New 25mm Chain Gun Turret Boosts JLTV’s Anti-Armor Punch
Oshkosh sees demand in Europe for speedy and highly lethal tactical vehicles, but the appeal for an M242-armed JLTV may be even wider.
Oshkosh Defense is set to test-fire a 25mm chain gun atop a four-door joint light tactical vehicle for nations interested in turning their agile four-wheeled tactical trucks into fast-moving direct fire weapons platforms. European JLTV operators are especially interested in mounting larger armaments on existing light vehicles for use in urban combat scenarios on display in Ukraine, according to Oshkosh.
The up-gunned four-door version of JLTV also is being pitched to the U.S. Marine Corps and Army as a retrofit kit for their trucks, said George Mansfield, Vice President and General Manager of Joint Programs at Oshkosh Defense. It consists of a JLTV with a new bolted-on roof that accepts a John Cockerill Protected Weapons Station (CPWS) armed with an M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun.
Firing at up to 200 rounds per minute with an effective range of 2,000 meters, depending on the ammunition used, the addition of this weapon could allow a single JLTV to engage and defeat most armored vehicles it encounters, including some tanks. The 150 rounds of ammunition stored in the turret are protected from enemy fire. Another 155 rounds in ammunition cans can fit in the space of a single seat inside the JLTV.
Unlike other remote weapon stations, the turret has a central hatch that allows a crew member to peer out or exit the vehicle. The hatch lid is hinged or can be raised vertically to provide overhead protection even when opened. It also can be removed to allow a soldier to stand in the hatch. With the lid closed, the occupants have blast protection on par with a mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle and the firepower of a Bradley while being as fast and mobile as a Humvee.
Unveiled at this week’s Modern Day Marine Expo in Washington, D.C., the vehicle's new turret also can mount a 7.62mm machine gun, 40mm smoke grenade launchers, and twin Javelin anti-tank guided missiles mounted horizontally to the side of the turret.
“The only thing that we really had to change on the truck was the roof and since our capsules are a modular design, we just replaced the roof panel with the new roof panel and then mounted that turret up there," Mansfield told The War Zone. "And again, that was a mockup, but we're building up a real version of it right now.”
CPWS features a welded aluminum frame housing a “multi-cannon” that can sport either an M230LF 30mm (a version of the cannon found on the AH-64 Apache) or the venerable M242 25mm cannon. It is remotely operated by an electromagnetic drive that provides 360-degree range of movement and can receive add-on armor up to level-five protection. The above video from the John Cockrill website shows the barrels as interchangeable. Optics can be mounted on top or to the side of the barrel.
The barrel can elevate from -10 degrees below horizontal to an upward angle of 60 degrees, a high angle of fire that could be useful in urban environments and could serve a secondary role against aerial threats like small drones.
“The other thing is this turret is modular, too,” Mansfield said. “You can you up-armor it with just putting bolt-on armor so that you get a little bit more protection up there. The gun system itself is more of a standard system. It's the interface between the truck and the systems that’s important. We're sort of agnostic as far as what system goes up on top. We just develop the mounting kit and the harnesses and such to be able to operate it up on top of the truck.”
Oshkosh is keen to prove the 16,000 or so JLTVs already in circulation are survivable, modular and relatively inexpensive to modify for serving light units in a variety of scenarios, Mansfield said. Oshkosh will mount an actual CPWS on a JLTV this summer in preparation for a live-fire demonstration in either Spain or Belgium this fall, he said.
Aside from U.S. military services, Belgium, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Lithuania, Brazil, and the U.K. operate JLTVs. Any current operators will be able to buy a CWPS retrofit kit for their existing vehicles, which simply require the removal of the roof panel to mount the weapon system, Mansfield said. The current war in Ukraine is lending credence to the idea of arming existing light vehicles with weapons that are relevant in modern urban combat, Mansfield said.
“Europe is very interested over there right now I think with things going on,” Mansfield said. “They seem to be very interested in being able to buy a JLTV at the price point that Oshkosh can give them that and then putting some pretty good lethal equipment on top of it. … It becomes more than just a tactical wheeled vehicle, right? It becomes a lethal asset that they can use, or employ, on the battlefield. You can get MRAP-level protection. You've got the mobility. It'll keep up with combat formations. And now you've put some lethality on top of it, right. It's a very good vehicle for what they're interested in right now.”
The M242 is the same gun that tops the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle as well as the Marines' LAV-25, so its addition to JLTV represents a significant increase in capability while maintaining commonality with other fielded systems. The cannon and ammunition also are already in the U.S. arsenal so at least for U.S. customers, the logistical and maintenance demands should be minimal.
Adding such a powerful cannon to JLTV is one of many recent efforts to equip tactical vehicles for various missions otherwise performed by heavier, costlier platforms. The Marine Corps especially could benefit from the additional firepower as the service transitions away from tanks toward smaller, lighter platforms to support expeditionary operations.
JLTVs have hosted a number of weapon systems since their introduction to service in 2016. Oshkosh and Bushmaster already demonstrated 20mm and another M230 30mm cannon configuration atop the JLTV for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Lockheed Martin recently delivered a version of the truck with a Spike Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) missile system mounted on top that is now in the hands of U.S. special operations forces. Oshkosh mounted a 120-millimeter mortar on a two-door version of the truck and performed a live-fire demonstration in Europe. Still, the M242 offers range, muzzle velocity, accuracy and long-proven armor killing power that is in some ways superior to these other offerings. Also, this is a full turret setup, not a more basic remote weapon station configuration.
It has been nearly four years since Oshkosh displayed a JLTV outfitted with a remote weapons station equipped with a .50-caliber machine gun and Javelin missile. In 2020, the U.S. Marine Corps test-fired a Naval Strike Missile anti-ship cruise missile from a launcher mounted on a JLTV, demonstrating the truck’s usefulness for the service’s future plans for distributed operations. Marines also plan to arm their JLTVs with a variant of the UVision Hero-120 loitering munition, launched from a common Multi-Canister Launcher for use against various ground and maritime targets.
Oshkosh won the initial $6.7 billion contract to build 17,000 JLTVs in 2015. Now that its deal has run its eight-year course, other companies will get a shot at building the follow-on A2 version of JLTV. A competitive rebuy request for proposals for JLTV was released in February. Proposals for the vehicle are due on July 15 and a contract award is expected in September.
“We were always aware that we were going to be in a re-compete after the eight years of our current contract,” Mansfield said. “We're very excited to be competing for this. We're very efficient on our lines … and obviously if we're selected as winner, we are ready now. They don't have to wait for a time for another supplier to build up what we already have in place.”
The upcoming contract is for 15,400 vehicles and 7,600 trailers. In the A2 version, the Defense Department wants an upgraded Banks Power-modified GM Duramax engine and a hybrid-electric drive powered in part by lithium-ion batteries.
Oshkosh in January unveiled a hybrid-electric truck called the eJLTV. Also a retrofittable kit, the eJLTV is designed to improve fuel efficiency by 20 percent, Mansfield said. It also allows users to switch immediately from internal combustion to “silent mode,” powering all onboard systems with the battery that can then be fully recharged in 30 minutes cone the engine is renegaged, Mansfield said.
Oshkosh is hopeful it will remain the incumbent manufacturer, but GM Defense, MaxxPro MRAP builder Navistar and AM General are all in the running to take over the contract.
Oshkosh is keen to show that existing JLTVs have a wide range of applications beyond troop transport and the addition of a remote cannon turret certainly provides tactical options for current customers. The War Zone will follow the company's progress as it makes that case to the U.S. and allies overseas.
Contact the author: Dan@thewarzone.com