obtain 20,000 vehicles initially and the marines 5,000. The army originally planned to buy at least 38,000 of the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle), while the marines were going to buy about 14,000. That has been scaled back by budget cuts and changes in thinking about how common the “Iraq model” would be for future wars.

If and when the JLTV enters production it will be 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 seven ton JLTV, which replaces the 4 ton armored HMMWV (2.4 tons unarmored) is heavier because of the JLTV being more robust and better protected. The hummer had 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 (humvee or "hummer") in 1985. This was the first new unarmored combat vehicle design since World War II (when the jeep and ¾ ton truck was introduced) and 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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