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Move out: 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 humvee's 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.

A number of issues, however, remain to be resolved, explained Rick Ellis, the Corps' interim program manager for motor transport. "The big issue is the weight of the batteries," he said. "We're talking multiple batteries, weighing hundreds of pounds."

Another problem, Ellis said, is reliability. The current hybrid system is complex and difficult to maintain under the unavoidable austere conditions encountered on the battlefield, he said. Another factor is safety, he added, noting that in previous tests, some operators have suffered burns while servicing the engine. "That tends to complicate things."

General Dynamics has made some changes in the hybrid system to correct these flaws, but it is too early to say how well they will succeed, Garza said.

Meanwhile, the Corps also is upgrading its heavier trucks. A seven-ton transport, known as the medium tactical vehicle replacement (MTVR), has taken the place of the old five-ton M809 and M-939 series trucks. In 1998, Oshkosh Truck Corp., of Oshkosh, Wis., won a multi-year contract worth up to $853 million to replace all 7,360 of the five-ton models, which were based on a pre-Korean War design.

"That's been done," Ellis said.

The MTVR can negotiate terrain twice as rough as its predecessors, asserted Paul D. Neubert, the Corps' medium fleet team lead. It was designed to operate 70 percent off road and 30 percent on road, just the reverse of the five-ton models, he said.

The MTVR can carry 7.1 tons of payload cross-country and 15 tons on pavement, Neubert said.

"It can carry cargo, personnel, bulk fuel--you name it--and we can put it on this vehicle," said Maj. Ruth E. Cisneros, MTVR project manager.

The MTVR can traverse grades of 60 percent and side slopes of 30 percent, and it can ford five feet of water. On primary and secondary roads, it can cruise at 65 mph. It has an aluminum cab that folds down under the hood to make it easier to ship.

Although truck convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan usually are escorted by armed combat vehicles, the MTVR can be equipped with a .50-caliber machine gun or an MK19 40 mm grenade launcher for self-defense, Neubert said.

In June, Oshkosh landed another big contract--this one for $740.2 million to replace the Corps' current two decade-old, heavy fleet, called the logistics vehicle system or LVS. Between now and 2012, Oshkosh has agreed to produce up to 1,900 cargo, wrecker and so-called fifth-wheel, trailer-pulling variants of the new transport, known as the logistics vehicle system replacement, or LVSR.

The LVSR is coming just in time, said Mike Everly, team lead for heavy trucks. The current platform, the LVS, is the Marine Corps' sole heavy logistics vehicle. However, he explained: "The LVS fleet is in real bad shape. It's at the end of its economic life."

Like the LVS, the LVSR will be used primarily for moving large amounts of supplies, such as ammunition, fuel, water and heavy equipment. It can carry 33,000 pounds of off-road payload, more than twice that of its predecessor, which also was built by Oshkosh.

The LVSR offers improved survivability, he said. "It's the first vehicle that the Marine Corps has required to have armor as part of its design." The vehicle will be built with mounting points and hardware for add-on armor to reduce the time required to increase protection when needed.

In addition, Everly said, the LVSR includes an in-cab electronic diagnostics system that allows the driver to monitor critical elements, such as engine, transmission, braking, central tire inflation and other components. It simplifies maintenance by using a single lubricant, rather than separate ones for engine oil, transfer case, hydraulics and trans mission, he added.

Another factor that will simplify upkeep is that the LVSR and the MTVR--both made by Oshkosh--share a comprehensive logistics network, common parts and similar maintenance training, Everly said.

While plans for these next-generation vehicles go forward, the Corps' existing trucks--humvees, medium and heavy haulers--are taking a hammering almost on a daily basis from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) especially in Iraq.

Initially, few of the Marines' tactical trucks were armored, the service's commandant, Gen. Michael Hagee, told a gathering of defense writers. "At the beginning of the Iraq war, it was zero," he said. "We come from the sea. We did not see that requirement there."

Since then, the Marines have worked feverishly to provide vehicular armor. All of the service's humvees now have some level of protection, Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command, told a congressional hearing in June.

All of the in-theater 1995-era A2 humvees have been equipped with Marine armor kits, or MAK, Catto said. "The MAK is a modular, bolt-on system that can be installed by Marines of any military occupational specialty," he said. "The MAK system ... offers significantly improved protection against the most prevalent threats, including small arms fire, IEDs and mine blasts up to four pounds of high explosives."

Unlike older humvees, up-armored M-1114s, made by Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group, of Jacksonville, Fla., have built-in mine protection on their floorboards. In addition, doors and rocker panel assemblies are being replaced to provide heavier armor along the vehicles' sides, Catto said.

In May, the Marines completed installation of an MTVR armor system, or MAS, on 874 of those vehicles in Iraq, five months earlier than originally forecast, Catto said.

This armor is a permanent addition to the MTVR, designed to last for the entire 21-year life of the vehicle. Using a Mil-A 46100 high hard steel and metal composite, the kit is intended to withstand small arms fire up to .50 caliber, and IED blasts up to 12 pounds of high explosives. It includes a removable personnel carrier with ballistic glass, air conditioning and a machine gun mount. It provides the driver and passengers with 360-degree, overhead and underbody protection.

"In Iraq, with that armor, the MTVR is the vehicle to be in," said Cisneros. "One troop carrier recently was hit by an IED. It went up in flames, but because of the MAS, the driver and passengers escaped."

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Author:Kennedy, Harold
Publication:National Defense
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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