Taking the Oshkosh JLTV for a ride at DVD2018
We at Global Defence Technology have been covering Oshkosh Defense’s Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV) since it was first showcased as a demonstrator model. When the company offered press rides on the vehicle, which is now in production, for the first time at Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) 2018 at Millbrook Proving Ground in September, Berenice Baker was first in the queue.
/ Image: Oshkosh Defense
One of the perks of defence technology journalism is getting up close and personal with armoured vehicles. But unless you’re a fit, young soldier, climbing up into the passenger seat can prove a bit of a workout. By contrast, getting into the JLTV is a breeze.
The JLTV offers a self-levelling feature that improves weapon sighting. According to Oshkosh vice president for global integrated product support Mike Ivy, it also enables the JLTV to sit low on its haunches taking its height down to 1.88m, the same as a Humvee – a requirement specified by the US Marines to get it on board cargo aircraft and amphibious landing craft with a low height clearance. It is also useful for those of us whose deportment classes hadn’t properly prepared us for the giant strides mounting many armoured vehicles requires.
Once sat inside on the bouncy, supportive seat with a cut-out back to accommodate soldiers’ hydration packs, the door is fastened with a hefty shove of the armoured door lock and occupants are secured with five-way locking seatbelts – both sides upper and lower and between the legs.
“Do you want to go slow and steady or fast and fun?” grins Oshkosh Defense driver Bradon Zeitler. He’s a man who obviously relishes his role. “There are worse jobs, yeah.”
Opting for fast and fun – as anyone familiar with the Millbrook Proving Ground extreme all-terrain course would – we set off, initially crawling through the throngs of industry and military personnel visitors swarming around the outdoor display area before veering off onto Millbrook’s unpaved tracks course straight onto muddy, rocky terrain.
Splashing through the wading pond, the JLTV handles the 89cm of depth without adjustment; it can ford up to 1.52m of water, and even more with the optional snorkel kit.
Climbing the 60% concrete slope emphasises that the passenger seat is set too low to see much downwards through the windscreen. While the driver has a clear view through the 5cm thick armoured windscreen, complemented with camera systems, the passenger seat is set lower, offering a rollercoaster-like vista of only sky until the JLTV tips over the peak into descent. The 35% sandhill proves equally effortless to climb.
It’s not just front-facing slopes the JLTV can take in its stride; at one point Zeitler pauses on the course’s 25-degree side-tilt performance traverse. As the horizon tilts dramatically, the vehicle grips the surface, where it feels like a domestic vehicle in the same situation could slide or roll.
Finally, if the rock run consisting of loose and fixed boulders, concrete ditches and deep bomb-hole like pits weren’t enough of a challenge for the patented Oshkosh TAK-4i intelligent independent suspension system, the JLTV traverses a challenging pile of logs without hesitation. And comfortably for the vehicle’s occupants, who on initial glance might have feared they’d be making an emergency osteopath appointment.
Exiting the vehicle and battling through Storm Ali that battered the Millbrook showground during DVD2018, groups of soldiers could be overheard offering their informal reviews of the JLTV. “It gives a great ride and has awesome suspension,” says a Canadian. “The noise is incredible – it sounds like a jet fighter taking off,” adds his British Army counterpart.