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Marines seek 'combat tactical vehicle' to replace Humvees.

The Marine Corps intends to replace its fleet of more than 20,000 Humvee trucks with larger, sturdier vehicles that are better suited to the rigors of combat, officials said.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, recently directed a group of officers at MCCDC to begin drafting technical and performance requirements for a "combat tactical vehicle" that ultimately could replace the Humvee. The team, led by Col. Clarke Lethin, will present proposed concepts to the Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council in December. The MROC has the final authority for approval of new weapon systems before they get evaluated by the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

The Marine Corps expects to allocate funds for this new vehicle in fiscal year 2008, Lethin said in an interview. The program eventually may be merged with the Army's Future Tactical Truck System, which also is seeking a replacement vehicle for the Humvee.

The Humvee has served the Marine Corps well, but recent conflicts have spotlighted its limitations, Lethin said. "The Humvee was designed as a utility truck for Cold War era, not as a vehicle for combat or direct combat ... We want something that is much better than the Humvee in protection and capability."

During the past three years, the Marine Corps and the Army have scrambled to upgrade their Humvees with armor protection, in response to the suicide bombers and buried roadside explosives that haunt U.S. troops in Iraq. The added armor, however, has degraded the Humvee's mobility and payload, Lethin said. "Even with an upgraded engine and suspension, we are not getting the payload and capacity we need."

A replacement "combat tactical vehicle" will need to be large enough to seat six passengers and accommodate their gear, he said. By comparison, the Humvee fits four people and its limited space often gets crammed with radios and other hardware.

The Marines will follow a similar approach to the Army's armoring strategy, which calls for trucks to be manufactured with some level of armor protection (the 'A' kit) and will be equipped to handle additional armor (the 'B' kit) if needed.

The six-passenger truck would be accompanied by smaller "utility" variants for two or four passengers, Lethin said. The Corps set a price threshold of $200,000 per truck for the six-passenger variant.

Marine vehicle developers will have an opportunity to evaluate trucks next summer, when the Army will host an industry "rodeo" event where pre-approved vendors will bring their products and demonstrate them.

"We told the Army we want a six-passenger vehicle to participate in that rodeo," said Lethin. Other technologies of interest to the Marine Corps are fuel-efficient engines, he added.

Under a separate program, meanwhile, the Marine Corps is testing a light truck, known as the "internally transportable vehicle." The ITV specifically is intended to fly aboard MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

The Corps recently awarded a contract to General Dynamics Corporation to produce a towed mortar, known as the "expeditionary fire support system" that will be towed by the ITV. The truck is made by American Growler, and was designed with remanufactured M151 Jeep parts, according to an industry source. "It's a poor man's Humvee," he said.

The Marines are buying 60 systems, which are undergoing technical evaluations at the Nevada Automotive Test Center.

The EFSS is a 120 mm rifled mortar used by French Army. The U.S. Army, conversely, has smoothbore, not rifled mortars. The ITV has to tow the mortar and carry the ammo.
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Title Annotation:UPFRONT
Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:582
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