The United States and its allies have made excellent use of the AM General HUMVEE (High Mobility, Multipurpose Vehicle) since it was introduced in 1985. Nearly 300,000 of the type in various forms have been produced including an "up-armored" derivative, anti-aircraft platform, an anti-tank vehicle, and many special-mission variants. However, the vehicle was designed at a time when the United States Army and Marines faced a threat of war with the Soviet Union and its origins lay in that period of thinking and its associated battlefield doctrines. With the recent combat exposure in Afghanistan and Iraq, a change was in order and a replacement for this proud vehicle ultimately sought once the fighting had died down. The modern battlefield now presented all-new threats to the infantryman - Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and more guerilla-style warfare in the urban environment, a far cry from the days the American military would have moved on Soviet forces across the expanse of the European countryside and battled through its many villages.
In November of 2006, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) was enacted to find a suitable addition to, or direct replacement of, the classic HUMVEE. The general design concepts were finalized before the end of 2007 and a Request For Proposal (RFP) went out to interested parties for early 2008. The contract would prove quite lucrative to the winner, estimated in the billions (USD) , such has been the proliferation of the HUMVEE line in American service. The winner would be taken on by both the U.S. Army and USMC services hence the program's designation of "Joint" Light Tactical Vehicle. Additionally, this sort of endorsement would no doubt lead to foreign sales in the tens of thousands in time.
The design of the upcoming vehicle would have to fulfill various set requirements for American military service. A primary feature would be air-transportability in both existing and future aircraft so the vehicle would have to conform to certain dimensions as well as meet weight limits. Crew survivability would have to be enhanced to existing mine and IED levels based on combat experience against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some creature comforts would be needed such as air conditioning and cooling and an onboard diagnostic "smart" computer system would be able to interpret any issues to the operating crew and mechanics. A hitch at the rear of the chassis would allow for the hauling of artillery pieces and supply trailers as needed. The finalized vehicle should also adhere to the Army's "Long-Term Armor Strategy" (LTAS) plan already in place.
The original participants included several joint ventures in Boeing/Textron, General Dynamics/AM General, Fore Protection/DRS, Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh, Lockheed/BAe Systems, and Raytheon/Blackwater. This crop was eventually reduced to Lockheed, General Tactical Vehicles and BAe Systems and prototypes were submitted by each vendor to serve as technology demonstrators. Army requirements were changed which evolved the JLTV program further, now incorporating players in AM General and Oshkosh. Oshkosh's entry was its L-ATV model which debuted in 2011.
In 2012 Lockheed, Oshkosh and AM General were selected to further their submissions to which a rigorous evaluation phase followed. Final proposals were granted in late 2014 and, On August 25th, 2015, it was announced that the Oshkosh JLTV was the winner of the U.S. Army's competition, marking the beginning of the end for the HUMVEE in American military service. Some twenty-two prototypes made up final testing which spanned fourteen months. Nearly 17,000 units will meet the first major production order with manufacture scheduled to begin in 2016. The contract is worth $6.7 billion USD, making it a substantial victory for the Wisconsin-based concern. The Army hopes to have its first operational JLTV groups in place during 2018.
The JLTV utilizes a basic 4x4 wheeled configuration offering excellent ground clearance and cross-country travel support. The engine is set in a forward compartment as normal with the driving position at front-left. The crew cabin is a module featuring bullet-resistant windows as well as armored doors. The roof can seat a Remote Weapon Station (RWS) or a manned, traversable gun turret with appropriate shielding from all sides (including overhead). Additionally, the turret can mount tube-launched Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) and "bunker buster" weapons. The rear of the vehicle is open to serve mission needs. As with other MRAP vehicles, the JLTV features mine-resistance features which are intended to reduce the harm caused to vehicle occupants when driving over a mine or past a hidden explosive device. The armor also protects against small arms fire and 4 x smoke grenade dischargers will provide a self-screening ability.
Other features include an integrated AC/DC power supply box, an Electronic Warfare (EW) suite, full GPS support for navigation, available SATCOM, HF, UHF and VHF, and an onboard crew communications system and computer. Situational awareness is heightened by the included services of the "Silent Watch" unit, IR cameras, long range surveillance capability and a shot detection system. An Automatic Fire Suppression System (AFSS) will provide point-recovery for the vehicle should a direct hit spark an onboard fire and endanger the injured or unconscious crew.
A diesel engine unit will power the line, providing road speeds up to 70 miles per hour and operational ranges out to 300 miles. The "TAK-4i" represents the adaptable intelligent independent suspension system offering variable ride comfort depending on the terrain traversed - it can raise or lower the vehicle on-the-fly.
The Oshkosh JLTV may very well be a welcomed addition to the Army and USMC ranks, particularly in light of the limitations showcased by the HUMVEE family of vehicles through recent combat experience. At any rate, the Oshkosh product represents an evolution of the American armed services and a new generation of light armored vehicles to keep pace with ongoing mission commitments all over the world - covering various hotspots, services, operations and threats.