The Army's Humvee Replacement Marks The End Of An Era

news
Photo via Oshkosh

The era of the Humvee is over. On Aug. 25, the Army announced the winner of the production  contract for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the program that will replace the Humvee, officially called the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle in both Army and Marine Corps service.


The Army selected Wisconsin-based corporation Oshkosh Corporation to receive the $6.7 billion contract for an initial production of 16,901 vehicles, most of which will be going to the Army. In the long term, the contract’s value could be as much as $30 billion for a full production run of almost 55,000 vehicles. Oshkosh’s winning design — which the company calls the Defense Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV — beat out entries from Humvee manufacturer AM General and defense giant Lockheed Martin. The JLTV program comes at a time when contract opportunities are shrinking due to sequestration and other defense cuts; it also represents a major evolution in what is expected of a “tactical truck” on today’s battlefield.

While the Army did not disclose why it selected Oshkosh’s vehicle over the other two entrants, the L-ATV does represent a middle ground between the AM General and Lockheed Martin designs. All three companies focused on passenger survivability and off-road capability. Lockheed’s design emphasized technological capability, developing systems to allow its version of the JLTV to punch above its weight with Hydra 70 rockets and Hellfire missiles.  AM General touted an fully integrated communications suite. Oshkosh’s design features an “intelligent” fully independent suspension and an optional diesel-hybrid engine. Oshkosh also has a singular advantage over its competitors: it’s already producing vehicles similar to the JLTV. Oshkosh has built almost 10,000 armored trucks for the military’s Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, program. It’s possible the Army decided that Oshkosh’s ability to fulfill its MRAP contract was a good indicator of its ability to maintain production for the JLTV. But it’s the genesis of the MRAP program that proved the need for the new JLTV in the first place.

The reason for all the technology present in the JLTV competition goes back to the Humvee, and its predecessor, the Jeep family of vehicles. Both were designed as light versatile trucks capable of performing a variety of roles, from cargo carrier and troop transport to mobile scout and ambulance. Neither vehicle was intended to resist much in the way of enemy fire, instead using speed and cross-country mobility. In conventional engagements during the invasion of Panama and the First Gulf War, the Humvee performed well. But the new asymmetric battlefield would force the Humvee into roles it was never intended for.

During the early years of Operation Enduring Freedom, Humvees were well suited to rough terrain of Afghanistan. But soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a new threat emerged: improvised explosive devices. The Humvees were vulnerable; their flat hulls and thin armor provided little protection. Improvised armor offered some extra protection, and then official “up-armor” packages provided a little more. But neither could protect against IED strikes to the underside or from armor-defeating explosively formed penetrators. The add-on kits also added immense weight, which compromised mobility and increased the chance for rollover. A wholly new vehicle was required.

Faced with the growing death toll from IED strikes, the Department of Defense raced to implement the interim MRAP program. The DoD worked with several companies producing a number of designs to ensure that the urgent need for armored trucks was met. But the MRAPs had their own issues. Their extreme weight made them difficult to transport to the theater of operations and precluded them from being slung under or loaded into heavy-lift helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook or the CH-53E Super Stallion. The vehicles also had limited mobility, with low speeds, often being unable to operate off main roads, or drive over bridges not rated for its weight.

The multiple designs produced by multiple companies also made for challenging logistics. As operations in Afghanistan wind down, the DoD has worked to sell or scrap most of the MRAP fleet. The Army plans to keep around 8,000, while the Marines will store just over 2,500. Most of these are Oshkosh’s M-ATV, the most nimble vehicle to come out of the MRAP program. The Humvees won’t be completely gone either, but their days in combat are likely over. The JLTV carries forward the MRAP legacy of survivability in the era of IED, but also attempts to restore the battlefield mobility of the Humvee. With this comes more advanced computer-controlled engines and safety systems. The Oshkosh L-ATV is much more of a weapons systems than the simple tactical truck it is replacing.

On paper, the Oshkosh L-ATV seems like a solid performer. But that can only be known for sure once it enters production 10 months from now. That start date may be delayed if either AM General or Lockheed Martin file protest over the JLTV selection. That’s a distinct possibility given that this is the largest land vehicle acquisition in almost a decade, and the meager landscape for future contracts. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that that new combat norms have altered the face of light transport on the battlefield.

U.S. Airmen from the 22nd Airlift Squadron practice evasive procedures in a C-5M Super Galaxy over Idaho Dec. 9, 2019. The flight included simulated surface-to-air threats that tested their evasion capabilities. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amy Younger)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As many as 380 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan – which has nearly 300 passengers who have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 – will be extracted Sunday from Yokohama and flown to Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield and a Texas base for further quarantine.

Read More

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.

The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, "build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth."

Read More

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.

A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.

Read More

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is requesting about as much money for overseas operations in the coming fiscal year as in this one, but there is at least one noteworthy new twist: the first-ever Space Force request for war funds.

Officials say the $77 million request is needed by Oct. 1 not for space warfare but to enable military personnel to keep operating and protecting key satellites.

Read More

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.

In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.

Read More