The US Military’s new work­horse

The stronger, faster and much safer re­place­ment for the Humvee is fi­nally here. And we got to drive it.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Cotents - BY ERIC T EGLER

Meet the Humvee’s Oshkosh re­place­ment North Korea: How big a threat? Is a nu­clear war com­ing? New-wave agri­cul­ture Farm­ers do it with apps Sweet taste of self-steer­ing Au­to­mated trucks boost Brazil’s cane yields War on aliens Fight­ing for our indige­nous plants Me and my tech Gareth Cliff tells about the tech he can’t live with­out The con­fi­dent trav­eller Beat check-in queues


I re­mind my­self of this as we fly across a sec­tion of shin-deep ruts at 30 km/h. You want to let the in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion do the work and give the steer­ing wheel free­dom to move. In al­most any other ve­hi­cle, I’d have lost steer­ing con­trol, ploughed the front end, and pos­si­bly rolled over.

As one of the first civil­ians al­lowed be­hind the wheel of the US military’s new Joint Light Tac­ti­cal Ve­hi­cle, built by Oshkosh De­fence, I’m ner­vous. I’m driv­ing a 6 350-kilo­gram ar­moured truck that costs five mil­lion rand and I’m do­ing it in front of the en­gi­neers who de­signed it.

The JLTV will slowly phase out AM Gen­eral’s iconic Humvee in US Army and Ma­rine Corps ve­hi­cle fleets. When it de­buted in 1985, the un­ar­moured Humvee was de­signed for per­son­nel and cargo trans­port be­hind the lines. That made it vul­ner­a­ble in Iraq and Afghanistan, where hastily added ar­mour pro­vided a flawed and tem­po­rary so­lu­tion. The JLTV, how­ever, is built for driv­ing among the IEDS, rock­et­pro­pelled grenades and small-arms fire of the mod­ern bat­tle­field. Oshkosh’s CORE1080 crew-pro­tec­tion sys­tem wraps the cabin in an ar­moured shell. Un­der­neath the floor, a con­vex hull de­flects blasts and helps shield the cabin from IEDS.

The JLTV is es­sen­tially a light tank with 43-inch Miche­lin tyres. That’s clear when you try to open the driver’s door, whose weight, like many things at Oshkosh, is clas­si­fied. With cen­time­tres-thick steel and a small bal­lis­tic­glass win­dow, it feels close to 150 kilo­grams. Once I strong-arm it open and climb into the driver’s seat, I feel like I’ve en­tered a vault. An un­ex­pect­edly com­fort­able one.

Where the Humvee’s seats are flat to the floor, the JLTVS are raised to give your knees some room to bend. There’s more cush­ion­ing and the seat backs fea­ture cutouts to ac­com­mo­date troops’ hy­dra­tion packs. Big cen­tre and pas­sen­ger-side dash dis­plays look like they be­long in an F/A-18 cock­pit, of­fer­ing crit­i­cal ve­hi­cle data, tac­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion and an all-im­por­tant re­vers­ing cam­era. A stan­dard HVAC con­trol panel of­fers blessed air con­di­tion­ing; there are even USB ports.

Start it up, and you hear the JLTVS big al­ter­na­tor pro­duc­ing mas­sive amounts of elec­tric­ity. It changes au­di­bly with the revs, even over the roar of the Banks 866T turbo-diesel en­gine (based on GM’S Du­ra­max 6,6litre V8 diesel). With half a me­tre of sus­pen­sion travel, the JLTV floats over the ter­rain like a Baja tro­phy truck. It in­spires more con­fi­dence than the Humvee, which I drove on the same course for com­par­i­son. At only half the speed of the JLTV, I could feel in­sta­bil­ity and steer­ing kick­back over the ruts through the Humvee’s thin-rimmed steer­ing wheel. Over large moguls, I bot­tomed the sus­pen­sion, mo­men­tar­ily los­ing steer­ing con­trol.

Im­proved speed, ma­noeu­ver­abil­ity and off-road ca­pa­bil­ity end up be­ing just as ben­e­fi­cial to the JLTV as its ar­mour. Be­cause if you can be un­pre­dictable – if you can ma­noeu­vre away from roads and mines at 100 km/h or more – the hope is that the ar­mour won’t be nec­es­sary at all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.