Washington: The Army’s fleet of light tactical vehicles is about to get a lot smaller once a service-wide review wraps up.
Army Training and Doctrine Command is fine-tuning a plan to cut a significant number of light armored vehicles and replace them with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, according to an Army official with knowledge of the plan. “Our current today requirement for the light [combat] vehicles for our Army . . . is 144,000. We reducing that and we are reducing that by a good measure,” the official told me.
The plan, known as “Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Reduction Study Three” will be based on a force of 50,000 JLTVs. That force will be supplemented by all-terrain versions of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and upgraded Humvees, the official said. The official couldn’t comment on what the final fleet reduction would end up be since those figures are still being worked by service analysts. But he did note that final number would be significantly smaller than the force in the field today.
The vehicle review was spawned in part by concerns coming from combat commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said. Those concerns centered around the reliability of the Humvee. The iconic combat truck makes up the majority of the light tactical vehicle fleet. Many officers in the field simply refused to take Humvees into combat, the official said. Unit commanders would rather take an all-terrain MRAP “outside the wire” despite being heavier and less mobile than the Humvee. This put the service in a tough spot.
The Army cannot afford to build or buy new MRAPs. The Army has decided to upgrade a limited number of Humvees with more armor to increase troop protection. But those 6,000 or so uparmored trucks will only be used for air assault missions. That leaves a huge gap in the light tactical fleet, the official said. The answer the Army has come up with is the JLTV.
The vehicle provides more protection than the uparmored Humvee but at “one-third” the cost of any MRAP variant in the field today. The 50,000 JLTVs the Army will be the backbone of the tactical fleet. It will be a much smaller fleet than the current 144,000-vehicle force. But the additional capability in those JLTVs will more than make up for the fleet’s smaller size, the official said.
The services dramatically reduced JLTV costs by axing several key features from the combat truck’s design, saving the services over $100,000 per vehicle. The cuts were designed, in part, to soothe tempers on Capitol Hill, which is growing increasingly impatient with the program. House appropriators axed $50 million from the program, while their Senate counterparts opted to kill the JLTV all together. And then, of course, the Marines had made pretty clear they would pull out or greatly reduce their purchase of JLTVs if the program didn’t change substantially.