June 15, 2021:
German truck manufacturer Rheinmetall recently introduced a new line of HX3 heavy-duty trucks designed to meet military requirements, especially for export customers worldwide. That is a big business and for decades American manufacturers have had most of it.
The HX2 series incorporates many of the new features that military users have been asking for and makes it easier to adapt HX3 trucks to a wide range of military uses. This increasingly involves replacing tracked (as in bulldozers) vehicles to transport and operate artillery and missiles. More of these military trucks are being used for mobile SAM (Surface to Air Missile) systems and electronic warfare systems. Heavy truck technology has been improving faster than for tracked vehicles and users want new military trucks that are easier to adapt to weapons and other mobile battlefield systems that previously used tracked tech to operate off roads.
The HX3 trucks are easier to equip with new tech that makes them easier for the drivers to use, like ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), LDW (Lane Departure Warning) and future developments in this area. Modern military trucks use improved technology to make them a preferred alternative to tracked vehicles not just for off-road mobility but because wheeled vehicles are easier to maintain and cheaper to operate. The new driver-assist tech makes it easier to train new drivers as well as reducing driver fatigue when operating at night or off roads.
HX3 is a direct threat to the American Oshkosh Corporation, which pioneered the development of modern military trucks in the 1980s and has dominated the American and export markets ever since. The Oshkosh FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) trucks were developed at the request of the U.S. Army in the 1980s to replace older designs that did not take advantage of all the post-World War II improvements in heavy trucks. The 2.5-ton FMTV quickly replaced the Vietnam era M35 models in the 1990s, which in turn replaced World War II era vehicles. Most of the Vietnam era models could carry 2.5 tons, and tow six tons. The FMTV were basically the third generation of American trucks specifically designed for military use. FMTV was the most successful generation and kept improving to keep pace with new truck technology. The army acquired nearly 100,000 of FMTVs before the next generation MTVR (Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement) vehicles entered production in 2000. Oshkosh also produced heavier (10-20 ton) military vehicles, including those tractor-trailer systems that could transport tanks or any type of cargo. Oshkosh also produced MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) armored trucks that were widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new HX3 vehicles aim to introduce a lot of new truck tech for military vehicles before American manufacturers can.
Meanwhile Oshkosh had plenty of work because the army needed thousands of MRAP armored trucks and spare parts for FMTV vehicle refurbishment, and deal with FMTV trucks and trailers wearing out faster than expected because of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many vehicles have nearly 100,000 kilometers of use, often on bad roads or cross country. As a result, Oshkosh supplied the U.S. Army $4 billion worth of MRAPs and spare parts and refurbishment services for the heavily used FMTV vehicles.
The FMTV vehicles, consisting of several dozen different models, have about 80 percent common parts, which makes it easier to stock spare parts and keep vehicles running. The FMTV trucks are more reliable, and have higher availability rates, than the ones they replaced. The same was true with the larger (ten ton and up) trucks and tractor-trailer tank-transporters. The German HX3 line of vehicles now compete with all of these.
After the peak combat in Iraq and Afghanistan ended in 2010 the army was still buying more FMTV vehicles (about 3,000 a year). Production was over 7,000 a year in 2010 and peaked at about 8,000 a year before new models like MTVR began replacing FMTV. Before that several thousand heavily used FMTV trucks were, at a cost of about $100,000 each, refurbished to nearly new status. Most of the refurbished trucks were worn down by hard use, while others were damaged in combat or accidents. The need for more trucks is also driven by the need to equip a ten percent expansion in the size of the army. Reserve units also need FMTV vehicles to replace Vietnam era vehicles that are falling apart.
Many nations worldwide are seeking a new generation of military trucks and the HX3 is an example of the kind of competition pioneer Oshkosh has to face.