I’ve never prided myself in knowing a lot about horsepower, vehicles or engines. I didn’t have to be a grease monkey, though, to notice the difference in smoothness and maneuverability of the new Oshkosh Defense vehicle.
Last week, I got to experience first-hand the new features of the Oshkosh Defense Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle on an off-road course. First, however, Oshkosh put me through the course in the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, or MTVR, as a comparison. Needless to say, it was a bumpy and rough ride. We moved at a slow pace, especially when crossing potholes and divots or taking tight turns. After a less than comfortable ride, I took a ride in the L-ATV.
The two vehicles couldn’t be more different. The L-ATV maneuvered effortlessly over the bumps and difficult terrain. We maintained a speed of 20-30 mph over most of the course, even hitting 40 mph at one point. One of the Oshkosh employees said the best test of smoothness was that he could easily continue to send text messages while in the L-ATV, but couldn’t in the MTVR. While I don’t expect deployed Marines will be texting while in the L-ATV, he did make a valid point about how smooth the ride was.
Since the mid-1980s, Marines have used the Humveefor a variety of missions both deployed and at home. Over time, the Marine Corps modified the Humvee to add protection, but with that has come a decrease in speed and mobility. That is, until recently.
The Marine Corps is considering proposed vehicles by multiple companies to eventually replace the existing fleet of Humvees. The L-ATV is one such vehicle.
“We’ve been developing the L-ATV over six generation of vehicles,” said John Bryant, Oshkosh Defense vice president and general manager for Joint and Marine Corps Programs.
The L-ATV offers a new suspension system, more advanced than the TAK-4, which is currently used on roughly 20,000 vehicles in the military. The L-ATV features a new intelligent suspension system called the TAK-4i.
“TAK-4i takes off-road suspension capability to the next level of performance,” Bryant said. “It provides 20 inches of wheel travel. It will provide not only the ability to cross very difficult terrain, but to do it with a great ride quality and without beating up the occupants of the vehicle.”
It isn’t just the smooth ride that makes the L-ATV so pleasing to Marines. It also has as much body armor on the outside as a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, Bryant said. Ordinarily protection of that magnitude comes at the price of slow movement, but the L-ATV shows no signs of being weighed down.
“The L-ATV has an incredibly protected capsule, only before experienced in an MRAP,” Bryant said. “But it is a light-tactical vehicle capable of tremendous off-road performance. It can go fast across terrain and tackle the most challenging obstacles with a ride-quality and reliability so Marines don’t have to worry about beating themselves up on the way to and from missions.”
Even the handling of the L-ATV shows improvements over other vehicles.
“It’s converging on what a pick-up truck operates like,” said Bruce Sellers, director of Oshkosh defense business development for Marine Corps Programs. “It doesn’t feel like a big, heavy truck.”
While the Marine at the wheel may feel like he’s taking a drive in a pick-up truck, the L-ATV is more than suited to handle any mission the Marine Corps requires.
“We can’t change the geo-political environment,” Bryant said. “We can just prepare Marines to handle it.”
And as a former Marine artilleryman, Bryant knows just what Marines need in a vehicle.
The Oshkosh Defense L-ATV is only one of several proposed vehicles that could hit the fleet in coming years. Over the next 27 months, the top three vehicles will continue to be tested, changed and improved. When the final vehicle is picked, there is no doubt it will bring better protection, smoother riding and improved handling for Marines.