Army's Brand-New Combat Vehicle Was Designed for the Last War, Esper Says

The Army and the Marine Corps show off the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at a test track at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. (Matthew Cox/Military.com)
The Army and the Marine Corps show off the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at a test track at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. (Matthew Cox/Military.com)

The secretary of the Army said today that the service could not rule out future cuts to the service's new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program -- a vehicle that he said was essentially designed for the last war, not the next.

In March, the Army announced it would cut funding in the proposed fiscal 2020 budget for its new, high-performance JLTV to free up money for future modernization projects. The Army plans to buy only 2,530 JLTVs in the fiscal 2020 budget request, compared to last year's purchase of 3,393.

"We will have a mixed fleet of Humvees and JLTVs; we know that, and we will buy a lot of JLTVs, we know that too. But I can't tell you today whether the cut we made in this budget is the last or not," Army Secretary Mark Esper told a group of reporters today at the Pentagon.

The JLTV and the CH-47 Chinook Block II were among 93 programs Army senior leaders selected for cuts over the next five years to help free up billions of dollars for its bold modernization strategy.

The Army had initially planned to buy 49,000 JLTVs, but Esper said it may now be more than a year before the service knows the total number of JLTVs it will purchase.

The original 49,000-vehicle requirement was first decided before the new National Defense Strategy came out and shifted the U.S. military's focus away from the Middle East, Esper said.

Likewise, the CH-47 Block II helicopters were designed to fly heavier payload in a hotter climate, Esper said.

"And what was the heavier payload? JLTV," Esper said. "What drove JLTV? [Improvised explosive devices] in Afghanistan and Iraq, and because the MRAPs were too big and too heavy.

"They were, in many ways, designed for a different conflict. It doesn't mean we won't use them in future conflicts, but now my emphasis has to be rebuilding my armor, rebuilding my fighting vehicles, having aircraft that can penetrate Russian and Chinese air defenses and shoot down Russian and Chinese drones and missiles and helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft."

As the Army refines its new multi-domain operations doctrine, the service will run a series of wargames that will decide the total number of JLTVs and other systems it will need for the future, Esper said.

"I think we will be finished in a year or 18 months; then we run all these numbers. And all these numbers tell you, to beat the Russians, you need X tanks and you need Y tankers and you need X number of JLTVs. And that is where I will have the final number," Esper said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Show Full Article