Marines Seek Upgrades to Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Fleets

By Stew Magnuson
A Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement carries a radar system.

Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Cody Rowe

AUSTIN, Texas — The Marine Corps commandant wants change. And that means the service’s fleets of tactical wheeled vehicles will have to change as well.

“The commandant has made it very clear that the Marine Corps will be combined with the naval force — and be part of the naval force inside contested space,” said Rob Cross, deputy program executive officer for land systems.

Commandant Gen. David Berger in March released a new force structure plan called, “Force Design 2030.”

The Corps currently is optimized for large-scale amphibious forced entry and sustained operations. It has spent the last two decades largely fighting in the Middle East. A shift to the Indo-Pacific region changes equipment requirements. For example, the service wants to eliminate all of its tank battalions. It wants to be lighter, faster, more mobile and return to its roots as a sea service.

As for its tactical wheeled vehicles, “that means less size, less weight and better deployability,” Cross said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Tactical Wheeled Vehicles conference in Austin, Texas.

A force on the go needs better sustainability for its equipment, he added.

The Marines will have more wheeled as opposed to tracked vehicles in their inventory.

Opportunities abound for contractors who can help the service integrate legacy systems onto wheeled trucks, including the relatively new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, he said.

The venerable Humvee will remain in the inventory for the foreseeable future, but the service is carrying out a one-for-one replacement with the JLTV. The Marine Corps will be seeking help from contractors who can help switch payloads from one model to the other. In addition, new technologies — such as ground-based air defense systems — will have to be integrated onto tactical vehicles or their trailers.

“There are going to be big opportunities in those areas,” Cross said.

PEO land systems is following the advice of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts: “pilot, try it out, and if it works, go to scale,” Cross said.

Flat budgets mean the service can’t afford “long, protracted development efforts,” or programs that are high risk, he added.

Andrew Rodgers, program manager for motor transport, said, “We see a lot of modernization as we transition in 2025 to 2030. And modernization costs money.”

Reduced buying power also means the Marine Corps has to leverage its Army and industry partners to integrate new capabilities into the force, he said.

While the Marine Corps does not have as many trucks as the Army, the models it fields are more diverse, Cross noted.

One example is the Utility Task Vehicle manufactured by Polaris. The small, all-terrain trucks are only designed to last five years. The Corps is in the middle of their planned service life, so it is looking to replace all 248 of its UTVs by 2022, said Jennifer Moore, product manager of light tactical vehicles.

The next iteration will be called the Ultra-Light Tactical Vehicle.

Marines are continuing to find more innovative ways of using this two-person vehicle, which she called a “Swiss army knife.” It wasn’t meant for communications or fires, but Marines are “shooting and communicating” from them anyway. The follow-on vehicle requirements are continuing to be refined based on how troops are using the UTV, she said.

On the heavier end of the weight scale is the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement.

That is technically reaching the planned end of its service life, but the system will be extended another 22 years to about 2042, said Lorrie Owens, product manager for medium tactical vehicles.

“The MTVR is a workhorse and it has proven itself to be very effective, very reliable. So based on that, the Marine Corps has decided they will extend the useful life of that vehicle,” she said.

The Corps has about 8,000 of the medium-sized trucks in its inventory including several variants along with their trailers, so there will be opportunities to extend their service lives, she said.

The Marine Corps will be working on an analysis of alternatives to find an “economically viable way for the MTVR to meet its mission for the next 20 years,” she said.

“We don’t really intend to exclude any options moving forward,” she added.

Meanwhile, the service will be divesting itself of its other truck in this weight class, the medium all-terrain vehicle, which was one of the mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) models rushed to the field at the height of the Global War on Terrorism when roadside bombs plagued ground forces.

It has about 460 M-ATVs remaining and plans are to completely lose the rest by the end of fiscal year 2023, she said.

Steve Oatridge, project officer for heavy tactical vehicles, said there are opportunities for contractors to update the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, and its many variants.

The Marine Corps is working with the Army on leader-follower technology, which is designed to automate truck convoys. The Marines have installed some systems on its heavy trucks to experiment with the concept and there may be opportunities for contractors to help out, he said.

But sustainment is at the top of his wish list: “Anything that the civilian side can help us with, to spend less time on the vehicle, less troubleshooting for the Marines, so they can be able to get on a vehicle, figure out what’s wrong and replace the part quickly,” he said.

Another platform that may not last much longer as the Marine Corps transforms is the eight-wheel light armored vehicle, LAV-25, which is used for reconnaissance and was first fielded in the 1980s.

