NEW YORK – If the post-Sept. 11 world seems stocked with supervillains like Usama bin Laden and the anthrax mailer, then the forces of good need all the sophisticated machinery they can muster.
Enter the SmarTruck, the U.S. Army's answer to the Batmobile, James Bond's BMW and David Hasselhoff's talking car, "KITT."
Packed with more gadgets than a Swiss army knife, the vehicle's Ford F-350 chassis boasts a remote-controlled, laser-sighted machine gun, a grenade launcher, night vision, bulletproof glass, Kevlar armor, a GPS locator, electrified door handles, and blinding lights.
To elude pursuers, the truck can cover the road behind it with an oil slick, a smoke screen or sharp tacks to puncture enemy vehicle's tires. It can prevent attempts to latch explosive booby traps onto it and clear mine fields.
Pedestrians who want to break into the truck will have to make it through a 12-foot cloud of pepper spray the driver can squirt out with the push of a button. It has fingerprint recognition and even a black box to tell the tale when all else fails.
And it all comes in a package that looks like nothing more than your standard stuck-in-traffic Ford pickup.
SmarTruck is the brainchild of the U.S. Army's National Automotive Center in Warren, Mich., the military's tank factory-turned-super-car-laboratory.
NAC associate director Paul Skalny told The Detroit News that the vehicle, while still a concept car meant for the military, might eventually be used in VIP motorcades, or in urban or homeland fighting where a tank just will not do, if NAC's commercial partners like the idea. It was designed specifically with organized crime and terrorists in mind.
"This is a concept vehicle that may or may not get into the public's hands," Skalny told Fox News in a telephone interview. "It was definitely looked upon to be a platform that would actually be in the soldiers' hands."
With the concept achieved, the second phase of development would be seeing to it that the SmarTruck has everything its user needs. Or, as the Army, might say: The SmarTruck will be all that it can be.
"Phase two is all about ... addressing those requirements, putting more technology into the vehicles and testing the vehicles in an operational scenario and a technical scenario and doing performance and vehicle testing," Skalny said.
SmarTruck's project manager and NAC director Dennis Wend could not be reached for comment.
But Clint Murphy, the president of private armored car company Amortek, of Texas, was skeptical SmarTruck will have any actual practical use, despite its impressive inventory of gadgets.
The main problem with SmarTruck, Murphy said, is that it rests on a lightweight body and has armor only capable of stopping a .44-caliber round — a handgun in a machine-gun world. SmarTruck wouldn't be suited for SWAT work, much less tracking down warlords in Afghanistan, he said.
"All the foreign countries have AK-47s," he said. "If it's no good at stopping military rounds, what good is it?"
SmarTruck's best use, Murphy said, might be in deterring kidnapping attempts — using its array of gadgetry to buy those five crucial seconds that could be used to escape.
But at least one NAC claim wouldn't hold up, Murphy said. If SmarTruck is going to be used for a presidential motorcade, it's going to be the president of a corporation or Kiwanis Club, not the president of the United States.
Skalny said that, as a product still in the concept stages, the truck was bound to have some features that would be improved or altered. The important thing, he said, was that the SmarTruck successfully took elements from both military and commercial armored cars and turned them into a working vehicle.