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The U.S. Army's New Joint Light Tactical Vehicle: A Game Changer?

The Army is now vigorously testing its new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle for possible combat missions in 2020 to include sling-loading the vehicle beneath a Chinook helicopter to increase battlefield maneuverability, service officials said.

Current JLTV "test sites" are immersed in preparations of the vehicle for combat as key steps toward fielding the First Unit Equipped by 2019, Army officials told Scout Warrior.

Part of the ongoing testing is aimed at finalizing preparations to air-transport the vehicle behind enemy lines if need be; the JLTV is configured to travel with a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, C-130 fixed wing aircraft or CH-53.

Part of this ongoing testing process also involves conducting what the Army calls Modified Table of Organization and Equipment, or MOTE, later this year, he added. This process is designed to ensure weapons, sensors and other key technologies are properly developed and integrated onto the next-gen combat vehicle.  

Having the new vehicle able to transport beneath a cargo helicopter is essential to the Army's Mounted Vertical Maneuver concept of operations aimed at allowing combat assets to change positions in mountainous or difficult terrain where ground passage is not possible. This kind of battlefield technology could be essential in both counterinsurgency operations such as those in Afghanistan - or major mechanized force on force combat in areas where combat environment challenge ground transport. While the JLTV is, of course, engineered for off-road travel, Mounted Vehicle Maneuver also brings the advantage of avoiding or moving through higher-threat areas; part of the concept of MTM includes an operational ability to transport infantry, supplies and weapons behind enemy lines, Army officials explain.

The Army's new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles -- the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.

As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, former Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics & Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.

In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.

Some of these preparations involve the potential "up-gunning" of the vehicle with a more lethal 30mm chain gun such as the one currently on the Apache attack helicopter.

A total of about 100 of the JLTV "production vehicles" will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles are performing some of this maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country.

In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said.

The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.

"It's on schedule," Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. "It's doing everything we ever expected it to. It's just incredible."

JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

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