(Washington, D.C.) The Chinese military is mass producing an armed, off-road tactical combat vehicle intended to support infantry attacks, transport equipment and personnel and fire machine guns and grenades.
The vehicle, called a third-generation Dongfeng Mengshi, is also configurable as a command and control platform or launch pad for heavier weapons, according to a report in the Chinese-government backed Global Times newspaper.
“It can also remove its transport function and instead be installed with different modules so it can become a command vehicle, a self-propelled howitzer, a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system and more,” the paper writes, quoting a Chinese military expert.
Interestingly, the Chinese report asserts a claim that their new vehicle is engineered with “bulletproof plates that are superior to the U.S. Humvee,” a statement likely to raise a few questions.
Certainly specifics related to the armor configuration of the vehicle are not likely to be available, yet the new vehicle would need to be substantially fortified with new protections to rival the combat performance of an up-armored Humvees.
U.S. Army MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles
The U.S. Army spent many years during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to strengthen protections for its Humvee by adding additional armor plating or “up-armoring”, blast-attenuating seats, and protected “capsule” like structures to secure soldiers from IED blasts in the event that wheels and other external structures are exploded.
However, it is also true that the Humvee did prove vulnerable to attacks from roadside bombs, especially those daisy-chained together and accurately times for maximum blast impact.
This is why the U.S. Army massively and urgently built and fast-tracked the now famous Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles and lighter weight MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles.
These vehicles, credited with saving thousands of soldiers' lives, were delivered to Iraq and Afghanistan by the thousands. The chassis were elevated higher off the ground, forcing blast fragments to travel farther to impact and, perhaps most of all, they were built with an innovative, blast-deflecting V-shaped hull.
MRAPs were specially engineered with a reinforced body such that, in the event of a massive IED attack, the wheels may fall off and a vehicle might be almost completely exploded, yet the protective capsule surrounding the soldiers itself would remain in tact.
Very little additional detail is provided about the new Chinese vehicles, and the posted photo does not show the underbelly so there may not be a way to see if it is built with a blast-deflecting V-shaped hull.
Chinese Dongfeng Mengshi vs. U.S. Army Humvee
However, the Chinese vehicle does look larger, longer and heavier than a U.S. Army Humvee. The sides of the Dongfeng Mengshi are not flat like a Humvee but instead angled almost exactly like a U.S. Army Armored Security Vehicle.
Its size looks more like an Army ASV, a vehicle substantially better protected than a Humvee. Also, to a certain extent, it might even seem silly to try to compare a newly engineered or upgraded tactical vehicle to a decades-old Humvee platform. A more fitting comparison might be looking at the new Chinese Dongfeng Mengshi as it compares to the U.S. ASV or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
A Chinese newspaper claims its new, upgraded third-generation Dongfeng Mengshi tactical combat vehicle offers combat protections superior to a U.S. Army Humvee.
The claim, made by a Chinese-government backed newspaper about moves to mass produce its new vehicle, raises significant variables to consider.
Humvees operate in an entirely different capacity then when they came into being years ago, given that MRAPs could much more safely perform troop transport functions. However, Humvees have not disappeared completely, however they are fundamentally a 1980s vehicle, if not from even earlier times. Communications, computing, armor materials and weapons upgrades have made them much different in recent years, yet it is well known that the vehicles came to be understood as more vulnerable in IED-heavy counterinsurgency environments such as Iraq.
The troubling performance of Humvees was, in large measure, a large part of the inspiration for the Army MRAP and now operational new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
The Army and Marine Corps JLTV, now being mass produced, introduces an entirely new paradigm for tactical combat. It is entirely possible that the U.S. Army’s cutting edge JLTV, built for survivability in counterinsurgency missions as well as great power warfare, is vastly superior to the new Chinese vehicle when it comes to protection and combat capability.
Since its inception, the JLTV has been engineered with a broad series of technologies configured to adjust and modernize as new technologies emerge. While certain things like its TAK-4 independent suspension system and external configuration are likely not changed much since its initial construction, its command and control systems, weapons and technical backbone has likely been upgraded or modified substantially.
For instance, emerging cyber and EW technologies, along with modern targeting and C4ISR systems all continue to be added.
Oshkosh’s statement included the discussion of its having added a Remote Weapons Station up to 30mm, a technical advance giving soldiers an ability to fire heavier weapons from beneath armor cover by using a computerized video targeting screen. Drone and counter-drone technologies have also been added to the platform.
Adding newer weapons systems to the platform, such as lasers and anti-drone weapons expands the mission envelope for the vehicle, enabling it to operate under higher-threat major warfare conditions.
Lasers can of course attack drones, ground targets and even enemy helicopters at long-ranges as well as perform varying degrees of optical surveillance. They can also be precise and cause less collateral damage to buildings, enemy vehicles or nearby personnel should the vehicle need to attack in an urban area. Advanced sensors, by extension, can greatly expand the reconnaissance missions for the platform as well, giving it the opportunity to function to a greater degree as a forward-operating node in a larger network.
The JLTV’s adjustment to incorporate a greater degree of air defense is also quite significant, as it aligns with a broader Army strategic move to emphasize heavier weapons and Short-Range-Air-Defense for its combat vehicles.
Short Range Air Defense is a combat priority which, Army developers say, has “atrophied” in recent years during the ongoing counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stryker vehicles, for instance, are now armed with an ability to vertically fire Hellfire missiles and even lasers at enemy drones and helicopters as part of the Army’s recognition that combat air defense is again emerging as a significant threat area in today’s great-power threat combat environment. Anti-tank weapons, such as a vehicle-mounted TOW missile also better enable the vehicle to support advancing armored and infantry brigades, particularly if it conducts high-risk scout missions in front of attacking units.
The U.S. JLTV, therefore, is not only built to withstand IED attacks and other kinds of threats fundamental to anti-terrorist or counterinsurgency operations, but it is armed for major warfare against a heavy force with weapons such as rockets, lasers and missiles, advanced sensors, computing and various scalable armor protections.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.