Over three decades have passed since Humvee entered into service and the time has finally come to say goodbye to it (to an extent). While it is a good vehicle, Humvee couldn’t keep up with the asymmetric warfare over the decades and armor updates over the years made it more cumbersome. This led the US Government to hunt for another vehicle that could replace it, and after nearly two decades and billions of dollars later, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is here. And let me tell you the hunt was not an easy one; for starters the requirements of the vehicle kept changing and the army wanted a vehicle that could not only fulfill the role of a Light Utility Vehicle but also that of an Armoured personnel carrier which could carry a large variety of weapon systems while keeping its off-road capabilities.
The JLTV is designed to replace Humvee and various other Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in service with the army. And based on the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, various companies and vendors had developed a vehicle that could meet the requirements of the military. Only three prototypes emerged successfully from the development phase - namely the Lockheed Martin JLTV, the Oshkosh L-ATV, and the AM General BRV-O. These vehicles were put into trials for over 2 years and finally, Oshkosh L-ATV emerged as the winner in the competition. The contract was given to Oshkosh, with the first vehicles delivered this year.
Starting with the capabilities of the L-ATV, it’s a significant upgrade over the Humvee. While some of the data about the vehicle is classified, such as armor specs, other technical specifications have been revealed. The JLTV is powered by a Gale Banks Engineering 866T, 6.6 L V8 diesel engine and can produce anything between 340 to 575 hp. It comes with an Allison 2500SP 6-speed automatic and has a top speed of 70 mph on road. It can ford in water up to depths of 1.5 meters without a fording kit. Additionally, the L-ATV can be fitted with the Oshkosh ProPulse Hybrid Diesel-Electric System which can improve fuel economy and serve as an on-board generator with enough output to power an airfield or hospital.
Coming to its off-road capabilities, the vehicle comes with an Oshkosh TAK-4i Intelligent Independent Suspension System that provides 20-inches of wheel travel which is a significant upgrade over the Humvee. It can easily cross a 12-15 inch ditch at the speed of 40 mph. A combat engineer said to Task & Purpose, “When you hit a bump in the JLTV, you feel it, but when you hit a bump in the Humvee, you really feel it.” This comfort and smoothness of ride have left the higher-ups worried that soldiers may lose their focus on the tactical situation because now they can ride out to war sitting comfortably in a 10-ton vehicle while drinking coffee.
The JLTV is designed to be very flexible and can be modified to meet different tactical requirements, as such certain data such as weight, engine specs, load capacity, and towing capacity are classified. However the JLTV is designed to be carried under a Chinook and should weigh under 11790 kg, at least the lightly armored and armed variants will. The gross weight can be changed in a matter of hours just by adding extra armor, RPG protection, weapons, and equipment.
The crew protection on this vehicle is similar to an armored personnel carrier. It has a mine-resistant underbelly, ballistic armor, blast protected seats, fire extinguishing and situational awareness system among other things. The vehicle can be fitted out with additional armor and a wide range of weapon systems including large anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons according to the tactical needs. In many ways, JLTV fulfills the current objectives and can be easily upgraded for the future needs of the military.
The US Army and Marine Corps aim to procure more than 50 thousand JLTV vehicles of various configurations that will replace the existing armored Humvees and MRAP vehicles. The vehicle is declared combat-ready by the US Army and will be deployed in future conflicts. The Navy and the Air Force will also buy some vehicles in limited quantities. Some foreign counties such as Lithuania and Slovenia will also procure the vehicle and Britain is also considering this vehicle for its MRV-P program.
Oh, and yes, don’t expect a civilian version anytime soon. The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is strictly a military vehicle and thus even its sale is extremely restricted. Perhaps someday we might get something that’s based on it but not in the near future.