Marine Corps UTVs Receiving Multiple Upgrades
by U.S. Marine Corps Ashley Calingo, Systems Command
The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) are undergoing several
upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the
Using critical feedback from Marines and taking
inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing,
engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program
office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working
diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the
UTV. These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat
tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement
kit and an environmental protection cover.
December 4, 2019 - Jason Engstrom, center, a Utility Task Vehicle engineer with Program Executive Officer Land Systems, reviews several of the vehicles upgrades with Marines at the Transportation Demonstration Support Area aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. PEO Land System’s Light Tactical Vehicle program office is currently implementing several upgrades
... including an environmental protection cover, upgraded tires and clutch improvement kit
... to UTVs across the fleet. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Ashley Calingo)
“We bought the
vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going
to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason
Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.
Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines
have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said
Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a
typical off-the-shelf solution.
“Even though we’re in the
operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle,
it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the
limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines
come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”
High Clearance Control Arms
The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance
control arms on the vehicle—a crucial component of the vehicle’s
different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we
noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,”
said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s
primarily where the Marines were driving.”
A bent or damaged
control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney
Smith. To address this issue, the team looked to industry and
ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about
twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an
extra 2.5 inches of clearance.
With this upgrade, Marines are
better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their
risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.
Clutch Improvement Kit
UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement
kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s
transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.
“One of the things that came
right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,”
said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes
the whole vehicle out of action.”
The upgraded clutch kit
reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the
belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.
team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed
evidence of damage after a recent deployment.
“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia,
they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have
the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which
is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.
Upon receiving this
feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various
potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.
wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting
too much weight in the design of the vehicle—like a reinforced
floorboard—impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,”
said Smith. “Every pound counts.”
For the UTV’s tire
upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the
Baja off-road racing industry.
“There’s a new approach to
run-flat technology—called ‘Tireballs’,” said Engstrom. “Inside each
tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running
over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to
continue driving on.”
This, said Engstrom, significantly
enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them
to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the
team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable
than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various
environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.
“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing
1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it
would be a good upgrade for Marines.”
Environmental Protection Cover
The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV,
provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out
in the field.
“Have you ever been
in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s
exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s
necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot
sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”
Road March Kit
started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit—comprising turn signals, a
horn, and a rearview mirror—last March. Marines from III Marine
Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety,
especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also
used by civilian motorists.
Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades,
underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the
acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the
“We try to meet customer needs within the
requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and
Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the
customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will
certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”
UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance
schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside
regular maintenance and services.
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