SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Quest for New Special Forces Vehicle

October 23, 2012 at 1:56 am 1 comment

Road Kill(er)

Northrop Grumman photo

Northrop Grumman Corp. unveiled – literally – its entry in the competition for a new U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) high mobility ground vehicle Monday (Oct. 22) on the exhibition floor of the huge Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

When officials from Northrop Grumman and partners BAE Systems and Pratt & Miller Engineering pulled away the camouflage cover, reporters and photographers got their first look at the Medium Assault Vehicle-Light, or MAV-L.

Designed from scratch by Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Miller – which designs, builds and races motor sports cars – the MAV-L looks like a combination Humvee and dune buggy with a tubular frame but no doors or solid roof.

The sand-colored, 13,000-pound vehicle (when fully loaded) is designed to travel at speeds over 80 miles per hour over paved roads and 60 mph on cross country trails – although it can take on muddy, rocky, sandy, uneven terrain where there are no trails at all.

It seats six – including a gunner in a sling-like seat in a bare-bones circular gun turret. But it can zoom out of the back a large helicopter or cargo plane for a rapid assault mission – like an airfield seizure — with eight more Special Forces troops hanging onto the vehicle’s sides, says Frank Sturek, Northrop’s MAV-L program manager.

The seats are built wide to accommodate Special Forces troops with all their equipment, weapons and body armor. The MAV-L has a modular design that allows rapid reconfiguration of storage areas and communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. Among the modules is an arctic one, that enables the engine to perform at extreme low temperatures.

One of Special Forces Command’s requirements for a new vehicle to replace its Humvees is that it can be driven on and off a cargo plane or helo, as is. The MAV-L fits on an Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane or an Army or Special Operations Aviation CH/MH-47 Chinook helicopter. A hydraulic system allows the vehicle’s 82-inch ride height to scrunch down to 72.6 inches – the way some city buses can “kneel” to allow handicapped passengers to board – and fit on an aircraft, Sturek added.

The MAV-L is one one of several vehicles offered by defense contractors in the U.S. Special Operations Command Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 competition. They include General Dynamics Land Systems’ GMV 1.1, the Navistar Defense Special Operations Tactical Vehicle and Humvee-maker AM General’s GMV.

The SOCOM GMV 1.1 program could purchase up to 1,300 vehicles for special operations missions requiring air transportability, weapons capabilities and high-performance ground mobility. No contract has been awarded but when SOCCOM makes its decision, production is expected to begin in 2013.

If the Northrop Grumman team wins, the vehicles will be manufactured at BAE Systems facility in Sealy, Texas.

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Entry filed under: Arctic, National Security and Defense, Special Operations, Technology, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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