Armor: Grandson Of Jeep Makes An Impression

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January 28, 2017: The U.S. Army believes it has the first export customer of is new JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle). Britain wants to talk terms, including local production and technology transfer. The American designer and manufacturer, Oshkosh, has been promoting the JLTV to military and police organizations worldwide.

Low-rate production of the JLTV began in 2015 with orders for 657 vehicles. This came months after the army chose the Oshkosh L-ATV as the winner of the design competition to be the JLTV, which will replace armored HMMWV (hummer) vehicles. At the end of 2016 the army ordered another 409 for $438,000 each. Mass production is to begin in 2018 but until then the army needs several thousand of them for troops, including export customers, to train with and get used to. The design of the JLTV was based on a lot of troop feedback and online discussions (especially on message boards only accessible to the troops. The military wants to avoid relearning lessons about vehicle protection learned and forgotten after World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The Oshkosh JLTV is a light armored vehicle that provides a high (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 (remote weapons station). 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.

The U.S. Army received the first 66 prototypes of the JLTV, 22 each from three manufacturers (Lockheed, Oshkosh, and AM General) in 2013. 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 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. 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.

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, the U.S. casualty 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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