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Improving Tactical Trucks for the Future

The Army’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicle (TWV) Modernization Strategy focuses on supporting the Army at war while simultaneously preparing for future challenges. These dual goals are pursued through the TWV Fleet Modernization and Future Tactical Truck System (FTTS) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration Program, which is the Army’s plan to expedite the insertion of product improvements into the current fleet as well as to develop future tactical wheeled vehicles. This program will result in vehicles—improved current Army TWVs and the FTTS—that are highly reliable, safe, survivable, affordable, and easily maintained.

The TWV Fleet Modernization program includes the recapitalization and refit of existing TWVs by continuously integrating new technologies as they become available to enhance the vehicles’ survivability as well as improve Army distribution, force sustainment, and network centricity. The modernization program is designed to maintain TWVs that are viable and modern over their effective lifespans by maintaining accurate visibility of the health and mortality of the TWV fleet, leveraging the use of commercial truck technologies, modernizing the supply of spare parts, recapitalizing TWVs, producing new vehicles, and integrating TWV fleet requirements and decision processes with the other armed services.

The FTTS is being built to support Future Force units equipped with the Future Combat Systems (FCS). The plan is to produce FTTS demonstrators in fiscal year 2006 for a military utility assessment.

Key Attributes of Improved TWVs

The TWV Fleet Modernization program will result in TWVs with increased reliability, safety, survivability, affordability, and maintainability.

Highly reliable. Significant improvements in reliability will reduce supply needs and the in-theater maintenance footprint dramatically. In recent years, the commercial automotive industry has produced vehicles with significantly greater improvements in vehicle reliability than the Army’s TWVs and without major increases in their product development costs. These companies have abandoned the practice, still used by the Army, of specifying and testing to statistically based reliability requirements. Instead, the automotive industry substitutes mandatory design practices and product assessments that are based on rigorous identification and mitigation of all known failure modes of each component and automotive system as it is developed (but before production contracts are negotiated). Elimination of all failure modes then is confirmed by preproduction testing of components and systems.

It also is standard commercial practice to collect data on why components fail (through dealer warranty programs) rather than rely on the current Army practice of collecting data only on the supply demand for components. By enhancing its failure-mode data collection and source-selection practices, the Army should be able to make improvements in TWV reliability that are comparable to those achieved by the automotive industry.

Safe. Application of emerging safety systems will significantly counter hazards that can be created unintentionally by new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for convoys. These new TTPs include increased convoy speeds, decreased distances separating vehicles in convoys, and sustained, high operating tempo of logistics units. Emerging safety systems that can help reduce hazards include easier-to-engage passenger restraint systems, brighter vehicle headlights, more durable light-emitting diode (LED) lights, enhanced night vision, and active anti-roll capabilities (such as those extensively used in commercial sport utility vehicles with antilock brakes).

Survivable. Armor protection and weapon mounts are subsystems of the TWV fleet. Use of lightweight armor is one potential solution to the problem of ensuring current and future TWV armor protection. Lightweight armor, such as ceramics and high-strength fibers, could provide high levels of protection without placing an extreme weight burden on the vehicle. Use of modular, reconfigurable, composite armor and gun mounts will provide commanders flexibility to adapt to changing threats and mission requirements. By installing armor-system attachment brackets, framework, and armor panels in hard-to-access locations in their vehicles, vehicle operators could convert from an armored to an unarmored configuration in minutes without having to use special tools; they also could avoid having to carry the greater weight imposed by armor during those times when their vehicles do not need armor. This would maximize operational flexibility and eliminate the need to predetermine the level of armor protection of brigade combat teams.

Affordable. Affordability is computed across the life cycle of the future TWV fleet. It can be improved in several ways: by maintaining or reducing the current, inflation-adjusted average unit production costs of currently produced vehicles; keeping recapitalization costs under 75 percent of the cost of a new vehicle while doubling vehicle life and improving vehicle reliability, safety, and maintainability (resulting in lower annual operations and support costs); minimizing the number and variants of trucks and trailers with unique components and parts; and including life-cycle cost estimates in source selection criteria.

Easily maintainable. The Army’s goal is to reduce the time needed to complete all field maintenance actions at the technical manual –10, –20, and –30 levels to less than 30 minutes. This will be accomplished by using fewer tools and relying on built-in diagnostics, minimum required maintenance training, and enhanced real-time vehicle maintenance management through the use of wireless vehicle-health monitoring.


The National Automotive Center is working with industry to develop prototypes for the new FTTS. The FTTS program is focused on the development of a Capabilities Production Document for future truck acquisitions. The effort will look at two variants: the maneuver sustainment vehicle (MSV), which addresses the current families of medium and heavy tactical vehicles, and the utility vehicle (UV), which addresses the current family of light tactical vehicles. Both vehicles will provide direct support for the distribution of cargo, equipment, and personnel as well as command and control operations. Although there are only two FTTS variants, both will be able to transport varied mission modules (such as bulk fuel, water, ammunition, cargo, and personnel).

Each FTTS variant will provide greatly enhanced crew protection by incorporating integral, modular armor combined with advanced hit-avoidance and signature-management technologies. Integrated and embedded command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems will allow operators to maintain tactical situational awareness and report their position locations, status, and onboard cargoes for in-transit asset visibility.

The FTTS will explore technologies that could help reduce the logistics footprint and operations and support costs by greatly improving reliability, onboard prognostics and diagnostics, and fuel efficiency and by virtually eliminating materiel-handling requirements on the battlefield. The FTTS also will explore technologies that could optimize the Army’s distribution system by integrating an onboard, intelligent load-handling system and using modular, intermodal platforms (flatracks) to create an intermodal interface with the C–130 transport and other modes of transportation. Ultimately, the FTTS will deliver those platforms directly to the FCS without exposing crews to hostile fire during the critical period of resupply. While current legacy vehicles have an average operational range of 300 miles on a single tank of fuel, the operational range required for support to Future Force units in the battlespace will be 450 to 900 miles, depending on the area of operations.

The TWV Modernization program and the FTTS Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration culminate at the end of fiscal year 2006 with a tactical wheeled vehicle rodeo (in the third quarter) and an FTTS military utility assessment in the Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) at Fort Lewis, Washington (in the fourth quarter). The TWV rodeo will demonstrate product-improved and new designs for tactical vehicles and trailers. The SBCT assessment will be a prototype demonstration that will focus on the military utility of two MSV demonstrators and two UV demonstrators. The results will allow senior leaders to assess the operational effectiveness of the fleet in achieving program objectives. The result will be a determination on the ability of the future TWV fleet to support modular and Future Force maneuver sustainment and support operations.

Major Richard L. Harris, Jr., is the Future Tactical Truck System materiel combat developer and user representative in the Directorate of Combat Developments for Transportation at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. he has an M.B.A. degree from William Carey College in Mississippi and is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Acquisition Officer Basic Course.