The Best U.S. Combat Vehicle in Ukraine is Not What You Think

Wes O'Donnell
4 min readJun 2

Sure, the F-16 Fighting Falcon makes a great headline and I’ll admit, it is a sexy fighter jet. But there is one vehicle that represents the backbone of U.S., and now Ukrainian, combat operations: The Oshkosh M1074A1 Palletized Load System (PLS).

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For all the talk of HIMARS, drones, and mine-laying artillery shells, the humble PLS touches almost every unit in a combined arms fighting force.

And yet, without this single piece of equipment in its many configurations, ground combat grinds to a halt.

Full stop.

There are no more fuel deliveries.

No more food for hungry soldiers.

No replacement parts for broken vehicles.

No water for thirsty grunts to quench their grunty thirst.

No ammunition for artillery or HIMARS.

No combat vehicle recovery (Track excluded).



It’s a beautiful machine. And so are the people who operate it.

As a young, brash, and idiotic infantryman, I used to make fun of Army truck drivers. “Wait, you joined the Army to drive a truck?” Ha!

Only now do I realize how foolish I sounded because, without that transportation soldier and his PLS, my grunty life would have been more miserable than it already was.

The Palletized Load System is a truck-based logistics system that entered service in the U.S. Army in 1993 and the U.S. has produced over 8,000 to date. Current PLS A1 variants are powered by a Caterpillar C-15 four-stroke diesel making 600 hp.

These vehicles have successfully supplied U.S. soldiers in the Balkans, Syria, and America’s many desert wars.

The PLS consists of the truck itself, a three-axle dolly-type trailer, three types of flatrack, and add-on kits like the Container Handling Unit (CHU) that allows for the loading and unloading and transport of standard 20 ft (6.1 m) ISO containers.

The Russian military doesn’t have anything like the PLS in Ukraine. In fact, the…

Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security Wonk for War is Boring, GEN, OneZero, Soldier of Fortune | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Founder of Warrior Lodge