The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a new armored platform set to replace the legendary Humvee, has reached initial operating capability (IOC) and is now ready to begin deploying with Marines globally. The platform was designed in a joint venture with the U.S. Army to provide American war fighters with greater off-road mobility and protection against threats ranging from small arms fire to improvised explosive devices.

In an unusual turn of events for new defense initiatives, the announcement that JLTV is ready to enter the fight actually came about a full year earlier than expected.

“Congratulations to the combined JLTV Team for acting with a sense of urgency and reaching IOC early,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts.

“Changing the speed in which we deliver, combined with coming in under cost and meeting all performance requirements, is a fine example of increasing Marine Corps capabilities at the speed of relevance which enables our Marines to compete and win on the modern battlefield.”

The vehicle comes in both two and four door trims, with a wide range of modular combat systems that can be added or removed based on mission parameters. Like most modern battlefield assets, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on network connectivity in an increasingly digital battlespace, while also leverage other top of the line weapons tech for things like remote operated weapons systems that can be fired from inside the vehicle’s protective shell.

Unlike the Humvee (or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), the JLTV was built from the ground up to protect its occupants from a variety of attacks. Many service members have complained that adding armor to the Humvee made it so slow and sluggish that it actually made them more vulnerable to attack, whereas the JLTV was designed to more effectively manage the weight of ballistic armor.

A Humvee and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle stand on display for size comparison at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., May 2, 2017. USAF Photo

Reaching initial operating capability requires more than delivering the vehicles and training Marines in their use. It also means that the program’s maintenance and logistical infrastructure has matured enough to support the deployment of these vehicles around the world. Deploying a combat vehicle isn’t just about getting it there and putting a driver in the seat; it also requires well trained mechanics and maintainers that can manage issues and conduct repairs in theater, rather than redeploying assets back to a U.S. based contractor.

The vehicle started arriving at Marine school houses around the country last year and began shipping out to infantry units last month.

“We are really at the starting line right now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see JLTVs in the DOD,” said LTV Program Manager Andrew Rodgers. “We’ll easily still have these assets somewhere in the DOD in the year 2100. Welcome to the start of many generations of JLTVs.”