The Army is now vigorously testing its new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle for possible combat missions in 2020 to include sling-loading the vehicle beneath a Chinook helicopter to increase battlefield maneuverability, service officials said.
Current JLTV "test sites" are immersed in preparations of the vehicle for combat as key steps toward fielding the First Unit Equipped by 2019, Army officials told Scout Warrior.
Part of the ongoing testing is aimed at finalizing preparations to air-transport the vehicle behind enemy lines if need be; the JLTV is configured to travel with a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, C-130 fixed wing aircraft or CH-53.
The ongoing testing process is designed to ensure weapons, sensors and other key technologies are properly developed and integrated onto the next-gen combat vehicle.
Having the new vehicle able to transport beneath a cargo helicopter is essential to the Army's Mounted Vertical Maneuver concept of operations aimed at allowing combat assets to change positions in mountainous or difficult terrain where ground passage is not possible. This kind of battlefield technology could be essential in both counterinsurgency operations such as those in Afghanistan - or major mechanized force on force combat in areas where combat environment challenge ground transport. While the JLTV is, of course, engineered for off-road travel, Mounted Vehicle Maneuver also brings the advantage of avoiding or moving through higher-threat areas; part of the concept of MTM includes an operational ability to transport infantry, supplies and weapons behind enemy lines, Army officials explain.
The Army's new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.
While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles -- the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.
As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, former Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics & Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.
Some of these preparations involve the potential "up-gunning" of the vehicle with a more lethal 30mm chain gun such as the one currently on the Apache attack helicopter.
A total of about 100 of the JLTV "production vehicles" are being provided at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles are performing some of this maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country.
In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles are in the process of undergoing testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said.
The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.
"It's on schedule," Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article last year from Army.mil. "It's doing everything we ever expected it to. It's just incredible."
JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War
Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.
Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.
The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.
The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected -- All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.
The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.
With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.
The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.
TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.
Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps in 2015.
The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.
When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.
The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.
Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.
Army Future Strategy
As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.
Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.
While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.
As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.
Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across dispersed populated areas as well as much wider swaths of terrain then has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.