A custom-built truck cab, to be installed on Army and Marine Corps
prototype artillery launchers, will serve as a test bed for determining
whether it is possible to protect military crews against rocket
launch debris and toxic fumes without adding excessive weight to
This wheeled artillery platform, called the high-mobility artillery
rocket system (HIMARS), is touted by Army and Marine Corps officials
as an ideal weapon system for expeditionary forces who need to deploy
on short notice and cannot afford to bring along heavy artillery.
HIMARS has been in development for four years, but it is now gaining
high-level attention because the Army is emphasizing the use of
weapon platforms that are C-130 transportable. The HIMARS is based
on a 5-ton truck chassis, which means it can fit on a C-130 medium-lift
The HIMARS cab is a modified version of the basic truck steel cab
used in the Army’s family of medium tactical vehicles (FMTV).
Unlike the basic cab, it has special linings and reinforcements,
designed to protect HIMARS crews from shrapnel, fumes and other
hazards involved in launch operations. This platform fires both
rockets and missiles.
The Army is buying eight HIMARS prototypes with the new cab. Two
of them will be used by the Marine Corps, which recently joined
the program. Four existing prototypes, which do not have the new
cab, have been tested during the past two years—three of them
at Fort Bragg, with the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps. The fourth
is used as an engineering test bed by the HIMARS prime contractor,
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, in Dallas.
Lockheed Martin is using FMTV chassis made by Stewart & Stevenson
Tactical Vehicle Systems, in Sealy, Texas. The cab work was subcontracted
to O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, in Fairfield, Ohio. The company
makes customized military and civilian armored trucks.
At O’Gara, the cab is stripped down to the bare shill and
is rebuilt and lined with a lightweight synthetic armor material.
The armored lining also replaces some of the windows. A set of louvers
is installed over the windshield, for flash protection. The crew
must close the louvers before munitions are fired. Otherwise, their
eyes would be damaged by the glare, which is comparable to a welder’s
torch, said Earl Young, program manager for HIMARS at Lockheed Martin.
A special poly-carbonate laminated glass is used for the windshield
The cab must be sealed completely, said Young in an interview.
That means every joint, nook and crevice is covered. A central air-filtration
unit, installed within the cab, pulls air from the outside and discharges
it into the cab with such strength that the air pressure within
the cab is higher than the air pressure outside the cab. That is
how toxic gases are prevented from entering the cab, Young explained.
“As long as sufficient air pressure is kept inside the cab,
the crew can fire rockets without having to wear gas masks.”
The Army uses similar air filtration systems in the upgraded Bradley
infantry vehicles and the tracked MLRS (multiple launch rocket system).
The HIMARS cab also has to be re-arranged inside, to accommodate
the communications and computer equipment that is needed to launch
weapons. A commander’s hatch, additionally, is installed in
the roof of the cab. When the launcher is moving or is in a defensive
position, that hatch can be opened and the commander can occupy
a seat mounted over the vehicle’s engine cowling. The basic
cab only has two seats. HIMARS crews include a commander, a driver
and a gunner.
The rationale for building a new cab, said Young, was to determine
whether these customized pieces can be manufactured efficiently,
while meeting the Army’s requirements. “The emphasis
for the new cabs is to come up with processes that are repeatable,
so that every cab will be alike and, when fielded, can be expected
to last 15-20 years without major repairs.”
Obviously, it will be difficult to predict how these cabs will
age during a 36-month development program, said Young. But a more
important issue, he added, is to determine that the cab can be manufactured
and that its weight can be lowered, compared to the existing HIMARS
prototypes. “The original prototypes are quite heavy”
and were built largely with commercial materials.
The vehicles with the new cabs will be tested for ruggedness and
sturdiness, said Young. “We will shake them, strike them with
lightning, fire [weapons] from them. We’ll have instruments
all over the cab to predict load, shock and vibration. We’ll
make sure toxic gas doesn’t get in. Then we can certify the
cab is acceptable for a crew.”
