Marine Humvees get a second life

Corps leaders launch a Humvee improvement program to upgrade trucks instead of replacing entire fleet with JLTVs.

QUANTICO, Va. — Many wrote off the Humvee when Army and Marine Corps officials chose to double down on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program and scrap Humvee recapitalization plans.

However, budget realities have led the Marine Corps back to the Humvee as leaders realize they don’t have the funding to buy enough JLTVs to replace their Humvee fleet of 24,00 trucks. Right now, Marine officials expect to buy 5,500 JLTVs in 2017.

To make up for the gulf between current Humvee numbers and the planned JLTV buy, the Marine Corps will launch a Humvee improvement program. Marine acquisition leaders started a study to collect the research done in previous years by the Pentagon and industry to upgrade the Humvee.

“We’re not trying to go out and re-invent the wheel with the Humvee. We’re trying to take advantage of all the studies and efforts that have already been done,” said¬†William Taylor, the Marine program executive officer for Land Systems.

Marine officials said the intent is not to simply restart the Humvee Recap. It is only one of the programs the Marine Corps will study as it determines its options to upgrade the Humvee.

Humvee Recap failed because the cost per vehicle came too close to the price of buying a brand new vehicle, Taylor said.

“That was the defining moment when we realized we are essentially rebuilding the Humvee and getting no better in terms of a vehicle when the price tags are almost the same,” he said after delivering a speech here at the Modern Day Marine annual conference.

This upgrade program will have a clearly defined price limitation to ensure it doesn’t meet the same fate, although that price ceiling has not been specified yet, a Marine official said.

What the Marine Corps wants to do is return the Humvee’s performance back to when it was not loaded down with so much armor, Taylor said.

“We’re trying to recapture capability that was already resident in the vehicle before we upgraded with armor,” Taylor said. “That’s the critical node in which we started to lose performance, payload and reliability when we up armored them to go into theater.”

Industry has already worked on upgrades for the Humvee to include the suspensions, drive shafts, and lightening the vehicles, Taylor said. The Corps hopes to pick and choose which ones they can afford.

“The next phase essentially tries to price those out in logical packages to see what gives us an optimum solution in terms of recapturing lost performance, lost pay load, lost reliability,” Taylor said.

This work will not affect the amount invested into the JLTV program, Taylor confirmed.

He said the Army has kept a close eye on the Marine Corps’ work with the Humvee improvement program. That’s not to say the Army will sign off on a similar Humvee upgrade.

“If this program continues to progress [the Army] will at least have interest,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if ¬†they will have a commitment to buy. They have slightly different requirements than the Marine Corps in terms of mobility.”