The venerable HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) or “Humvee” might be a Jeep on steroids, but the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) now being developed for the U.S. military is a whole new departure from the old paradigm. Not merely transport, it combines systems-based defenses that incorporate speed, high-tech armor and computer-coordinated communications to keep soldiers and Marines connected and protected during diverse and hazardous missions.
The JLTV program represents a major transformation for the U.S. military as it takes the first steps toward replacing the Humvee, first deployed more than 20 years ago as the primary vehicle for moving U.S. troops and equipment. Unfortunately, the Humvee has fallen short of many challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Further, its add-on armor hasn’t done enough to improve the survivability of men and machine when attacked by roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. And with the Humvee suffering accelerated wear-and-tear from harsh desert conditions—as well as the extra armor it wasn’t designed to carry—its retirement is now about two years ahead of the original schedule.
Why turn to the JLTV? Can’t the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Armored Protected) vehicles fill the Humvee’s role? Although the military has bought and deployed thousands of MRAPs to protect troops, tacticians often consider them an interim fix in many theaters. Costing nearly $1 million each, the MRAP withstands blasts impressively but lacks the Humvee’s speed, maneuverability and off-road capabilities. Although the MRAP is useful in many arenas and will remain the probable vehicle of choice where IEDs remain a constant threat, the Pentagon says it needs a more flexible vehicle that delivers payload, protection and performance at a reasonable cost. What’s reasonable? About one-fourth the cost of an MRAP.
Enter the JLTV, whose mission is to keep the operators inside constantly aware of everything around them, and help determine whether each contact is friend or foe, near or far, in the air or on the ground. One company that’s aggressively developing a JLTV to fill this crucial niche is Lockheed Martin, whose JLTV is built on the premise that “survivability starts with avoiding a hit in the first place,” as a company official said in Lockheed Martin’s Insights magazine. “Armor, while critically important, should be the last-ditch defense of a multi-layered vehicle protective system,” said David Milkovich, a Lockheed Martin “horizontal integration” program manager.
According to Insights, Lockheed Martin sought the JLTV program based on its recent success in developing military vehicles like the United Kingdom’s Soothsayer program and the Marine Corps’ Lightweight Prime Mover Vehicle. In addition, the JLTV program evolved from the company’s Future Tactical Truck System, a research-and-development project that created and fine-tuned many of the key features incorporated in the JLTV.
Lockheed Martin introduced its first JLTV prototype in October 2007 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual convention. It displayed its second prototype in late February 2008 at the AUSA Winter Symposium and Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The military hopes to begin replacing its fleet of about 160,000 Humvees with JLTVs in 2011. Full-rate production of the JLTV will commence by 2012, with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles going into service.
Transcending the Truck
Louis DeSantis, vice president and general manager of Ground Vehicle Systems for Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY said the JLTV is a vast departure from previous vehicle programs. “This is no longer a truck; it’s more a system than a truck,” he said. “That means it must be Net-enabled, it must have proven diagnostics and prognostics software, and it must have very, very high reliability.”
Lockheed Martin expects to achieve much of that reliability through the vehicle design and through its approach to diagnostics, which will help commands predict and set priorities for repairs on each vehicle. Those repairs include everything from changing a vehicle’s oil or U-joints to updating its engine or transmission.
“Many of the same kinds of diagnostics and prognostics software we developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be similar in the JLTV,” DeSantis said. “We have put together a very strong team for this project, made up of BAE Systems, formerly Armor Holdings, ALCOA Defense and JWF Industries, along with key suppliers such as Cummings Engine, Allison Transmissions, AxleTech International and Cisco Systems. We’re trying to maximize our use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies.”
Beyond that, Lockheed Martin is integrating a C4 suite to give the soldiers and Marines who operate JLTVs unprecedented network-enabled communications with their command centers and other ground vehicles, helicopters and fighter jets.
