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Humvees out, JLTVs with better suspension and blast protection are in

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A Humvee, left, and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle stand on display for size comparison at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, recently. Next year, the Army and Marines will begin phasing out Humvees and begin using the JLTVs, which offer superior blast protection,better fuel economy and suspension, and improved network capability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland)

By Rindi White

Starting in 2019, the Army and Marine Corps will be parking the Humvees that have served troops for more than 30 years and start loading up into the new-and-improved beast of a vehicle, the JLTV. The acronym stands for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

The new design provides better protection from blasts that happen underneath the vehicle, as is typical with roadside bombs. It has an intelligent suspension system that can be raised and lowered as needed and is packed with enough network capability to serve as a protected mobile command center.

According to Oshkosh Defense, the tactical vehicle manufacturer that created the JLTV, the new vehicle is 70 percent faster off-road than the top tactical wheeled vehicles in use today. It has 20 inches of wheel travel, which means it can easily (and smoothly) travel over rough ground.

The advanced hull design is built to protect soldiers from a full range of blast and ballistic threats. The protection doesn’t stop there — seats, restraints and stowage are blast-protected, and the vehicle body is an integrated system designed to absorb and deflect blast energy.

According to Oshkosh, the JLTV has a significantly improved fuel economy both in idle and operational modes and a power train that adapts to different operating conditions.

“The original Humvee design supported no armor and gave you mobility, but we realized on an asymmetrical battlefield that there were both side and underbody threats,” said U.S. Army Col. Shane N. Fullmer, JLTV joint project manager. “We tried to armor it, but it really reduced that ability to get through soft soil, and while it has side protection, it’s very hard to give it any underbody protection. This (JLTV) really restores that balance.”

The JLTV program is Army-led, with collaboration from the Marine Corps to replace a portion of each branch’s light tactical vehicle fleets. Senior leaders from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command test drove the vehicles through a training area to experience the new suspension and overall feel of the vehicle, according to a May story by Staff Sgt. Teresa Cleveland, in 633rd Air Base Wing/Public Affairs at joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Cleveland reported that many senior leaders who rode in the vehicle described the ride as much smoother than that of other tactical vehicles.

“We have found that some people are skeptical because they have a lot of experience riding in Humvees; until they see it in person or ride in it, and then they’re no longer skeptical,” Fullmer said. “This ride is just tremendously better than Humvees. The Humvee has been a great vehicle and has provided a tremendous service, but this vehicle is just a leap ahead.”

Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, Army Capabilities Integration Center director, worked on the acquisition plan for the JLTV during early stages of designing the vehicle.

“I was working on this in 2010 from the requirements side, so to see this vehicle here, this vehicle that is going to go to our units, this really is a great day,” Dyess said. “It was a very smooth ride, and I know this is going to b a great capability for our soldiers.”

According to Cleveland, soldiers and Marines can expect to see JLTVs within their units beginning in 2019, following ongoing additional automotive, reliability, radio range and weapon system testing. By 2022, production for U.S. Armed Forces is expected to reach 17,000, followed by an additional approximate 35,000 trucks over the next 20 years.

According to a June 15 report by Jon Harper in National Defense Industrial Association’s magazine, National Defense, the Defense Department initially planned to buy 55,000 JLTVs, at a cost of $23 million. Marine Corps leaders recently changed their quota from 5,500 to 9,100, however. And the Air Force, in its 2018 budget, requested $60 million to buy 140 JLTVs. According to Fullmer, the Air Force has yet to voice specific requirements for kits for the vehicle.

“They might have some unique needs, but our contract would accommodate that. … If they came to us and said, ‘I have this other piece of kit that really needs to go on there,’ we could design (it),’” Fullmer said in the National Defense story.

The vehicles are expected to cost about $250,000 each.

The National Defense story indicated that Oshkosh Defense may be gearing up to sell the JLTVs to foreign militaries as well as the U.S. military. John Bryant, president of Oshkosh Defense, said a nearly universal need for mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles exists.

Fullmer said overseas sales would become easier when the vehicle reaches full-rate production, which is currently planned for 2019.

Oshkosh has so far delivered about 250 JLTVs. The new tactical vehicle won’t entirely replace the Humvee, but the older vehicle will be gradually phased out.

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