So many vehicles, so many potential bridges to get to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Since the DoD unveiled requirements of the “MRAP lite” back in November—otherwise known as the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV)—it has been seen as a sort of stopgap measure to replace Humvees in Afghanistan until the JLTVs can show up.
But not so fast, says Brig. Gen. Brian Layer, commander of the Army’s Transportation Center. There already is a stopgap vehicle in the pipeline, the Expanded Capacity Vehicle-2 (ECV2), an upgraded and improved Humvee that Layer says is the “middle piece” that will get the military through until the JLTV is fielded in 2015. Made by Humvee manufacturer AM General, the ECV2 takes into account a bunch of lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, featuring better power production capabilities, an engine that has been moved forward, sits higher off the ground, has more room in the crew compartment, and makes use of electronic controls—all features that take into account the growing power needs of sensor and communication gear and the dangers of roadside bombs.
The general said that the Army’s plans are eventually to field 169,000 light tactical vehicles, which is a slightly higher number than we’ve seen floated in the past, which usually came in at about 140,000 to 150,000 range. Reports late last year speculated that the Army was preparing to spend about $4.5 billion to buy 10,000 Humvees and ECV-2s in 2009 and 2010.
The ECV-2 isn’t slated to hit the dirt until later this year or next, but one of the big selling points it offers is that it has been designed to offer the same 3,500 lb payload the current Humvees had before being weighed down with layers of bolt-on armor in theater. For whatever reason—probably due to its flashier cousins the JLTV, MRAP, and the M-ATV—the ECV2 has been largely ignored in the rush to get new vehicles into the hands of troops in the field, though considering the fact that it comes in at roughly half the cost of the JLTV, (but without most of its technological upgrades and cutting edge armor packages), it looks like a pretty capable vehicle that might get another look in these budget-conscious times.