The US Marine Corps Systems Command has commenced the deployment of its new Ultra Light Tactical Vehicles (ULTVs) as part of the Force Design 2030 modernization effort, marking a significant milestone for the Corps.

Earlier this month, the First Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, collaboratively conducted the initial fielding operations, receiving the first tranche of ULTVs delivered to the unit. This structured roll-out will continue until August, followed by subsequent fielding events across the service, further enhancing their operational capabilities.

What’s ULTV?

The development of the ULTVs emerged around the early 1980s when the US military began exploring the use of lightweight vehicles for recon and surveillance missions. Through the years, military engineers have modified the earliest models, which were based on civilian designs, to meet the requirements of the military. By the late 1980s, the US military developed its model variant, dubbed Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), designed to be small and lightweight enough to be transported inside a helicopter or cargo plane. It was then battle-tested in the dusty desert during the 1991 Gulf War, serving as a valuable asset for recon and surveillance missions during Operation Desert Storm. However, enemy fire vulnerability led to the Humvee’s eventual replacement of the ITV.

Ultra-light tactical vehicle speeding on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, on May 11, 2021. (Image source: DVIDS)

In the early 2000s, the US military began to explore the use of Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) for various missions, including convoy security, casualty evacuation, and force protection. Similar to its predecessor, these new UTVs were also based on commercial designs, specifically modified to meet military requirements. UTVs have been used extensively in the War on Terror. But again, UTVs have also been at the center of criticism due to their high cost and vulnerability to enemy fire.

Corps’ New Generation of Lightweight Vehicles

The ULTV, a state-of-the-art tactical vehicle, represents the next generation in this lineage of lightweight vehicles, specifically designed to address the evolving needs of the modern warfighter. It is a modular, off-road utility vehicle that replaces the retired UTVs, which have reached the end of their lifecycle.

Building upon the lessons learned from previous iterations, the ULTV incorporates advanced technologies and features to enhance infantry, reconnaissance, and logistics mobility and sustainability. This state-of-the-art vehicle offers a rapid configuration capability for a wide range of mission requirements. It supports diverse infantry needs, from logistical support and casualty evacuation to command, control, and electronic warfare missions. Moreover, its adaptability and versatility make it a crucial asset for Marines operating in various operational environments, particularly in anti-access/area denial scenarios.

Utility Task Vehicle (UTV)
Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) maneuvering through dirt road at Story Live Fire Complex, South Korea, 2017. (Image source: DVIDS)

Despite previous criticisms faced by lightweight vehicles, the development of the ULTV has meticulously addressed these concerns and maximized its effectiveness on the battlefield.

Notably, the Marine Corps Systems Command has conducted extensive testing and evaluation to ensure that the ULTV meets the rigorous demands of modern warfare. Engineers have optimized the ULTV for performance, reliability, and survivability by leveraging the latest technological advancements and incorporating feedback from Marines.