Mt. Airy, N.C. – Some have questioned the Army’s decision to pump millions into the aging Humvee, especially with defense spending expected to take a tumble over the next few years.
Opponents argue the Humvee is simply an old warhorse that needs to be put down, replaced by more advanced systems already in the field, and those in the works by the services and DoD.
But Chris Berman, president of Granite Tactical Vehicles, does not see it that way.
Berman, whose company has teamed up with defense firm Textron to compete for the Army’s Modernized Expanded Capacity Vehicle (MECV) program, says the Humvee will continue to have a role in U.S. combat operations.
The strength of vehicles like the Mine Resistant Ambush protected vehicle and and its smaller, all-terrain cousin the M-ATV is their ability to take a pounding in the field and still do its mission.
However, that additional size and weight has its disadvantages, he said.
Those gaps have become glaringly apparent in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, where U.S. combat vehicles often traverse the countryside along routes that are no more than glorified footpaths.
This, he added, is where the Humvee still shines on the battlefield.
A Humvee, even one weighed down with the additional armor and payload upgrades called for in the MECV program, still can go places on the battlefield that the MRAP and M-ATV cannot.
“Is it an MRAP? No. Is it an M-ATV? No,” Berman said of the upgraded Humvee. “[But] if you have the Humvee frame that has [survived] all these years, and now we can show the known product has been improved, do you take the gamble of bringing in a whole new platform?”
Given the tough budget times ahead, the Army seems to have acknowledged that fact and is moving ahead with the MECV program. Incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has made it a top priority for the service.
However, Berman says, there is a concern that the upgrade program will get so extensive, that the final vehicle to emerge will be so different from the traditional Humvee, that it might as well be a completely new truck.
Army itself is trying to find that line between upgrades and new programs for its entire ground combat vehicle portfolio.
That scenario could pose a number of problems with keeping those vehicles up and running in combat, Berman explained. If a Humvee goes down in the field, it can be repaired with parts scavenged from the other Humvees deployed along with it.
“If you have [essentially] a new platform that is supposed to be an old vehicle what [can] you change, a radiator cap?” Because of that, the Granite-Textron offering is nearly 80 percent identical to the current Humvee in service.
“It is so close that [Army mechanics] does not even have to think about it,” he said.
The Humvee also makes sense, from a tactical perspective, according to Berman. The highly-publicized rapid introduction of the MRAP and M-ATV was not lost on the enemy, he noted.
“You put a high-dollar vehicle, like an MRAP or M-ATV, in [the field] it becomes a high-value target” for insurgent forces, he said. “You got twelve vehicles running down the road [and] one of them is an MRAP, you are aiming for the MRAP.”
That said, the commonality of the Humvee in the field can be used to its advantage, he added.
“The objective is let it be a Humvee…but you don’t realize it is not a normal Humvee until it drives by you [and] its too late,” Berman said. “Give it the survivability, the mobility [but] keep the signature as it is.”