Magazine article National Defense

Marine Corps Faces Gap in Ground Tactical Vehicles

Magazine article National Defense

Marine Corps Faces Gap in Ground Tactical Vehicles

Article excerpt

The Marine Corps is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to recapitalizing its tactical vehicle fleet.

Officials say the Corps needs billions of dollars to repair and replace battle-worn vehicles and to modernize its fleet with humvee-like trucks with V-shaped hulls to offer better protection from roadside bombs. Not only is funding hard to come by, but also the technology that officials are banking on to replace the outdated humvee is not yet ready.

The joint light tactical vehicle, or JLTV, has been the service's choice to replace the 25-year old humvee. Originally conceived as a 13,000-pound vehicle that could be picked up by a heavy lift helicopter, the JLTV would have a V-shaped hull, like those found on the 14-plus-ton mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) trucks.

The Marine Corps was hoping for ceramic armor and a host of other advancements that would give personnel encapsulated vehicles with increased mobility and protection. But the technology is still in its infancy and too heavy, which means that the service is facing a gap in its vehicle fleet.

"We have a dilemma within the Marine Corps about what are we going to do," Gen. James Amos, assistant commandant, testified before a joint meeting of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness, air, land and sea forces and seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittees in December. "Will we continue to recapitalize and reset with more humvees? Or are we going to try to find an interim vehicle with a V-shaped hull that might not be a JLTV yet ... That's what we're struggling with right now."

Companies have produced prototypes to compete for the JLTV program. But Amos said the proposed vehicles do not meet the Corps' needs in bomb resistance or weight. "They're 23,000 to 24,000 pounds, which the Marine Corps is not interested in because those are too heavy to go on ships," he said. "We just can't do that."

The humvee will likely remain a "staple for the forces," he added. But the service also is looking at an alternative, in the form of a redesigned humvee with a capsule V-shaped hull, Amos said.

The Marine Corps in the latter half of 2009 determined that MRAPs, which were rapidly developed and rushed to the war zones, will have a place in its ground tactical vehicle strategy, said Amos. "There was a time when we thought it was too big and too heavy for us and just didn't fit our expeditionary flavor. We've come full circle right now," he said. "Our anticipation is we'll have 2,346 of these rascals that are going to become part of our regular inventory."

The behemoth vehicles, however, are much too large to maneuver in some areas of Afghanistan. That is why the service requested MRAP-all terrain vehicles--smaller, compact MRAPs with independent suspensions that are better suited to maneuver in the off-road environment that marines are encountering there.

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Before President Obama last fall ordered the additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to support his new strategy, the Corps had been pulling out its equipment from Iraq to ship it back to the United States for refurbishment, he told the panel. About 22 percent of the equipment was instead diverted to support the 10,600 marines already in Afghanistan. …

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