The Common Tactical Truck: Military-Grade Heavy Metal

The Common Tactical Truck.
The Common Tactical Truck. (Photo courtesy of GM Defense)

The U.S. Army is eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’. The military’s fleet of tactical trucks is in its sunset years, though, and the same trucks that brought service members into Iraq and Afghanistan more than 20 years ago aren’t going to remain competitive forever.

Take a peek inside GM Defense and American Rheinmetall to see what’s up for grabs if the Army wants it. The Common Tactical Truck (HX3 CTT) doesn’t just offer pistons like paint cans and a turbo that could swallow a softball; it’s full of cutting-edge technology that promises to give Army logistics units a massive upper hand in combat.

Modern Battlefields Require Modern Logistics

Is the M915’s era coming to an end?
Is the M915’s era coming to an end? (Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/U.S. Air Force photo)

Remember the old proverb about horseshoe nails? It reminds us that something as trivial as a missing nail can cause total military defeat. It’s been taught for centuries because it’s true. You can have all the technology and weapons you want, but if you can’t maintain them, you can’t use them.

Nobody understands this better than logisticians, especially military ones. Having the latest and greatest military vehicles is only an advantage if they work.

Fuel economy is another challenge. You might not care about saving the polar bears while you’re getting shot at, but every mile you can squeeze out of a gallon of fuel is a mile you can cover in hostile territory.

We’ve seen how quickly a battlespace can evolve. In the span of about a year, fighting in Ukraine went from World War II-style tank warfare to World War I-style trench warfare to drone warfare on a level we’ve never seen before. Change comes at you fast, and you’d better adapt faster than your enemy. You can only do that if you have the supply chain to make it possible.

The winning side is typically the one with superior supply lines. If you want better supply lines, you need better trucks. That’s why the Army is pursuing the Common Tactical Truck program.

Out with the Old, in with the New

I’m not saying the Army is openly trying to build Optimus Prime, but they’re clearly not against it.
I’m not saying the Army is openly trying to build Optimus Prime, but they’re clearly not against it. (U.S. Army photo)

To keep pace with ever-changing demands, Army leadership is seeking out a new tactical truck that can handle modern logistical challenges.

The CTT platform covers multiple roles. According to the Army’s prototyping agreement, whichever truck wins the contract will have to come in three variants that replace the M915, M1088, and Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (otherwise known as the Wrecker).

The M915 is a road-going tractor that’s very similar to the ones you see all over America’s highways. It’s powerful but limited to paved roads. The middleweight M1088 is smaller, but its off-road capability makes it much better at delivering supplies to forward units. The HEMTT is a beast worthy of the Wrecker name. It combines the strengths of the M915 and M1088, but there’s a tradeoff -- it’s positively massive.

Replacing all three with one truck is a tall order.

Who Will Build the Army’s Common Tactical Truck?

The Common Tactical Truck fills many of the Army’s needs.
The Common Tactical Truck fills many of the Army’s needs. (GM Defense)

The CTT program is currently a four-way competition between GM Defense/American Rheinmetall, Mack, Navistar and Oshkosh for the Army’s business, according to National Defense.

Lately, the Army has done a lot of new car shopping at GM Defense. That’s the same manufacturer that brought us the Infantry Squad Vehicle and an armored SUV that’s heading to American embassies around the world.

To create the HX3 CTT, GM Defense partnered with American Rheinmetall, a company that looks like something out of Iron Man’s Stark Industries.

“Through the use of proven commercial technologies and world-class manufacturing, American Rheinmetall Vehicles and GM Defense plan to deliver the HX Common Tactical Truck to include advanced safety features, autonomous capabilities, open architecture, and commonality among variants as the best-in-class CTT offering,” according to GM Defense. “The result will be a next-generation mobility solution that strengthens the Army’s capabilities now, with the ability to flex into the future.”

You want numbers? We’ve got them. The HX3 CTT has eight-wheel drive and a six-cylinder, 12.4-liter MAN D26 engine that runs on JP-8 military jet fuel. Variable turbine technology makes forced induction more powerful, efficient and reliable than two-stage turbochargers. The bottom line is that soldiers will get to put their right foot on 1,785 foot-pounds of torque.

The HX3 CTT can operate in temperatures as low as -26 degrees and as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It can ford 59 inches of water. If soldiers take fire, the entire cab is modular so they can swap it out for fresh armor.

The truck has plenty of brains to go with that brawn, too. According to the spec sheet, It comes with advanced driver safety systems, cybersecurity hardening, machine learning, artificial intelligence (that will, in no way, lead to a rise of the machines against us) and the option to add leader-follower autonomous driving capabilities.

The Best Part Isn’t Under the Hood

Shipping containers aren't glamorous, but they win wars.
Shipping containers aren't glamorous, but they win wars. (Barrett Ward)

Anyone can appreciate those kinds of numbers, but the HX3 CTT has another party trick.

The HX3 CTT uses a modular design that functions like building blocks. Widespread parts compatibility means that a component from one variant will work on another. Units can modify the trucks they have instead of purchasing additional variants.

But wait, there’s more! If the U.S. military moves forward with GM Defense, it won’t be the only country deploying this truck. According to American Rheinmetall (I swear that’s a defense contractor, not a band), several NATO nations are already using the CTT. That means that forward units can source parts from nearby nations or partner forces in-country in much less time than it would take to ship them from the U.S.

There’s a lot to like about the HX3 CTT. The competition isn’t over yet, though, and I wouldn’t count the likes of Mack, Navistar and Oshkosh out just yet.

No matter what, the Army is going to end up with a very sweet ride. And it should, for the amount of money that’s on the line. American Rheinmetall values the 40,000-truck contract at as much as $14 billion. It must be nice to shop with taxpayer money.

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