The Marines Want the Humvee’s Replacement To Fight Anything That Flies

The JLTV is an armored utility vehicle capable of carrying four or more troops and their weapons. There are also armed versions of the vehicle equipped with TOW anti-tank missiles, and in 2016 manufacturer Oshkosh fitted the vehicle with a 30-millimeter chain gun. The vehicle has the room to add light air defense weapons capable of ranging out to 10,000 feet or more, but exactly what weapons it will carry is a good question

One possible weapon is the Stinger missile. Originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile for engaging low-flying aircraft and helicopters, Stinger is a proven weapon with a good track record. In the past, the Army and Marines fitted a Humvee with eight Stinger missiles and a pair of .50 caliber machine guns, creating the Avenger low-level air defense system. Stinger is a good choice for engaging aircraft and helicopters, but the JLTV could probably carry just eight missiles, making it not a great choice for engaging drone swarms.

Another possible weapon is a laser. Lasers in the 30- to 50-kilowatt class are finding their way to the battlefield, with 30 kilowatt lasers useful against drones and 50 kilowatt weapons useful to some extent against aircraft. Lasers are theoretically capable of an unlimited number of shots as long as there’s fuel to generate electricity, making them very useful against drones. That being said, laser performance is degraded in cloudy and foggy weather and in smoke screens as the laser energy is deflected off microscopic water, ice, and other particles in the air. Lasers are also less effective against large, high-speed aircraft with metal fuselages.

High powered microwave weapons such as the Air Force’s THOR system are another possibility. HPM weapons fire concentrated pulses of energy in conical patterns, overloading the circuitry of unmanned aerial vehicles and causing them to fall out of the sky. The shotgun-like pattern is useful for taking out multiple drones at once, making engagements against swarms practical. Exactly how a HPM weapon would work against a piloted aircraft is unknown. THOR is currently deployed abroad, installed on a 20-foot shipping container, making it a little too big to mount on a JLTV.

One last weapon candidate is a jammer to interrupt the signal between the drone and its human controller or satellite-based positioning system. A powerful jammer broadcasting on popular remote control frequencies would sever the connection between a drone operator and drone, causing the aircraft to crash or go on autopilot.