The Army's new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle offers the smoothest ride and the most creature comforts of any tactical vehicle they've driven before, soldiers told Task & Purpose. But officials say Army leadership is worried that its next-generation Humvee replacement might be too comfortable.
"For leadership, the ride is so smooth it brings its own concerns," 1st ABCT spokesman Maj. Pete Bogart told Task & Purpose. "My wife has a brand new Volkswagen Atlas, and it does so much for you, you often forget you're hurtling down the highway in a several-thousand-pound vehicle.
"Leadership wants soldiers to remember that they're in a tactical vehicle," he added, "not a Nissan Altima."
Several soldiers interviewed by Task & Purpose who have operated the JLTV as part of driver training uniformly praised the vehicle's relative comfort compared to much-despised Humvee.
"The suspension system is magnificent," Staff Sgt. Robert Sanders, a signal support systems specialist with the 1st ABCT, told Task & Purpose. "compared to the Humvee, it's like night and day."
"When you hit a bump in the JLTV, you feel it," Spc. Donald Vargas, a combat engineer, told Task & Purpose, "But when you hit a bump in the Humvee, you really feel it."
Raider Master Drivers hit the tank trails during the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Operater New Equipment Training (OPNET) at Fort Stewart, GA
(U.S. Army/Maj. Peter Bogart)
Sanders described the transition from hardball road to tank trails during driver training at Fort Stewart. In the Humvee, he said, drivers normally have to slow "to a crawl" when they approach at 12-15 inch washout; in the JLTV, he was instructed to keep his foot on the accelerator.
"We took it between 35 and 40 miles per hour," he said. "[The JLTV] took it like it was nothing."
Vargas concurred: "It's by far the smoothest ride of any wheeled vehicle I've operated."
So far, 1st ABCT soldiers have yet to deploy their JLTVs for field exercises, focusing primarily on driver training and user feedback during the initial fielding. According to Bogart, upcoming training with their fellow soldiers in the 2nd ABCT will give them the chance to get a better feel for the vehicle.
"The vehicles are better on your back and better for operability, which is good for our mission," Bogart said. "But just because you don't feel the bumps doesn't mean the trailer you're hauling won't. You go over a 14- or 18-inch washout, the trailer still feels it."
On the upside, soldiers will still be able to enjoy some other creature comforts that eclipse the Humvee without leadership worrying about their tactical focus.
"I have a place for my coffee," Sanders said. "The seats are more adjustable than the Humvee ... there's even a cut-out in seats for when you're wearing body armor or a CamelBak. That makes it a far more comfortable ride."