Magazine article National Defense

Heavy-Duty Hauler Pushes Limits of Truck Technology

Magazine article National Defense

Heavy-Duty Hauler Pushes Limits of Truck Technology

Article excerpt

The Marine Corps is expected to buy more than 1,000 heavy trucks to replace its aging fleet of battlefield resupply vehicles. Industry officials await a formal solicitation, scheduled to be released this month.

The program, called the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, has been funded in the Marine Corps' fiscal 2003 budget. The spending plan includes nearly $25 million between 2003 and 2005. The Corps would like to have the LVSR truck in the fleet by 2007. Up to 1,200 vehicles could be purchased.

The LVSR is a heavy tactical transport vehicle for bulk liquids, ammunition, ISO containers up to 20 feet in length, tactical bridges and bulk cargo. This vehicle also would perform wrecker and recovery duties and tow semi-trailers carrying heavy-oversized equipment.

The Marines already have an LVSR prototype, which they call a "technology demonstrator," but they will not expect the final vehicle to look exactly like the demonstrator, said Lt. Col. Tom Manley, who manages tactical wheeled vehicle programs at the Marine Corps Systems Command.

The demonstrator is an existing LVS, upgraded with advanced technologies from the commercial trucking and automotive industry. The vehicle was built and tested at the Nevada Automotive Test Center and recently relocated to the Quantico Marine base, in Virginia, for more testing.

The contractors competing for the LVSR program will receive "performance specifications," but will not be instructed on how to build the vehicle, Manley told National Defense. "The technology demonstrator only shows the realm of the possible. It does not mean the vehicle has to look exactly like the demonstrator."

Only a year ago, the LVSR program was in budgetary limbo. But in recent months, it appears that delays in the Marine Corps' V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and next-generation amphibious vehicle programs freed up dollars for LVSR, said an industry source. Truck manufacturers are speculating that, if the program gets going this year, production could begin in 2005, with orders of up to 120 vehicles per year.

The Corps eventually will retire 1,800 LVS vehicles, but will buy fewer replacements, because they are more capable, officials said.

Engineers and industry executives who are familiar with the LVSR demonstrator hail this vehicle as the epitome for how military trucks should be built.

"The Marines are leading the way in military trucks," because they pick and choose from the most advanced technology available in the automotive sector, said an industry source. Unlike the other military services, he said, "they do business with less bureaucracy." When it comes to tactical trucks, he added, "The Marines have upstaged the Army."

One of the engineers who helped design the LVSR demonstrator is Goef Schmitz, president of Island City Engineering, in Schofield, Wis.

Even though the LVSR prototype includes commercial components--such as the engine and the transmission--its performance requirements are "very stringent," compared to non-military vehicles, he said. To make it externally transportable by CH-53E helicopter, for example, "you have to break the truck into two parts, so it disconnects in the center," Schmitz said. The vehicle has an autonomous front-power unit.

When taken apart, the LVSR front section becomes a two-axle truck. Either side has to weigh no more than 28,000 pounds to be transportable.

The Marines also have a strict turning-circle requirement, because the trucks must operate on ships. The existing LVS has a hinge in the center, but that is a complex setup, which has created stability problems, said Schmitz. The LVSR has four additional steering axles and multi-axle steering, which allows it to make a turning circle and a three-point turn on a ship deck.

One feature that the Marines appreciate in the LVSR is the off-road mobility, he said. Even though it's twice the size of the Marine medium truck, called the MTVR, the LVSR could operate in the same environment and has the same independent suspension as the MTVR, which is made by Oshkosh Truck Corp. …

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