MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Pentagon will field its new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force, officials said Wednesday.
At the same time, the Marine Corps will equip an infantry battalion with II MEF at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with 69 JLTVs, officials from the JLTV program office said during a demonstration here to show off the U.S. military's robust new vehicle, which will replace about one third of the Humvee fleet.
In August 2015, Oshkosh Corp. beat out Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, and AM General LLC, maker of the Humvee, for a $6.7 billion contract to build the first 17,000 JLTVs for the two services.
- JLTV Needs Bigger Gun, More Seats for Scout Mission: Maneuver Leaders
- Why Oshkosh Won the Army's JLTV Contract in One Chart
- Military.com's Equipment Guide: JLTV
"These were three very capable commercial companies that made some decisions about how to best provide those requirements. The government tested and evaluated them, and eventually we selected what we believe is the very best value for the taxpayer," said Army Col. Shane Fullmer, program manager for the Joint Program Office.
The JLTV will come in two variants -- a two-seat utility version and a four-seat general purpose version. The two-seater has a payload of 5,100 pounds; the four-seater, 3,500 pounds.
The four-seater can be configured into a Heavy Guns Carrier for crew-served weapons such as a .50 caliber machine gun, or a Close Combat Carrier armed with a TOW missile system.
On the test track, program officials demonstrated the JLTV's relatively comfortable ride compared to the Humvee as it negotiated extremely rough terrain and steep, 60-degree grades.
"The Humvee will beat you up so bad," said Peter Klema, a test technician with Oshkosh Defense, who spent 13 years in the Army as a mechanic.
"After eight hours in a Humvee, you feel like you have been eight hours in a Humvee. In this, you feel like you have been driving in your car -- a lot less body fatigue."
The JLTV has a significantly higher profile than the Humvee. The heavy, clamshell-style doors offer front and rear protection when open. Each seat is equipped with a five-point safety harness.
"When we first developed the Humvee many years ago, it had great payload and great performance ... but no protection at all," Fullmer said.
After entering combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, "we realized we needed more side and underbody protection," he said. "We were able to put on pretty proficient side protection, but because the way the Humvee was designed, it was very difficult to give any real, substantial level of underbody protection."
Then came the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, which "gave very, very good side and underbody protection" but did not perform well in off-road conditions, Fullmer said.
The JLTV combines the protection of the MRAP and the maneuverability of the later MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle with the transportability of the Humvee, he said.
The JLTV program could be worth up to $30 billion, as the Army and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of nearly 55,000 of the combat vehicles. The Army plans to field more than 49,000 JLTVs. The Corps originally planned to buy 5,500 JLTVs, but Marine leaders are considering increasing the buy to 9,091 JLTVs, program officials said Wednesday.
Both services will continue to use the Humvee, especially the ambulance variant since there is no ambulance version of the JLTV, Fullmer said.
The Army continues to examine the possibility of an ambulance variant for the JLTV, but armoring the capsule on the back of the vehicle is a challenge because of the extra weight it adds, program officials say.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.