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Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)

USMC PEO Land Systems Programs 2011-2012

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is a major U.S. Army-Marine Corps acquisition program for a new-generation wheeled vehicle that would replace a portion of the services’ High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) fleet.

The advent in Iraq and Afghanistan of remotely controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has taken its toll on the U.S. military’s unarmored flat-bottom HMMWVs, which were never designed to withstand IED or mine blasts. Up-armoring of HMMWVs through the addition of armor plates provided increased protection, but the increased weight reduced the vehicle’s payload capacity, maneuverability, off-road mobility, and air transportability. With the JLTV, the Army and Marine Corps hope to regain the performance once offered by the HMMWV while adding inherent crew protection against IED-like threats.

The program’s aim is to develop a new multimission light vehicle family with superior crew protection and performance compared to the HMMWVs. The JLTV family will balance critical weight and transportability constraints within performance, protection, and payload requirements – all while ensuring an affordable solution for the Army and USMC.

General Tactical Vehicles JLTV

A JLTV prototype from General Tactical Vehicles suspended beneath a CH-53 during sling-load testing. General Tactical Vehicles photo

The JLTV program is aligned with a joint program office under the management of the Army’s Project Manager Tactical Vehicles, which falls under the leadership of the Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support. In October 2008, the Army awarded three industry teams – BAE Systems, General Tactical Vehicles (General Dynamics and AM General), and Lockheed Martin – Technology Development (TD) contracts to design and fabricate competitive prototypes for testing and evaluation.

In June 2011, the services successfully accomplished the 27-month TD phase, completing rigorous test and evaluation efforts at Aberdeen Test Center, Md., and the Yuma Test Center, Ariz. The prototypes underwent ballistic protection, system performance, and reliability and maintainability (RAM) tests to gauge technical potential against JLTV requirements, with an emphasis on identifying potential trade-offs to reduce system weight. The services completed all planned performance and RAM testing; however, because of the increased requirement in under-body survivability, more challenging ballistic testing was conducted to help inform the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase requirements. Additionally, JLTV’s first helicopter sling load transportability test with the Army’s CH-47D and the USMC’s CH-53E was completed with General Purpose, four-passenger vehicles.

Australian JLTV Prototype

A right-hand-drive Australian JLTV variant, designed by BAE Systems, with trailer. BAE Systems photo

Additionally, right-hand-operation vehicles underwent additional RAM and ballistic testing in Australia, culminating with user evaluations in early 2011. International participation in the JLTV program will reduce overall program risk through the testing and evaluation of additional prototype vehicles. As the military prepares for future coalition operations, similarity of tactical vehicle solutions across allies will enhance global interoperability and reduce the maintenance and logistical burden. The U.S. and Australian governments continue ongoing discussions regarding Australia’s potential participation in the next phase of the program.

The development of the JLTV reinforces the Army’s approach to interoperable platforms that provide expeditionary and protected maneuver to forces currently supported by HMMWVs.

The JLTVs also improve payload efficiency through chassis engineering, enabling the vehicles to be deployed with the appropriate amount of force protection through scalable armor solutions. Further, expected JLTV fleet reliability and fuel efficiency will be significantly greater than the current HMMWV fleet, which will reap millions of dollars in savings over the JLTV life cycle.

Lockheed Martin JLTV

A JLTV prototype from Lockheed Martin during sling-load testing. Lockheed Martin photo

The TD phase has satisfied its intended purposes: demonstrate the integration of mature technologies as a complete system and provide an assessment of the technical and performance risks relevant to entering the EMD phase.

The EMD phase will be a full and open competition, with the selection of multiple offers. Milestone B is currently scheduled for 2nd quarter of FY 12.

 

Crew Protection Imperative

The advent in Iraq and Afghanistan of remotely controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has taken its toll on the U.S. military’s unarmored flat-bottom HMMWVs, which were never designed to withstand IED or mine blasts. Up-armoring of HMMWVs through the addition of armor plates provided increased protection, but the increased weight reduced the vehicle’s payload capacity, maneuverability, off-road mobility, and air transportability. With the JLTV, the Army and Marine Corps hope to regain the performance once offered by the HMMWV while adding inherent crew protection against IED-like threats.

Some of the JLTV industry TD designs feature a V-shaped hull similar to the MRAP vehicles, as well as a semiactive independent suspension system with a variable ride height, which allows the underside of the hull to be raised, to facilitate IED blast deflection. (High ground clearance also is essential for off-road mobility and the ability to adjust to a low ground clearance height is essential to vehicle transport in height-restricted shipboard spaces.)

General Tactical Vehicles JLTV

A General Tactical Vehicles JLTV variant shown during testing. U.S. Army photo by David McNally

The JLTV will feature inherent and B-kit scalable armor. The vehicle’s inherent armor protection levels, sufficient for non-combat humanitarian operations, will be supplemented by the addition of bolt-on B-kit armor for enhanced protection on combat missions. All three industry teams are using modular B-kit armor panels made of advanced lightweight composite materials instead of metal to keep weight down while providing ballistic, mine, and IED protection.

 

Vehicle Configurations

The JLTV program creates a common family of vehicles consisting of the Combat Tactical Vehicle (CTV) and Combat Support Vehicle (CSV). The CTV has multiple combat mission role variants while the CSV has the ability to be employed as either a utility vehicle or shelter carrier. Each JLTV variant must be light enough, with integrated B-kit armor, to be transported as an external sling load underneath a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter.

High commonality among the JLTV variants through modular designs is a key objective. The Army and Marine Corps want to minimize the life-cycle ownership costs of their JLTV variants by maximizing commonality of components, spare and repair parts, tools, maintenance procedures, and training.

Also lowering life-cycle costs will be the JLTV family’s higher reliability and maintainability, as well as more fuel-efficient engines. The Army and Marine Corps also have minimized their unique vehicle requirements.

BAE Systems JLTV

A JLTV prototype from BAE Systems is lifted from the runway during sling-load testing. BAE Systems photo

The JLTV will feature an open electronics architecture that will facilitate integration of future sensor, communications, and navigation systems as they become available. As a result, the JLTV’s crew will have significantly improved battlefield situational awareness compared with vehicles today.

The Army currently plans to procure approximately 50,000 JLTVs, making up nearly one-third of the Light Tactical Wheeled Vehicle fleet, while the Marine Corps plans to procure 5,500; those numbers are subject to change as each service refines its Tactical Wheeled Vehicle strategies.

This article first appeared in Marine Corps Outlook: 2011-2012 Edition.

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Glenn Goodman, senior editor of the Journal of Electronic Defense, is also a frequent contributor...