Over the past few decades, the character of military conflict has changed substantially as "front lines" and "rear areas" have blurred into a single, full-spectrum operational environment. That increasing complexity is reflected in the tactical vehicles that commanders need to address that spectrum of operations. When the Army looked to replace the venerable Jeep, the July-August 1981 issue of RD&A magazine, Army AL&T's predecessor, described the new vehicle it sought to acquire, the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, this way:
"The HMMWV will be diesel powered and have an automatic transmission. It will carry a 2,500-pound payload, have a cruising range of 300 miles, accelerate from 0 to 30 MPH within 6 to 8 seconds and achieve a maximum speed to 60 MPH. Since the HMMWV will be operated in forward areas, it will feature run-flat tires and ballistic protection up to 16-grain fragments traveling at 425 meters per second, as well as explosion-proof fuel tanks for some models. The vehicle will use off-the-shelf civilian hardware and military standard parts wherever possible."
It was, essentially, a better Jeep. There was nothing in that description about blast resistance or networking. It would have been hard to imagine a tactical network such as today's in 1981. Nor was any consideration given to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Contrast that with the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is currently in low-rate initial production.
JLTV is an Army-led, joint-service program designed to replace a portion of each service's light tactical wheeled vehicle fleets while closing a mobility and protection gap. The intent is to provide protected, sustained, networked mobility for warfighters and payloads across the full range of military operations.
During World War II, the Jeep was considered the workhorse for logistical and support tasks. The early vehicles were used for laying cable and hauling logs, and as firefighting pumpers, field ambulances and tractors. However, the vehicle didn't include armoring, a radio, seatbelts—or even doors. After the war, the Jeep went through many modifications and upgrades and remained in service for the next 44 years.
The HMMWV was fielded in 1985, a couple of years later than anticipated back in 1981, and they have been used since as troop carriers, command vehicles, ambulances, for psychological operations and as weapon platforms. In the early 2000s, HMMWVs faced an entirely new threat in the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—the IED—and they proved vulnerable. DOD responded with up-armoring and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was designed specifically to resist and deflect IED explosions.
JLTV gives the current warfighter significantly more protection against multiple threats while increasing mobility, payload and firepower, something that Soldiers and Marines from past conflicts could only envision in their wildest dreams.
"The JLTV has been designed to keep pace with the fast-changing nature of today's battlefield," said Dave Diersen, vice president and general manager of Joint Programs at Oshkosh Defense, which won the JLTV contract. Diersen added that JLTV offers "a leap forward in performance and capability that can only come from a vehicle that is purpose-built for a spectrum of light vehicle missions."
The JLTV has two variants, to cover the requirements of both the Army and Marine Corps, and can be transported by a range of lift assets including rotary-wing aircraft. It can traverse rugged and dangerous terrain including urban areas, while providing built-in and supplemental armor against direct fire and IED threats. The JLTV features advanced networking, by being wired for current and future command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
JLTV was purposely built for the Army's tactical network and designed to have MRAP-like protection, but also to improve fuel efficiency, increase payload and provide greater maintainability, reliability and performance—and the potential for continuous improvement to meet future mission requirements.
The first production vehicles are intended to serve as the first assets for JLTV's performance and operational testing programs. Roughly 40 vehicles have been delivered to test sites thus far, and will undergo complete reliability, transportability, survivability, network and other testing to verify the production vehicles' ability to satisfy the program's requirements. The most important outcome of this testing is to ensure that Soldiers can effectively interact with the JLTV and all of its integrated equipment.
As the Jeep and HMMWV did on past battlefields, JLTV will no doubt face challenges of 21st century military operations that the Army and DOD can scarcely imagine today, as well as provide a much-needed tactical vehicle capability for the Army and Marine Corps that doesn't compromise among payload, mobility, performance or protection.