The protection offered by the HIMARS cab is not ballistic protection,
even though many of the materials used are the same as in bullet-proof
systems, explained Wayne Robbins, director of the HIMARS program
at O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt.
Robbins believes that the HIMARS cab program could lead to a much
bigger project, in the future, to equip all FMTV trucks with armored
cabs that would protect crews from assault rifle rounds and landmines.
Hartwell Champagne, program manager of engineering and sales at
Stewart & Stevenson, cited armored cabs as one area that truck
manufacturers should emphasize. “You are going to have more
peacekeeping missions, where crews will be more isolated in deployments.
Trucks are going to be more isolated,” he said in an interview.
Ideally, he said, trucks should provide protection against rifle
grenades, sniper bullets and landmines. “You’ll see
an attempt to come up with armored cabs that have anti-mine protection.
We are working that with several armor makers.”
The Army is trying to decide whether it can afford the cost and
the weight of adding armor to FMTV trucks. To address the weight
problem, Robbins suggested that there are ways that the Army could
take advantage of the technology in the HIMARS cab and still keep
the weight down. The louvers, for example, could be removed. The
weight saved could then be transferred to the windshield glass to
make it bullet-proof. The metal flash-protection devices on the
doors also could be removed.
Even though the HIMARS cab has a low level of ballistic protection,
it contains the same materials O’Gara uses in armored commercial
and military vehicles. In the HIMARS program, said Robbins, “weight
is a critical factor. We have to watch everything we put in the
cab. We use aluminum when we would use steel otherwise.” The
cab is lined with DuPont’s newest form of Kevlar, called Impak.
A stripped-down FMTV cab gains about 1,000 pounds when it’s
customized for HIMARS. Among the items that add to the weight are
fire extinguishers, radio racks and storage compartments, said Robbins.
“A lot of that is not just protection, but other equipment
as well.” More weight would have to be added, in order to
turn it into a ballistic cab.
HIMARS lost 350 pounds just by having the spare tire removed, Young
noted. The weight was not just the tire, but also the hydraulic
lift used to move the tire to the rear of the truck. Lockheed Martin
suggested that the HIMARS launcher could get by without a spare
tire because it is deployed with two 5-ton resupply trucks, which
have spare tires. The truck has a central tire inflation system,
so it takes a lot of damage before a spare is needed. “All
that considered,” Young said, “we thought it would be
all right if we didn’t have a spare immediately available
on the launcher.”
The first mock-up of the new HIMARS cab was delivered last June
to Lockheed Martin. The next one will be shipped in late February
or early March, Robbins said.
Rick Vallario, manager of business development at Lockheed Martin,
said the company plans to complete the first HIMARS “maturation”
launchers by September. Under the current contract, he said, “we
will do eight: six for the Army, two for the Marine Corps. This
is for the maturation program only.”
It is not certain, however, that the O’Gara cab will be kept
beyond the current phase of the program. “There is a possibility
that the cabs will change as the program progresses,” said
Vallario. The current HIMARS program is scheduled to produce 363
Industry sources speculated, however, that the HIMARS fleet could
grow to 1,000 vehicles, given the high-level of interest in the
program by the Marine Corps and the Army’s top leadership.
Two artillery battalions would be fielded by 2005.
The Army also is looking at HIMARS as a possible platform for the
new medium brigades, which are rapid-response units currently in
HIMARS, like the MLRS, was not conceived as a brigade asset, but
as general support corps systems that could be allocated to brigades.
The medium brigades, however, will have towed 155 mm howitzers.
But Vallario does not expect HIMARS to become a substitute for howitzers.
The howitzers, he said, are more suited in direct support role for
close fires. Most howitzers have a range between 20-30 km. HIMARS,
with guided rockets, will have a 60 km range. Equipped with tactical
missiles, the range goes up to 150-300 km. “The types of missions
are different,” he said. “HIMARS is not a replacement,
but a complement to cannon artillery fires.”