The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Pentagon's long-awaited replacement for the workhorse Humvee, is at least four years away from full production, Army records show.
That's two years later than the date an Army general told USA TODAY in 2012 and six years later than the Army's target date in 2007.
That year, military officials told USA TODAY they preferred to develop the JLTV instead of a larger truck, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, that reports showed was far safer against the improvised explosive devices killing hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq than the Humvees most were riding in.
While still on the drawing board, JLTV was a bigger priority than the MRAP, despite the latter's proven safety record.
The MRAP couldn't navigate the narrow streets in Iraq, then-Brig. Gen. Charles Anderson told USA TODAY.
Then-Defense secretary Robert Gates, who made getting more MRAPs his top priority, heard the same story. "The services did not want to spend procurement dollars on a vehicle that was not the planned long-term Army and Marine Corps replacement for the Humvee – the joint light tactical vehicle," Gates wrote in his memoirs, Duty, which were published in January.
Despite the military's resistance, Gates pushed ahead. The Pentagon ultimately bought about 20,000 MRAPs for Iraq and another version for the rougher terrain in Afghanistan. Pentagon estimates showed that the lives of thousands of U.S. troops were saved and thousands of other troops were spared being seriously wounded.
U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011. Most are scheduled to leave Afghanistan at the end of this year.
The JLTV never appeared in either war.
It remains in development and years away from getting troops in the field.
Newly released Pentagon budget documents show the earliest the vehicle could be produced in any numbers is 2018.
Three companies are building JLTV prototypes, and the military could pick a main contractor in 2015 and start limited production, the latest Army budget documents show.
That's if the program continues. The latest Pentagon budget calls for the elimination of another vehicle — the Ground Combat Vehicle — which has also been under development.
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