The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is a major 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 program’s aim is to develop a new multi-mission 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.
The JLTV program is aligned with a joint program office under the management of the U.S. Army’s Project Manager Joint Combat Support Systems, 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-AM General), and Lockheed Martin – Technology Development (TD) contracts to design and fabricate competitive prototypes for testing and evaluation.
The three industry teams began delivering their prototypes in June 2010 for government testing at the Aberdeen Test Center, Md., and the Yuma Test Center, Ariz. The prototypes are undergoing ballistic protection, system performance, and reliability and maintainability tests to gauge technical potential against JLTV requirements, with an emphasis on system weight.
In July 2010, industry teams delivered “right hand operation” vehicles which will be tested with our Australian partners. BAE Systems and GTV right hand operation vehicles have arrived in Australia and will undergo additional RAM (reliability and maintainability) and ballistic testing, culminating with user evaluations in early 2011. Lockheed Martin’s vehicles will arrive in Australia for the user evaluations.
International participation in the JLTV program will reduce overall program risk through the testing and evaluation of additional prototype vehicles. As our 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 EMD phase.
One of the outcomes of the TD phase will be a firm set of refined and achievable JLTV operational performance requirements – a Capabilities Development Document – to take into the EMD phase.
Following the completion of the TD phase, the Army and Marine Corps plan to hold a full and open completion with the selection of two industry teams for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. The two services were finalizing their acquisition strategy for the EMD phase as of late August 2010.
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 semi-active 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.)
The JLTV will feature A-kit and B-kit scalable armor. The vehicle’s inherent A-kit 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.
The JLTV family is currently slated to include up to 10 different mission configurations in three categories (A, B, and C) – payload of 3,500 pounds, 4,000-4,500 pounds, and 5,100 pounds, respectively – and a companion trailer for each category. The final mission configurations and categories are being assessed.
The three industry TD teams each delivered seven vehicle prototypes in all of the payload configurations – two Category A vehicles, four Category B (two Army and one USMC infantry carrier and a Marine C2OTM variant), and one Category C vehicle (shelter carrier) – and three companion trailers. In October 2010, the teams will each deliver a single Enhanced Protection Category A vehicle with B-kit armor.
Each JLTV variant must be light enough, with integrated B-kit armor, to be transported as an external sling load underneath an Army CH-47 or Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter. In addition, two Category A vehicles, or a single Category B or C vehicle, must fit inside a C-130 transport.
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 have minimized their unique requirements. In cases where one service has a more stringent requirement, the JLTV program has adopted it as the threshold requirement. A good example is the Category A general-purpose vehicle. It is being designed so that its size and weight meet both services’ transportability requirements while maintaining a height that also meets Marine Corps-specific shipboard stowage constraints.
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 60,000 JLTVs and the Marine Corps 5,500; those numbers are subject to change as each service refines its tactical wheeled vehicle strategy.
This article was first published in Marine Corps Outlook: 2010-2011 Edition.