“They’re not strictly looking for a new vehicle that looks like an LAV,” said Cross. The so-called advanced reconnaissance vehicle is not a program of record and not currently in PEO land systems’ portfolio, but he would say that the Marine Corps is looking at how it wants to replace the capability. It won’t necessarily be a straight-up replacement vehicle.

“The Marine Corps is very much in that phase of understanding what’s out there, where the state of the technology is and then providing [leadership] with what the requirements seem to be,” said Cross.

The LAV-25 replacement could be a “family of systems” and might have a mix of manned or unmanned vehicles, he said.

The No. 1 issue the Marine Corps is having with its vehicles — from the ultra-light UTV to the massive LVSR — is corrosion, the program managers all agreed. A return to the maritime domain has meant a return to the harsh elements of seawater, salty air and sand. They are looking for ideas from industry to mitigate rust and other effects of the saltwater environment.

Even the relatively new Utility Task Vehicles are getting rusty as Marines don’t always have the time to hose them down after being in the field, Moore said.

Rodgers added: “What can we do to keep the rust off the vehicles? … We operate around the beaches, which is a very aggressive environment. It is something that is first and foremost in everything we do.”

Cross acknowledged that the future of Marine Corps military trucks is joint.

Critics and reports over the years have questioned why the Army and Marine Corps went their own ways developing the heavy versions of their tactical wheeled vehicles, especially as funding grows tighter for both services.

“It’s one of the [criticisms] that comes up over and over again. And I think the Marine Corps has done very well with the Army coming up with common platforms,” Cross said.

The two services in the 1990s did intend to co-develop a medium tactical wheeled vehicle but their requirements diverged and they went their separate ways.

The MTVR is likely to be the last time the Marine Corps goes it alone, he added.

“The relationship that the Army and the Marine Corps have had in the past 20 years has been nothing but stellar and it has gotten better each and every time,” Cross said.

The Marine Corps leans on the Army when it comes to sustaining Humvees and the two services worked together to develop the MRAP and JLTV.

The latter two programs will be the norm going forward, although Cross noted that with service lives being extended for the Logistics Vehicle

System Replacement and the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement to the 2040s, cooperation on such programs would be a ways off.

“In the tactical vehicle portfolio of the future, I don’t see any other way. I see us partnering with the Army, which will have its own requirements,” Cross said.

Industry looked at the diverse specifications for the Humvee replacement and said it could provide a solution, he noted. The result was the JLTV.

That comment excludes the ultra-light category. The Army and Marine Corps will continue to separately develop their own small utility vehicles, he noted.

Topics: Marine Corps News

Comments (1)

Re: Marines Seek Upgrades to Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Fleets

I only partially agree with the USMC's future assessment in that it seems to reflect an outlook for a Second or even a Third World amphibious army that can't seem to buy and obtain what it wants and needs. I mean, am I reading this article's news correctly?

The USA is no stranger to making new commercial trucks...I mean that is what the USA does and there is no shortage of commercial truck makers in America that can replace the MTVR. SLEPing MTVRs to 2042 seems a bit silly. I mean that AAV7P sank off the California coast, killing eight Marines, because perhaps it was too old and worn. There comes a time when the baseline system needs to be replaced, no matter how many SLEPs. The Polar Star icebreaker is a classic example...44-years old and SLEPed to keep the screws turning until a 2027. Yow!
I don't agree with wheels vs. tracks. I think that the NUMBER ONE most important future USMC buy will be the Textron M5 RIPSAW with 30mm cannon and that is tracked. That is #1 "Must Buy."

Trailers have usually had tough times crossing soft sand and mud...trailers are horrible at carrying weapons operating systems. The Patriot PAC-3 can't even move out of stationary position or rotate its launch boxes. The best bet would be to use the M5 RIPSAW chassis for operating Air Defense and other weapons systems instead of a single-axle two-wheel trailer towed by a JLTV.

The problem with the USMC's Force Design 2030's approach of using 4x4 tactical trucks is that they usually carry .50cal, 7.62mm, or TOWs...the same firepower as in the 1980s! One can up-arm them with Javelin ATGMs and 30mm, but how many JLTVs will receive those dual or triple-weapon turrets? And then how about reloading them? The gunner has to pop the roof hatch and expose the head and body to reload heavy boxes of ammo instead of doing this under the cover of armor protection inside a turret.

Ostensibly, this is all in its infancy, and the USMC has ten years to plan something solid and substantial.

Tiberium at 7:32 PM
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