Magazine article National Defense

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Magazine article National Defense

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Article excerpt

Marines step up efforts to modernize truck fleets

The Marine Corps' initiative to restore and upgrade its aging and combat-battered fleets of tactical trucks from relatively lightweight humvees to heavy-duty cargo haulers - appears to be picking up speed. In October, the Office of Naval Research plans to award contracts worth as much as $2.5 million for conceptual designs for a family of joint light tactical vehicles (JLTV) that the Marines and the Army would like to have to replace the thin-skinned, 20-year-old humvee.

The humvee - more formally known as the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or HMMWV - is the agile, all-terrain military truck, made by AM General of South Bend, Ind., that the military services chose in the mid-1980s to supplant the World War II-era jeep.

The humvee, however, is reaching the end of its service life. Moreover, it was never designed to withstand roadside bombs. The services are rushing to provide armor protection, but the added weight diminishes the humvees payload and mobility.

As envisioned, the JLTV will "address all of the shortcomings that have been identified in the humvee," said Lt. Col. Ben Garza, vehicle project manager at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. "This vehicle will provide increased force protection, survivability and improved capacity."

The JLTV will include five variants, Garza told National Defense:

* A six-passenger combat tactical vehicle to move mounted and armed troops swiftly around rough terrain.

* A reconnaissance platform to conduct long-range missions into enemy territory without being detected.

* A larger carrier able to handle to up to nine members of a light infantry squad.

* A command-and-control version to carry a unit commander, communications specialists and their equipment.

* A utility truck to transport everything from light weapons to casualties and supplies.

The JLTV would be designed with factory-built armor, but would accommodate additional protection that could be installed and removed in the field, as needed. Each of the variants would come with a compatible trailer and be able to tow up to 10,000 pounds both on roads and cross-country.

The Marines tentatively plan for the JLTV program to enter the system development and demonstration phase - when prototypes will be developed and testing begun - in 2008, Garza said. Fielding is not likely before 2012.

The JLTV is being developed separately from the Corps' planned internally transportable vehicle (ITV) and the reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting vehicle (RST-V).

In 2005, the Marines received the first prototypes of the ITV, which is being developed by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and its subcontractor, American Growler, of Ocala, Fla., under a 2004 contract worth up to $296 million. Part of the new expeditionary fire support system, the ITV is intended to transport up to four Marines, mount heavy machine guns and tow a 120 mm mortar. It is being designed to fit inside the CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy transport helicopter and the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which neither the humvee nor the JLTV can do. Both the Osprey and the ITV are scheduled to begin deployment in 2007.

The Marines are testing the latest version of the RST-V at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. It is being developed for the Corps, the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency by General Dynamics Land Systems, of Sterling Heights, Mich., under a $22 million, 1999 advanced technology demonstrator contract.

It has a mission similar to the reconnaissance variant of the JLTV, and like the ITV, it is to be transported in the Osprey. Unlike the other two, however, the RST-V is to be powered by a hybrid electric-drive system that would allow it to be propelled by diesel, batteries or a combination of the two.

The idea is for the RST-V to be able to operate frequently with a mixture of diesel electric and battery power in order to conserve fuel and, for brief periods, to function using only stored battery energy, enabling it to move stealthily behind enemy lines. …

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