Video Above: Northrop Grumman & Eastern Shipbuilding Group Build New Coast Guard OffShore Patrol Cutter With New Weapons

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington D.C.) The Marine Corps is architecting a highly lethal lightweight tactical vehicle armed with armor-destroying weapons that can reach enemy targets as 15 to 20 time the range of an Abrams tank. The thinking is to potentially create a lighter, faster, more agile Marine Corps able to find and destroy enemy armored vehicles such as tanks, without having to deploy heavy tanks themselves.

“We can kill armor formations at longer ranges using additional and other resources without incurring a 74-ton challenge trying to get that to a shore, or to get it from the United States into the fight,” Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said in a USNI report. “You simply can’t be there in time.”

Part of the concept includes the use of “lightweight mounted fires” on fast-moving tactical vehicles, a scenario which could involve arming the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle with anti-tank missiles or other precision anti-armor weapons. This makes a lot of sense, given longstanding concerns about tank mobility and deployability. While the tried and tested Abrams tank is combat proven and not likely to disappear anytime soon, it does operate with certain limitations such as an inability to cross certain bridges, slower speeds, logistical challenges with high fuel consumption and, perhaps most of all, an inability to conduct rapid-deployment expeditionary warfare.

Should an expeditionary, fast-moving force moving with faster, tactical vehicles operate with substantial anti-tank and anti-heavy armor fire-power, the Corps could embrace new combat tactics and strategies.

Such a prospect, which could it seems including firing Javelins, TOW missiles, Stingers or even HELLFIRE missiles from tactical vehicles on the move attacking enemy tanks at much longer ranges than tank rounds or standard vehicle cannons and guns can reach. The Stryker is already doing this with the SHORAD, or Short Range Air Defense, program which now arms the vehicle’s with HELLFIRES, Javelins and Stingers to take out enemy drones, helicopters and air threats.

Configuring tactical vehicles such as a JTLV with anti-tank weapons may require additional components of fire control support and recoil absorption, yet with proper integration it may indeed be entirely possible. Army Humvees were armed with Avenger missiles and there have been other vehicle-mounted weapons such as HIMARS or rockets put on tactical trucks.

Perhaps with these kinds of dynamics in mind, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps leaders are also discussing additional combat applications associated with arming tactical, mobile vehicles with heavier, longer-range weapons. Such a strategy might prove to be of particular relevance for maritime warfare operations such as amphibious attack or coastal combat engagements. For example, “lightweight mounted fires” could be used as “ground-based anti-ship missiles that Marines could use to push enemies backhundreds of miles from a contested piece of land,” USNI reports.

At the same time, while tactical vehicles armed with anti-armor weapons could clearly change the equation regarding fast-paced expeditionary land attack, particularly in coastal or island areas, there is still very much a place for heavy armor when it comes to land warfare. At a certain point, there will be a need to “close with the enemy” in closer proximity, thereby exposing forces to enemy fire. For those types of scenarios, it can be difficult to replicate the survivability of a heavily-armored Abrams tank. Also, by its mere presence, an Abrams can perform a certain kind of psychological deterrence by demonstrating massive force and firepower. This is one of many ways the Abrams proved itself worthy in counterinsurgency as it functioned as a deterrent against small groups of would be attackers targeting convoys with RPGs and other weapons.

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10,000th JLTV

Oshkosh Defense has now built 10,000 of its Joint Light Tactical Vehicles for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and a growing sphere of international partners, hitting a milestone which may only be but a beginning to a decades-long developmental, production and delivery trajectory.

The vehicle, originally envisioned as a hybrid combination between a high-speed, mobile, off-road vehicle and a heavily protected IED-stopping armored platform, has evolved into a complex, yet balanced mixture of the two. It is now used by as many as seven U.S. allied countries, to include the U.K., Belgium, Montenegro, Slovenia, Lithuania, Brazil and North Macedonia. More than 6,000 have already been fielded.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against IEDs, roadside bombs and other threats. Senior Army developers have explained the technical and conceptual balance sought after by JLTV engineers who envisioned a highly versatile, mobile vehicle able to survive an entirely new threshold of threats when compared with previous tactical vehicles. The JLTV was built to fight with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (mine resistant, ambush protected -- all-terrain vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed, the extra armor can come off and bring the weight of the vehicle down.

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the Humvee, the JLTV is engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 horsepower engine and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. Army developers explain that the JLTV is designed with enough on-board power to support the Army's future network and be able to take advantage of the latest generation of diesel engine technology to maximize fuel economy.

The vehicle is built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

With the JLTV architecture, the vehicle will be able to streamline and more easily exchange and transmit information while ensuring that the maximum number of programs and applications are possible on any given computer or display screen. All of the JLTVs will be configured with what is called Variable Ride-Height Suspension, described as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by maritime preposition force ships. The JLTV is also reported to be air-sea-and-land transportable, able to transport on amphibious assault ships, fixed wing aircraft such as a C-130, C-17 and C-5 as well as CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters.

The in-vehicle network approach is grounded in "open architecture," meaning that information technology systems and electronics will all be built to commercial technical standards ensuring maximum interoperability. JLTV is aligning with specific Army technical standards, which will enable a single computer or system to run a host of interoperable applications and functions.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, Army JLTV engineers have explained.

-- Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.