The Marines face some challenges that the Army doesn’t. When it comes to vehicles and weapons, the fact that they routinely operate from amphibious shipping places extremely tight constraints on vehicle size and numbers. Further, that amphibious basing means that as far as helicopters are concerned, they again face concrete constraints of the numbers available, and hence, the numbers of vehicles they can move by air. So for the Marines, saving weight and space is critical in a way that the Army rarely has to consider. While the Marines use an awful lot of equipment developed by the Army, there are times when they are forced to look out for themselves. And while for the past decade, they’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan as almost a second army, the drawdown in those theaters means the Marines are returning to their amphibious, expeditionary “kick in the door” role.
Marine amphibious doctrine calls for landing the heavy elements of the force, such as tanks, amphibious tractors, truck and logistics over the beach by landing craft. To secure those beaches, helicopter borne light infantry troops would secure key terrain inland. But light infantry, while great for mobility, lack firepower, and without sufficient fire support are liable to be swept aside. The Marines were faced with the problem of moving a big enough force far enough inland to keep the beaches clear of enemy fires, and not having enough helicopters to move those same troops and any real firepower along. Moving heavy artillery forward wasn’t really an option, but what about a 120mm mortar? Decent range and a very powerful warhead were points in its favor. But even though it is much lighter than conventional artillery, it would still need a vehicle to serve as its prime mover and to carry ammunition.
The new MV-22 tilt-rotor is fast, but only when it is loaded with troops. If it has to sling load a vehicle beneath it, it can only fly as fast as any other helicopter. But the primary light vehicle of the Marine Corps was the same HUMVEE used by the Army, and if you’ve ever seen a HUMVEE, you know they’re pretty wide. There was no way to get one to fit inside an MV-22. And so the search began for the Internally Transportable Vehicle or ITV.
The initial development of the ITV (soon nicknamed the Growler) was actually inspired by, and featured components of, the HUMVEE’s predecessor, the M151 Ford MUTT (Multiple Purpose Tactical Truck). As the design evolved the MUTT components fell by the wayside. The ITV is an entirely new design, with all new components. But its pedigree is obvious to anyone who has seen a MUTT.
Growler ITV with towed 120mm mortar system
The ITV and its associated towed 120mm mortar system fit nicely into the cabin of an MV-22, meaning on bird can lift considerable firepower to support the infantry, and reach the objective at the same time.
There’s also a reconnaissance version of the ITV.
While the Growler doesn’t have any protection from small arms or IEDs, that is a risk the Marines are willing to take. Better to have some mobility in the early days of a campaign, than no mobility at all. If up-armored HUMVEES and MRAPs are needed, follow-on echelons lifted by the Military Sealift Command will bring them in.
The development of the Growler was fairly protracted, taking about 10 years, and each vehicle costs about $180,000. Not exorbitant by military standards, but not cheap, either.
Of course, when the Army’s 82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault and 10th Mountain divisions found themselves in the same pickle needing a lightweight prime mover that would fit nicely inside helicopters, they just went out and bought a bunch of John Deere Gator four-wheelers.