Everyone who has spent any length of time in or around the Armed Services knows the Department of Defense is always looking for the next generation of equipment on the horizon. It doesn’t matter if it’s an aircraft carrier, a helicopter, a rifle or a truck, every piece of military gear in use today has a replacement on the drawing board. The process of continual improvement and refinement has led to some great advances like the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor helicopter. Also, this has led to some absolutely imbecilic and political backed decisions like the Army Combat Uniform.
As such, it should come as no surprise that several years ago the Department of Defense released the specifications for a possible replacement of the AM General produced Highly Mobile Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Humvee as it more commonly known. The HMMWV first rolled off the assembly line in 1984 and has served the United States and its allies in every conflict since 1989’s Operation Just Cause. In 30 plus years of service, the Humvee became one of the iconic symbols of the military, just like its predecessor the Jeep. Love them or hate them, Humvees were/are part of the backbone of many military units around the world, including the US.
Major companies vie for contract
Oshkosh Defense, a division of the Oshkosh Corporation, eventually won the contract to furnish an initial order of 53,582 units over a 30 year period at an approximate value of 53 billion dollars. The DOD says the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is intended to replace the oldest Humvees currently in the inventory, but will not completely replace them all immediately. The final expected service date of existing Humvees is 2050.
During the Request for Proposal (RFP) and accompanying initial field tests, a host of major players in the defense industry vied for the contract rights. Among these them were Oshkosh, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Ratheyon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Grumman, and current Humvee manufacturer AM General. The initial group of eight was narrowed to three companies in August 2012; Oshkosh, AM General, and Lockheed Martin were all selected to advance to the final trial and evaluation phase.
The Winner JLTV
When the Department of Defense held their press conference in late August 2015, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle by Oshkosh was announced as the winner after more than five years of designs, field tests and scrutiny. Oshkosh Equipment is no stranger to the military vehicle world as their mine resistant ambush resistant family of vehicles (MRAP) have been in service since 2009. The exact specifications of the new JLTV are still slowly being released. Officials at Oshkosh and the DOD have cited various patent, operations security, and legal reasons for not releasing all the the details of the JLTV, but we do know all the details below.
Powerplant: General Motor/Isuzu 6.6 Liter Duramax Diesel (300 HP/ 520 Ft lbs torque)
Transmission: Allison Automatic (exact model unreleased and believed to be 6 speed)
Transfer Case: model not specified
Weight: 14,000 lbs (6400 Kg) Varies according to armor packages
Height: Not Specified
Length: Not Specified
Suspension: TAK-4i , Next generation intelligent independent suspension. Results in 20″ usable wheel travel.
- Available “On the Fly” ride adjustment to compensate for terrain features
Protective Systems: CORE1080 protective systems similar to those in the M-RAP series of vehicles
- High Frequency (HF)
- Ultra High Frequency (UHF)
- Very High Frequency(VHF)
- Satellite Communication (SATCOM)
- Vehicle Intercoms
- Active real time displays monitoring critical vehicle systems
- Counter electronic warfare systems
- Offensive electronic warfare systems
- Automatic fire protection systems
- Wheel zone blast deflectors
- Bolt on armor plating systems
- Capsule design for 360 degree protection
- Energy absorbing floor and seats
- Will support current variants of M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and 40 mm grenade launchers.
- Possible expansion not yet released
Situational Awareness Technology:
- Secure battlefield friendly forces tracking technology is standard equipment
- Long range surveillance capabilities
- Shot detection equipment allows troops to better locate enemies shooting from concealment
- Visible light and infrared camera systems
- Silent watch power systems allow use of situational awareness networks to operate longer with the vehicle not running
Will it work as designed?
