Military looks for Humvee successor
The 'jeep of the future' is expected to be safer for troops and more fuel efficient.
The military is on the hunt for a new jeep to replace its cold war-inspired Humvee.Skip to next paragraph
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The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, will have all the latest gadgets that one might expect in a new military vehicle, including a "collision avoidance system." But military officials and outside analysts know that it's not just a new truck replacing an old one. Seven years of unconventional or counterinsurgency warfare is forcing the American military to recognize that the threat it's up against isn't an aberration and that the "jeep of the future" must navigate this dangerous new world.
"Buying a new light truck might not seem like a big deal, but the message of Iraq and Afghanistan is that trucks might be more important than tanks in future war fighting," says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst with the Lexington Institute, a policy research group in Arlington, Va.
Next month, the Army and Marine Corps are expected to pick three preliminary designs for the new vehicle, and the winning one could be picked by 2011. Roughly 200,000 vehicles could be produced under the plan, but they won't be in the hands of the military until probably 2013, officials say.
The Humvee, first introduced in 1984, was considered a major leap forward from the classic American military jeep. Heavy, low-slung, and extra wide, the Humvee represented the new standard in tactical vehicles for the combat of that era. But in many ways, it was designed when the US still occupied a cold-war mind-set and thought its vehicles would be used in a conventional combat environment with front lines and rears. Now, the kind of unconventional warfare the military finds itself engaged in dictates a kind of truck that protects troops better, is easier to modify, and is generally faster on its feet.
The Humvee had maneuverability, handling, and logistical challenges, but the limitations of the vehicle really surfaced when the military began hanging body-armor plates on it to protect troops from roadside bombs. The metal added thousands of pounds of weight, which increased brake, suspension, and drivetrain wear. The new vehicle, however, will already be designed to keep troops safe.