“This program fits right into Lockheed Martin’s sweet spot,” DeSantis said. “We have many, many years of experience using computers to integrate command-and-control centers into various types of ground and air vehicles. This helps our war-fighters know where everybody is at all times on the battlefield.” Another requirement for the JLTV is transportability, for its service with expeditionary forces. Its maximum height for transport on the Navy’s Marine prepositioned ships is 76 inches. And although a JLTV’s length and width might vary by the supplier, it must fit inside C-130 aircraft, and it must be capable of being sling-loaded beneath CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters. Once it arrives on scene, it must also be able to carry not only its armor but up to 5,100- pound payloads.
DeSantis said the JLTV will be manufactured in three payload categories: Category A, a general-purpose mobility vehicle; Category B, a combat-tactical vehicle; and Category C, a utility vehicle.
Better Mileage, Smoother Ride
If that’s not enough evolution and heightened expectations for one vehicle, the JLTV must also handle high-speed off-road travel while delivering—by some estimates—up to twice the fuel efficiency of Humvees. The advantages of better fuel efficiency are many. For example, a fleet of fuel-efficient JLTVs also means fewer fuel-laden supply convoys, which means fewer attacks on personnel and less destruction of equipment.
“Some of the biggest [risks and] expenses in-theater today are not only transporting fuel to our forces [by Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck tankers or CH-47 helicopters], but also the consumption of fuel by all those heavy vehicles,” DeSantis said. “The JLTV must maximize fuel efficiency. Given the price of fuel today, the better the JLTV’s fuel efficiency, the lower the overall fuel costs during the life-cycle of all the vehicles in this class.”
The JLTV’s off-road performance is enhanced by Lockheed Martin’s patented air-suspension system. This system allows its operator to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance when traveling off-road, but lowering it and accelerating to escape threats. The lower clearance could also be used for high-speed travel over paved roads or across level ground. At the same time, the suspension system provides a more comfortable ride over rough, uneven terrain, a vital feature given the long trips often required in Afghanistan and parts of Iraq.
Filling a Niche
“There’s a demonstrated need for a light tactical vehicle to replace the Humvee,” DeSantis said. “The Humvee served its purpose. It was and still is a great vehicle, but the change in threats and the way vehicles are used today make it necessary for the government to come up with a new vehicle that is more armored, more capable, and much better at hauling larger payloads than what the Humvee can handle today.
“The MRAP is filling an urgent requirement for survivability, but it lacks the attributes needed by expeditionary forces for mobility, transportability and sustainability,” DeSantis continued. “Over roads and in certain urban areas the MRAP protects our war-fighters, and it’s doing a darned good job of that, but it’s lacking in off-road performance in sand and rough terrain because of its weight. The JLTV fills that niche while still providing a level of protection that allows it to not only function in urban environments but also on off-road missions. It must be very adaptable. Its armor requirements are classified, but it must be able to handle A-Kit armor and B-Kit armor. The B-Kit armor allows you to bolt on armor to the vehicle depending on the foreseeable threat.”
To increase the JLTV’s survivability, its armored hull employs a V-shaped design such as helps the MRAP deflect IED explosions. Another crucial aspect of Lockheed Martin’s JLTV program is its Center for Innovation, a “Net-centric” laboratory in Virginia. The company’s Insights magazine says the lab performs modeling and simulation exercises with JLTV users, to analyze and enhance the vehicle’s performance. This allows the JLTV’s developers to trade, tweak and fine-tune the system’s characteristics through virtual exercises. At the same time, it helps users test the JLTV’s Net-enabled capabilities in dynamic, realistic engagements taken from today’s battlefields or those anticipated in the future.
Also competing for this lucrative program are Northrop Grumman, which is partnering with Oshkosh Truck Corporation; and General Tactical Vehicles, a partnership formed by General Dynamics and Humvee-maker AM General; BAE Systems and International Truck; and a joint venture teaming Textron with Boeing.
“This is very formidable competition,” DeSantis said. “I think we have the best team but we’re up against the very best prime contractors in the business today.
Although DeSantis is confident Lockheed Martin can secure an award to manufacture and supply JLTVs to the military, he said the competition is fierce.
The venerable HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) or “Humvee” might be a Jeep…
by Charlie Cutshaw / Jul 1, 2008