By now, everyone has heard of the military transport vehicle known as the Humvee. Like the Jeep before it, the Humvee is an icon of the modern battlefield (and even Hollywood parking lots). In terms of service length, it’s also about equal in longevity to the historic Jeep program of the 20th Century. Soon, though, like all good things, its tour of duty will be coming to an end. The U.S. Armed Forces have announced plans to slowly phase out the Humvee and eventually replace it with a new combat transport platform known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).
Officially designated the HMMWV, or High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Humvee started its career in the 1980s as an all-service personnel vehicle for light-duty assignments built by AM General (a subsidiary of American Motors Corp. then). However, a string of combat operations, from Panama to the Middle East, soon saw the Humvee plunged into more heavy-duty action. By the time the Persian Gulf War erupted in 1991, the Humvee had become fully integrated into the fast-moving tactics that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps had designed for its light infantry forces in the desert campaign. The short-lived Operation Desert Storm, though, did not last long enough for some of the shortcomings of the Humvee to become apparent. Not until sustained operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the last decade, did the Humvee’s vulnerabilities become an enormous source of concern to the military.
Built for speed and utility (it can carry a load of 2500 pounds at 65 mph), the basic Humvee lacked the armor to protect its occupants from heavy ordnance, land mines, or improvised explosives, which soon resulted in unacceptable losses. With 10,000 Humvees in Iraq alone, the situation became so dire that ground forces quickly had to scramble to jerry-rig their vehicles with any armor they could find in the field. While military planners eventually procured armor kits for the Humvee, the cold reality was that the vehicle was not practical as a frontline combat transport (which its original designers at AM General never claimed it to be).
With addition of the armoring package a new suspension calibration was required which included the use of Heavy Duty suspension springs. These were commonly referred to as Frag Kits in the field. Enter Coiling Technologies for being the primary supplier for this major suspension upgrade. Coiling Technologies was very responsive to the needs of the government and provide an upgrade spring that could carry the additional load of the armoring package in the field. Where other suppliers failed to perform in a timely manner CTI was able to provide the fastest solution. Although, this provided the necessary protection for the boys in mid east theater. The Military knew that they had a compromised solution. This laid the ground work for developing a superior solution.
Enter the first replacement for the Humvee: the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) type transport. Heavily armored and designed to disperse explosive shock, the 14-ton MRAP family of vehicles, produced by U.S. and overseas manufacturers, began to supplant the combat duties of the Humvee beginning in 2007.
In 2010, the Pentagon announced that it would launch a competition to produce the long-term replacement for the Humvee: the JLTV. Although budget cutbacks have slowed the pace of the JLTV program, the competition has been whittled down to a handful of possible suppliers and a mix of designs. The Army and Marine Corps are proceeding with plans to choose a final JLTV manufacturer among three contractors: AM General, Lockheed Martin, and Oshkosh Defense. Each company delivered 22 prototypes to the Army and Marines in August for field testing over 14 months. The two services will recommend a final contractor sometime in 2015. The Army intends to buy 49,000 vehicles and the Marine Corps wants 5,500, according to published reports. (Click here for a look at Oshkosh’s offerings, for example.) By 2018, the new JLTVs should begin showing up in theaters of operation, relieving Humvees of their combat assignments.
We bring all this up because Coiling Tech has been a longtime supplier of parts for the suspensions of Humvees (independent suspensions for ground clearance and traction), and we hope to carry on that legacy in the future with the JLTV. While the venerable Humvee will still be around for many years to come, it’s fighting days will be mostly over. And that will close out a chapter in military transport history.