Truck Makers Pursue Niche Market for Small Air-Transportable Vehicles

By Grace V. Jean
It has been more than a decade since the Marine Corps launched a program to develop a truck that was sturdy enough for combat but small and light enough to fit inside the V-22 Osprey.

The project continues to this day, while contractors have found other customers for their small trucks.

General Dynamics Corp. has teamed with Flyer Defense LLC to develop a 60-inch wide tactical vehicle that is transportable inside a V-22 Osprey. The Flyer looks like a cross between a Humvee and a Jeep.

Weapons such as the 7.62mm firearm or the MK-19 machine gun can be taken off in a matter of minutes and replaced with storage facilities for medical equipment, for instance, said Scott Ridley, program manager for General Dynamics.

The 4,000-pound vehicle can carry payloads up to 3,500 pounds. A bolt-on armor kit weighs an additional 1,500 pounds. The driver sits behind a steering wheel centrally located in the dashboard.

“If he gets injured, the front seat passenger can stick his left foot [on the gas pedal] and drive,” explained Ridley. The vehicle can hit a top speed of 85 mph.

A wider variant is also in development, Ridley said. At 72 inches wide, that vehicle could accommodate a heavier payload and would be transportable inside the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and the CH-53 Sea Stallion family of heavy-lift helicopters.

General Dynamics is marketing the Flyer to customers outside the Marine Corps. It is pursuing the Air Force’s Guardian Angel air-droppable rescue vehicle program. It is a replacement truck for the all-terrain vehicles currently employed by the service’s pararescuemen, who perform combat search-and-rescue operations.

The Air Force in early 2011 plans to solicit proposals for a vehicle that can be dropped by parachute from military cargo planes and transport a team of four operators across rough terrain to seek and retrieve downed servicemen. It must accommodate two litters and two ambulatory casualties. Air Force officials previously had said that they were looking to buy a fleet of several dozen vehicles.

Another potential candidate for the Flyer is the Air Force Special Operations Command’s light strike vehicle, an internally transportable vehicle requirement that is currently unfunded. Service officials want the vehicle to fit inside the AC-130 gunships as well as the V-22 Osprey.
Efforts to acquire an internally transportable vehicle go back to at least 2001, when the Marine Corps began testing trucks that it wanted to deploy by 2003. The Corps selected two vehicles in 2000 —the DaimlerChrysler four-wheel drive Gelandeswagen and the Flyer II, made by the Flyer Corp. As an interim vehicle, the Marines purchased about 90 Gelandeswagen.

After a series of V-22 crashes, which led to a major redesign of the aircraft and delays in the test program, the Corps decided that there was no point in hurrying to buy an ITV.

Topics: Land Forces

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