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Armored Cars: Oshkosh JLTV

December 28, 2016


Rather than settle for improved Humvees–or a foreign equivalent–the US Army and Marine Corps are betting on a modular truck that may soon be rolling across five continents. The Oshkosh JLTV emerged the winner in a three-way competition to find the US military’s next all-terrain 4×4 workhorse.

In retrospect the Oshkosh JLTV was the safest choice against the contenders from Lockheed Martin and AM General. The secret to Oshkosh’s winning model is it being a lighter variant (L-ATV) of the proven M-ATV MRAP. This made it a perfect fit for the JLTV program that was first approved in late 2006 and launched the following year. The JLTV competition began in earnest on August 22, 2012, and was decided on August 25, 2015 with Oshkosh the clear winner.

The Oshkosh JLTV features a conventional layout married to some very impressive capabilities. It’s recognizable for an enlarged box-shaped cab, a distinctive grille, and its towering ground clearance. There’s also a rectangular module behind the vehicle to allow different “mission configurations.”

As a high profile acquisition from a major defense contractor years of publicity and marketing made the Oshkosh JLTV easy to scrutinize. US-based car media were given ready access to the vehicle portrayed as the definitive Humvee replacement. There are, however, a few gaps in the JLTV’s public record. At first, Oshkosh didn’t specify its engine type but it was later revealed to be a General Motors Duramax V-8 producing 397 horsepower.

What is certain about the JLTV are its bells and whistles alongside what a cool truck it is. When it comes to mobility the JLTV is designed for both airlift and long haul travel. Weighing 7.8 tons the vehicle is suited for transport via Chinook or even CH-53 helicopters. It can navigate rough terrain with ease and dash across six feet of water without preparation.

The JLTV is designed to get hurt too. It’s drivable in soaring desert temperatures, high altitude environments, and extreme sub-zero climes. Oshkosh have even leaked its remarkable paint solution: Polyfibroblast. When scratched, bumped, and wrecked, a molecular coating keeps the vehicle’s steel shell safe from corrosion.

Oshkosh made sure its bestselling platform’s attractiveness was enhanced by specific brand names. Under the trademarked “TAK-4i” suite the JLTV is alleged to be 70% faster than other tactical vehicles. Its “intelligent suspension system” allows the driver to adjust the vehicle’s ground clearance by either raising or lowering them depending on the terrain. Oshkosh also insists on a “high performance brake system” and the JLTV being better than the rest.

Another marketing thrust is “Core1080” that’s supposed to convince operators the vehicle is well-protected. Oshkosh doesn’t specify the armor level of its JLTV but the product literature reveals blast-resistant seats and “Net Ready” architecture. This means a roof hatch for mounting weapon systems; a small AC/DC power unit behind the cab; anti-IED jammers,; GPS navigation; HF, VHF, UHF, and SATCOM radios with “smart displays”; front and rear mounted cameras and shot detectors with enabled infrared and night vision optics.

The US Army and Marine Corps expect two basic models of the Oshkosh JLTV. These are the four-seater with an enclosed bed, a modular platform with at least three configurations, and a two-seater pickup truck.

Even if it has yet to see any combat the JLTV has brilliant prospects in the short-term. Thanks to its low-rate production (in light of a protest filed by Lockheed Martin) a sizable batch of 16,901 vehicles worth $6.7 billion will have entered service by 2023 before full-rate production commences. This gives it an edge over armored cars emerging from Africa and the Middle East as its quantity enhances its quality.

The JLTV has a few more advantages. Beyond its protective features, as with the Humvee, a growing range of weapons are compatible with it. Aside from the standard M2 Browning the US Army want to convert the basic four-seat JLTV into a recce vehicle armed with a 30mm cannon. It’s not far-fetched imagining a mortar, SAMs, or a light howitzer stuck on the JLTV in the near future. Its ultimate edge, however, is an obvious one: The US military is its biggest customer.

If the JLTV should remain in continuous production the US Army expects 54,408 in the next 20 years plus thousands more for export under the foreign military sales (FMS) regime. The sum of these positives leads to a very obvious verdict–the JLTV is a certified hit.