In 2009, with its bridge buy of FMTV medium trucks in place, and initial awards for the potential JLTV Hummer replacement designs underway, the next order of business on the US Army’s agenda was a new Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles multi-year contract: FHTV-III. That multi-billion dollar FHTV-III contract has been awarded – not as a re-compete like FMTV, but as a single-source solicitation.
Oshkosh has provided the core of this capability for over 20 yeas now. Its Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) and their 13-ton payloads are the mainstay of the FHTV fleet, serving in variants that include M977/985 Cargo, M978 Fueler, M982/983 Tractors, and M984 Wrecker/Tow; they also serve as heavy transporters for Patriot and THAAD air defense systems. M1074/75 Palletized Load Systems (PLS) and PLS trailers (PLST) are best known for their automated container/pallet loading arms, and for their Universal Power Interface Kit (UPIK) that can add modules for firefighting, construction, cranes, cement mixing, etc. The M1000/1070 Heavy Equipment Transporters(HET) are flatbeds that can transport a 70-ton Abrams tank – or anything less – in order to save wear and tear on expensive armored vehicles and on the roads. A specialized FHTV truck called the M1977 CBT can even lay bridges.
FHTV: Upgrades, LTAS, and RECAP
Most of the US Army’s HEMTT trucks are the A2 version; Oshkosh celebrated the delivery of the 20,000th HEMTT truck on Feb 14/08. The HEMTT A4 is the latest improvement to the line. HEMTT A4 will be produced in several models, including the the basic M997A4 cargo truck, M982A4 and M983A4 tractors for use as tractor-trailers, an M984A4 recovery truck fitted with cranes and winches, the M978A4 fuel servicing truck (tanker), and the M1120A4 load handling system variant, whose loading-assist arms & winch system is lighter than the M1074/75 PLS.
The hybrid drive HEMTT A3 variant is still in development. It claims to offer the same 13-ton cargo capacity and C-130 transportability, with a 20% improvement in fuel economy thanks to diesel-electric propulsion. Its configuration also gives the vehicle an on-board generator that can export 100 kW of military-grade power to power devices, weapons and sensors, or even a small remote installation. The A3’s electrical power potential was attractive to Raytheon’s Mobile Centurion prototype, for instance, which mounts a modified Phalanx radar-guided, electrically-driven 20mm gatling gun turret on the truck in order to shoot down incoming mortars, rockets, and artillery rounds.
The new HEMTT A4 production variants feature a 500 hp Caterpillar C-15 engine, an Allison 4500 SP/5-speed automatic transmission, rated for 600 hp, power-train upgrades to 1,750 pounds of torque, suspension upgrades, and major changes and additions to the cab. The HEMTT A4 shares common cab, parts, and support with the new palletized load system (PLS-A1) truck, reducing the need for separate spares. An improved climate control system that can handle tropical conditions is built into that cab, rather than requiring a retrofit as is the case for the HEMTT A2s.
The new HET A1 features numerous upgrades to the M1070 HET, including a 700-horsepower engine and an Allison 4800SP transmission, as well as improved seats, standard air conditioning and an available 3rd door. HET trucks often use the M1000 heavy-duty trailer, as in the picture above.
Many of these upgrades actually revolve around the US Army’s Long Term Armor Strategy (LTAS). This LTAS-A armor can be augmented with a standardized, bolt-on LTAS-B kit for greater protection, and an integrated mounting allows fast installation of a protected gunner position (GPK) and machine-gun mount on the cab roof. HEMTT-A4 and their forthcoming companions the PLS-A1 and HET-A1 will come off the assembly line fitted with upgraded suspensions, the engine improvements noted above, different cab designs, and integral composite armor.
Oshkosh Defense’s director, Army Tactical Vehicle Programs Mike Ivy is quoted in AUSA’s April 2008 article as saying that Israeli firm Plasan Sasa played a large role on designing the FHTV LTAS-B armoring kit, but Finmeccanica’s DRS will be the main supplier for the program.
The Army’s new medium FMTV-A1P1 trucks that are currently produced by BAE Systems have their own LTAS-A and LTAS-B kits, extending the LTAS up-armoring approach across the US Army’s entire truck fleet.
LTAS-related changes aren’t the only updates under consideration. A J1939 databus gives the new HEMTT trucks the same kinds of capacity for self-diagnosis and automated troubleshooting that the FMTV medium truck fleet has used so effectively. C4ISR updates are also under consideration. Ivy:
“We are installing in one of our prototype trucks, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., a number of installation kits for the suite of C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] systems that soldiers expect to see in vehicles today…. That includes things like the Movement Tracking System, GPS, Battle Command System [DID: Blue force Tracker] the whole suite of systems that gives the soldier increased situational awareness. Although there is nothing inherent in the A4 for the Future Combat System-equipped brigade, it could easily be adapted to that, given the right installation kits.” The integration of the installation kits by Oshkosh will allow the Army to test a range of potential C4ISR capabilities for the new platforms.”
Some FHTV-III orders are defined as RECAP orders, however, and won’t be new build machines.
RECAP is part of the US Army’s planned sustainment triad of RESET, RECAP, and Replace. Recapitalization is depot-level maintenance activity that completely rebuilds the vehicles from the frame up, inspecting all parts and replacing worn items, while adding selected enhancements to benefit from more modern parts and technologies.
Under the HEMTT overhaul/ remanufacturing contract, for instance, Oshkosh integrates LED marker lights, two-piece wheels, engine and transmission upgrades, and air ride seats. Ancillary equipment such as cargo bodies, cranes, and fifth wheels are also overhauled and reassembled for use on the remanufactured vehicles. The tires and all electronics, such as wire harnesses, gauges, etc. are replaced with new. The vehicles are reassembled on the same integrated vehicle assembly line as a new truck, with a new “zero hours/zero miles” bumper-to-bumper warranty. All at significant savings over the cost of building a new vehicle.
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