After nearly three decades in military service, it’s time for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, to take a well-deserved retirement.
The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are looking for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) they can use to begin replacing the more than 18,000 Humvees on the government roster. The military wants the replacement process to begin in 2015. While the armed services are looking for vehicles they can use well into the future, they don’t want science-fiction; the emphasis is on mature technologies that are known to stand up to the extreme demands placed on combat vehicles.
While many think the Humvee was a replacement for the jeep, it actually replaced a range of vehicles in the Army’s fleet. The jeep, and the M151 Ford Mutt that replaced it, were small vehicles with less actual capacity than a passenger car. The original Army procurement was for a 1/4-ton, four-wheel-drive reconnaissance vehicle to replace the motorcycle in scouting duties. As its versatility was demonstrated, the jeep was reclassified as “Truck, 1/4-ton, general purpose.” While the Humvee has taken over many of the jeep’s functions, it’s far too big and expensive to be deployed in the same way.
The Humvee is really the modern-day equivalent of the Dodge WC-series trucks built during World War II and the M715 trucks built by Kaiser-Willys and later by AM General. These trucks, with payload capacities from 3/4-ton to 1.5-tons, were built to suit a wide range of applications, just as the Humvee is.
The next-generation of the basic military vehicle is estimated to cost about $260,000 per copy in full fighting trim. That’s a far cry from the $782.59 paid for a jeep back in World War II and four times the price of a base Humvee. On the other hand, the JLTV will resist IEDs, mines and other threats and will be much better-suited to modern, close-quarters combat. With the experience gained in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Humvee has received armor upgrades, but it wasn’t designed for them and the most effective armor packages degrade the Humvee’s performance. The JLTV will offer the maximum troop protection consistent with its mission.
With a contract worth more than $5 billion up for grabs, six of the major players in military vehicles have built evaluation trucks. Up to three companies could be awarded as much as $65 million for the development phase including production of evaluation vehicles. Those awards are expected early next month.
AM General BRV-O: AM General developed the Humvee in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has been building them since 1984. Now, AM General is offering the Blast-Resitant Vehicle-Offroad (BRV-O) with a 3.2-liter, turbocharged six good for 300 hp and 500 pounds-feet of torque.
General Dynamics Eagle: Taking the military’s desire for proven technology at face value, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and AM General have formed General Tactical Vehicles (GTV), a joint venture that is proposing a modified version of the Eagle IV (shown above), which GDLS has supplied to European governments since 2008. Among the Eagle’s customers are the German Army and the Zurich Airport Police. GTV says one of the Eagle’s advantages is that it will come in below the projected per-unit cost.
Oshkosh L-ATV: Oshkosh Defense already supplies various vehicles to the U.S. military. The Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV for short, is a vehicle that Oshkosh Defense developed independently. It includes Oshkosh’s Tak-4i intelligent suspension system and an optional ProPulse diesel-electric hybrid powertrain to improve fuel economy and extend operational range.
Lockheed JLTV: Lockheed was one of teh winners in the first phase of the competition, receiving an Army development contract in late 2008. The Lockheed JLTV uses a V-hull design first developed by military forces in Rhodesia and South Africa to improve its resistance to IEDs.
Navistar Defense Saratoga: Navistar Defense developed the Saratoga on its own. When the Army reopened the competition to all bidders for the second phase, the company said it was “a natural” for the competition. The Saratoga is powered by a MaxxForce 6.0D (the “D” is for “Defense”) six-liter V-8 that produces up to 340 HP and 660 lb-ft of torque, handy for moving a vehicle that weighs 11 tons fully loaded.
BAE Systems Valanx: The BAE Systems, another winner in the initial round, has made some changes in its Valanx, including the addition of a Ford PowerStroke 6.7- liter turbocharged diesel. The company also has brought in Roush Enterprises Inc., parent company of Roush Fenway Racing of NASCAR fame, to consult on engine system integration, and has reworked the design to meet the military’s new, lower weight limits.