They probably won’t see this one coming, and that’s kind of the idea.
Columbus, Ohio-based non-profit research and development organization Battelle has designed an armored pickup truck for the U.S. Special Operations Command that’s ready for action in the world’s toughest environments, while protecting the troops inside of it a lot better than your super cab can.
Based on a stock truck Battelle would rather not call out by name, but is as popular overseas as the Ford F-150 is in the United States, the modified machine should have no problem blending into the backdrop, if its operators need to keep a low profile. Using an off-the-shelf platform as a starting point saves both time and money on development and production.
Known for its advanced technical services as well as outfitting up-armored HUMVEEs, Battelle employs a host of high-tech materials in the construction of the truck including bulletproof glass made from lab-grown sapphire, and Dyneema; layered fiber sheets that wrap other anti-ballistic materials and catch bullets and shrapnel like a baseball mitt.
Since these changes essentially double the weight of the vehicle, much attention was focused on preserving the donor truck’s performance. Program Manager Jim Labine says closely-held engine upgrades increase output enough to overcome the added heft, while the transmission and 4x4 systems have been strengthened to get the extra power to the ground without giving up any durability -- a particularly important vehicle characteristic when you’re literally in the middle of nowhere and your life is on the line.
The suspension was also reengineered to deal with the massive payload, but without trading off much of the truck’s off-road abilities or paved road ride. Labine, who’s spent plenty of time behind the wheel himself, says “it feels heavier than the truck we start with, but handles well. It was designed to eliminate body roll in the turns.”
The vehicle can accommodate a variety of weapons systems, but those modifications are typically handled by the military after it takes delivery. It also adds all of the top secret communications equipment needed in the field, with Battelle providing specific holes and channels in the armor for cabling. Given the nature of the materials in use, that’s not something you can easily do with a 12-volt drill in the motor pool.
The $58 million contract calls for 200 or so of the trucks to be delivered over the next three years in up to 18 different configurations. Battelle doesn't know exactly where they’re going, or what they'll be used for. It'll just build them to order and fix them when they come home.
No questions asked.
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.