Special Operations Forces Are Down on Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
“We’re concerned that the JLTV program won’t answer the SOF-unique dimension,” Mulholland said April 19 at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s tactical vehicles summit in Alexandria, Va. “As it stands now, it’s just going to be too heavy."
Three industry teams are developing the initial JLTV prototypes, which weigh up to 1,000 pounds more than the desired 15,629-pounds. Marine Corps officials have already expressed similar sentiments about the extra weight.
Special operations forces are concerned about the bulk because they must conduct missions that require speed and long-range reach. USASOC spends $174 million annually on the tactical vehicle fleet, which traditionally has been air transportable. Officials in the past have been able to acquire SOF-specific vehicles that conventional forces typically reject because they are too small and lightweight.
But as budgets become constrained, special operations units expect to rely more on the conventional military services to acquire equipment that fits SOF needs, Mulholland said. “We are increasing that relationship to ensure that our requirements are at least understood and, to the degree possible, built into whatever Army solution emerges,” Mulholland said. “I cannot afford SOF boutique solutions for every requirement I have.” SOF units, for instance, have acquired Humvees and modified them to carry specialized communication and weapon systems.
The Army’s future vehicle priorities, however, are geared more toward protection — heavy armor and V-shaped hulls that deflect roadside bomb blasts. Extra protection drives up weight and cost. But special operations officials are willing to make some trade offs. “In those threat environments where armor protection is required, we’ll use the Army solution,” Mulholland said.
Any Humvee replacement vehicle must be able to accommodate the modifications that SOF units need, he said. Vehicle manufacturers can help by designing trucks with ample space and power supplies to plug in SOF computers, communication equipment and weapons, Mulholland said. The trucks must produce enough onboard power to run the additional systems without compromising energy efficiency.
One of the mainstay requirements of SOF tactical vehicles — air transportability — is still being wrestled with, Mulholland said. “That had been a gold standard, a benchmark that was non-negotiable in years past,” he said. The original SOF ground mobility vehicle, based on a modified Humvee, could fit inside an MH-47 Chinook helicopter, literally, with an inch to spare on either side, he added. But as Humvees were bulked up with armor and other equipment over time, so too have the current GMVs, which no longer fit into an MH-47. “It’s a loss of capability. That’s one less arrow in the quiver,” Mulholland said.