Logistics: Finding a More Suitable Ride


November 19, 2023: The U.S. military thought that with the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) they had come up with a solution to their need for a new multi-function tactical wheeled vehicle. JLTV turned out to be not that solution. The manufacturer, Oshkosh, has only received 0rders for about 24,000 JLTVs since the vehicle first became available in 2015, which is less than half the demand Oshkosh expected. JLTV has its fans, but not enough of them to generate the sales levels Oshkosh expected. JLTV was more than most potential users needed and was more expensive to purchase and operate than its predecessors. JLTV used more fuel, because it was heavier than the military vehicles it replaced.

When the JLTV was introduced in 2015 it was supposed to be the solution to numerous problems with military transportation needed. The U.S. military, particularly the army and marines, have a problem with their current supply of combat zone trucks. The new JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) is more combat vehicle than combat zone transport. While many of the current, since the early 1980s, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or HMMWV/Humvee/hummers had armor added, or were produced with armor after 2003, most did not. That was because armor protection was only needed in the combat zone. Even then only vehicles that spent a lot of time outside base areas in the combat zones needed armor.

The JLTV costs more than twice as much as a hummer and is more expensive to operate, mainly because of fuel costs. There are also higher costs for maintenance and replacement parts because JLTV is a heavier vehicle that wears out many components faster. What this meant was that JLTV was a specialized vehicle that was too expensive to replace hummers on a large scale. In some cases, pickup trucks were used for tasks where the hummer was overkill. This was particularly the case with American allies who purchased hummers.

The hummer was an adequate replacement for the World War 2 jeep and three-quarter ton truck, and those two vehicles were phased out and replaced by the hummer in the 1980s. When the army prepared to pull its forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan two decades later, China was seen as the primary military threat. North Korea was also a threat and a unique one. For decades North Korea threatened to attack South Korea again as it did in its failed 1950 invasion.

A war with China and North Korea would be more conventional. That meant roadside bombs and landmines would not be as much of a problem as in Iraq and Afghanistan. But plans were already underway, since 2005, to replace the hummer with a heavier, better protected and more expensive vehicle. By 2015 it became clear that the original JLTV purchasing plans were off target. A hummer-like vehicle would be needed in the future and in larger numbers than the JLTV. This was realized in 2010 when the army tried to get over $10 billion to rebuild over 50,000 older hummers to like-new condition. That was turned down although five years later a smaller program was permitted that cost about two billion dollars. But this only produced 11,000 rebuilt hummers, which was not enough to replace the many that were going to be retired because of wear and tear. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had accelerated wear and tear on hummers and shortened their useful lifespans by a decade or more. Some refurbishment money was provided but not enough to replace eventual losses. Meanwhile, the military realized it had overestimated the need for JLTVs and underestimated the need to replace many hummers with hummer-like vehicles.

Current plans are to buy militarized pickups and other light trucks. These would be of more rugged construction than most commercial models and have combat protection in the driver cabin. This would include bulletproof glass and blast-resistant seats and cabin floors. These could cost about as much to maintain as regular pickups and be cheaper to buy than hummers while able to function like a hummer with a deployed army unit. In home bases, mainly in the U.S., civilian trucks are often used around the base and get the job done at much less cost than combat zone hummers and larger trucks. Initially the army planned to buy as many as 50,000 JLTV vehicles but ended up procuring less than half that number for itself and allied nations.

The U.S. originally sought to develop a new hummer-like vehicle with better and built-in bomb/landmine protection. The JLTV came out of that, and it was to replace armored hummers and MRAP (Mine Resistant Armored Protected) vehicles. MRAPs are basically heavy (8-20 ton) trucks equipped with armor and V-shaped bottoms (to deflect explosions). Work on armoring hummers and building smaller MRAPs revealed that you could get MRAP level protection on smaller vehicles if you used the right design features. Trial and error during the most intense period of the Iraq war (2003-8) made it clear what worked. At the same time, JLTV was still in development and eventually incorporated that combat experience. That produced a vehicle not much heavier than an armored hummer but with protection similar to a larger and heavier MRAP.

Mass production for JLTV began in late 2019 with most of those vehicles going to the U.S. Army, which initially planned to buy 49,000 vehicles to replace armored HMMWV (hummer) vehicles as well as many armored trucks (MRAPs). As of 2020, about 7,500 JLTVs were in service. 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 using 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. By 2023 nearly 20,000 JLTVs were in service or on order.

The Oshkosh L-ATV was selected as the winner of the JLTV design competition. The Oshkosh JLTV was a light armored vehicle that provided 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. The 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 system). 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. Oshkosh won the competition mainly because its design was much more reliable than its competitors’ and also met all the protection against bombs and mines requirements.

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 needs (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 were built for foreign and non-military customers. Because the U.S. is producing this new vehicle design, incorporating 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 and other potential export customers.

The first export customer, Slovenia, ordered 38 in late 2018 with the first one arriving in 2021. Lithuania and Montenegro also placed small orders. Several other nations are considering JLTV, including Britain, which would buy two thousand or so. 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.

As JLTV enters service in 2019 it signaled the end of an era, or did it? 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 290,000 hummers have been produced so far, in dozens of variants and versions. The last army hummer order was in 2012. The army plans to continue using most until at least 2030 with some lasting until 2050. By then most will have retired because they are worn out. Now the problem is that the army cannot afford to replace all hummers with JLTV.

The 6.4-ton JLTV that replaces the 4-ton armored HMMWV, which is 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 by the Iraq War and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan.

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 generates more electricity for operating all the new electronic gear and recharging batteries. There is also an automatic fire extinguishing system and jam-resistant doors. Like the Hummer, JLTV is easy to reconfigure for everything from a four-seat, armed scout vehicle to an ambulance, command vehicle, or cargo or troop transport.

The plan was always to have the hummer continue in use outside of the combat zone, where most troops spend most of their time. But the JLTV is 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. Before the JLTV entered mass production in 2019, the army and marines already realized that future wars would more likely require fewer JLTVs and more hummers or similar unarmored two-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles. JLTV orders would have to be reduced. Another factor that drove this new outlook was the shrinking procurement budgets after 2010. There would simply not be enough money to buy the number of JLTVs initially planned. At the same time, the elderly hummers had to be replaced with something.

China also noted the development of the JLTV and the success of armored hummers and MRAPs. 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 BJ2022s 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 that 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. 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 an armored version was developed as the EQ2058 followed by several other variants, including a longer 6x6 vehicle.




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