A simple question, “Will it work?”. The Department of Defense laid out a clear set of minimum specifications that the JLTV passed, but some of these parameters have changed since the beginning of the evaluation process. When the JLTV was first proposed, the U.S. Armed Forces were operating off of a set of now defunct protocols known as the Future Tactical Truck Systems project. This project was canceled in 2006, but elements of it were incorporated into the trials the JLTV passed. How these mid project ‘changes of expectation’ will effect the service life of the JLTV is unknown. How will that translate to real world operational capabilities ? Anyone who has deployed either to combat or a forward operating location knows that things in the maintenance and training orders may not be the same in the field.
Oshkosh has put a lot of thought and engineering into the JLTV and into protecting the most valuable asset of the JLTV, the crew inside it. The capsule design incorporates an essentially smaller version of the highly successful M-RAP/M-ATV. The design team has provided nearly every active and passive protective system that realistically can be added to a wheeled multipurpose vehicle. The Oshkosh 1080 protection systems forms a 360 degree capsule of fire suppression, electronic warfare and countermeasures, as well as next generation enemy detection systems in order to engage enemies with minimal risk to troops.
Combat is at it’s very nature a dangerous event and unfortunately you have to plan on the enemy successfully attacking and damaging vehicles and equipment. The wheel well regions are reinforced and designed to deflect the energy of any explosion away from the crew compartment. The recent wars is Iraq and Afghanistan have showed that Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) cause tremendous loss of personnel and equipment, and Oshkosh is taking great steps to help increase the chances of surviving an IED strike with the JLTV.
Placement of personnel inside the vehicle is also part of the equation, as is the seats and mounting hardware. The package contains ergonomic seats that feature energy absorbing materials and energy absorbing floor panels. The design is intended to lessen the amount of vibration and noise induced stress on the soldiers legs, back, and shoulders while riding in the JLTV. I guess they figure it’s hard enough wearing the full compliment of armor, ammo, weapon and supplies while walking, riding in a vehicle shouldn’t put extra stress and wear on your joints.
The Humvee has served the armed forces of many nations for nearly 30 years. When deployed and used like it was intended, it performed well. But, all good things come to an end. The next generation of military vehicles has been selected and I am curios if the military brass and professional military planners have over complicated something simple. My gut feeling is the specialty systems will cause headaches for combat and maintenance troops alike. I’m sure the contract specifies Oshkosh Defense to train and equip technicians to ease the transition with the new vehicle platform. The learning curve will be steep and will complicate training of future generations of vehicle maintenance troops to work on two very different vehicles, since the Humvee will be in use for many years.
HMMWV Experiences and Memories
My military experience with the outgoing HMMWV was less than spectacular. In short, I hated the Humvee. I was always assigned to an Engineering Unit and our standard operating procedures rarely called for a HMMWV unless it was a limited scope during an exercise. I do have a few memorable experiences with the HMMWV. The first while deployed in support of the annual FOAL EAGLE exercise in South Korean in 1993. I manned the M2 .50 Caliber machine gun turret while riding around the Korean countryside. As a 19 year old it sounded exciting, but after about five minutes I know why no one volunteered to sit in the canvas sling. Shooting a .50 caliber machine gun awesome, shooting it in a sling seat in a HMMWV not so much.
The second Humvee incident involved me wrecking the vehicle while jumping sand dunes carrying two Royal Air Force Engineers as passengers. The two RAF troops were assigned as Engineering support to a Royal Air Force Reconnaissance Squadron and wanted to see if the Humvee was superior to their Land Rover. Needless to say, after many broken parts including the rear lid cover, the Humvee did not hold up well in the challenge. The lid never did go back on the rear of the truck.
Thanks for checking in with us and the first look at the Oshkosh Defense JLTV. We are in the process of aquiring interior photos of the JLTV. Also, we’ve inquired about the exact components and configuration of the drive train and general specifications not listed in their press packets. At the time of this article, we have yet to obtain this information, but will update when any additional information becomes available.
Use the Comms Check or comment in any article if you have questions, comments or suggestions. Winter is on its way and we are lining up plenty of gear reviews and product giveaways. Check back often.
(Feature Image Courtesy: Oshkosh Defense)