Hybrid motorcycles, flying dune buggies, and the latest Polaris Defense special operations ATV – what red-blooded American wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel and push them to their limits?
Special Operations are always driving cutting-edge innovation in military technology, so, here are three vehicle advances from 2014 that also get top marks for just being plain cool and ultra fun to drive.
The hybrid motorcycle advantage
Motorcycles are cool. But stealth motorcycles are even cooler.
Combat troops would get a whole lot of use – and a whole lot of fun – out of the rugged, lightweight, two-wheel-drive off-road motorcycles DARPA is looking for.
The US Armed Forces needed a cutting-edge stealth motorcycle that would let them travel fast and silently downrange. DARPA – the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – awarded a small business innovation research grant to develop a military-use, hybrid motorcycle that will operate nearly silently in electric mode.
The partnership between two small innovative American companies, Logos Technologies and BRD, leverages the former’s expertise in hybrid power projects and the latter’s in creating state-of-the-art electric motorcycles.
Why a motorcycle? Tough terrains like soft soil and narrow, steep trails can be a challenge. But this is a challenge that can be readily handled by two-wheel-drive vehicles while maintaining rapid speeds.
Why silent? Speed and stealth can be crucial when approaching the enemy, and current motorcycles are less than ideal because of the noise they generate. A typical motorcycle 25 feet away produces 90 decibels, about four times as loud as the proposed hybrid.
Also designed to be dumped, dropped, slid, tipped, crashed – and keep on performing, this two-wheel-drive hybrid takes motorcycles to another level and would give American soldiers some great advantages downrange.
As warfare continues to require deploying small units to remote and extreme terrains, technology like this hybrid will allow U.S. forces to do more with less.
In addition to special operations work, it could be useful for a range of other purposes, including scouting, convoy control and military policing.
BRD’s tagline may put it best: “Welcome to the future of fast.”
Flying dune buggies
Does a dune buggy that flies sound like fun? For some special operations forces, it’s just another day en route to work.
All special operations forces have requirements for all-terrain vehicles, but this solution just happens to provide the option of flying more than 10,000 feet, too.
Also a hybrid vehicle, Vaylon’s Pegasus flying dune buggy combines an all-terrain buggy with a “micro-light” aircraft.
Pegasus is intended for accessing tough spots – overcoming rivers, dunes, cliffs, damaged roads and more.
This dune buggy is designed to carry two warfighters, take off and fly in powered flight or paraglide and stay in the air up to three hours.
In the air, it can travel at speeds between 35 to 50 miles per hour. On the road, it can reach up to about 65 mph and can manage both dry and wet obstacles.
It has STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) meaning it requires less than 330 feet to take off and can land in under 33 feet— even on poorly prepared fields. Compact and light, it is built to be air-transportable and droppable. These are key advantages because it can make rapid access to hard-to-reach places a whole lot easier.
In addition to rapid deployment, Pegasus has also been designed to provide a speedy yet stealthy approach with its silent propellers to support fast intervention on the ground. It can carry up to approximately 550 pounds.
The dune buggy hybrid may ultimately also be armed with weapons, ranging from machine guns to light multi-role missiles.
Pegasus is intended to deploy on a range of missions from hostage rescue and recon through to equipment transport. But it could also be used response to humanitarian crises - or even tourism.
Vaylon hopes to make Pegasus widely available in 2015.
DAGOR Made in America, off road anywhere
Polaris Defense already makes several very popular all terrain vehicles for special operations. The public debut of the ultra-light combat vehicle DAGOR was definitely a star at this year’s Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting.
It doesn’t fly itself like the dune buggy, but it can also travel by air by easily hitching rides.
Its smart design means it can be delivered by sling load, air drop, or internally to a remote site by catching a lift with lots of different aircraft like the H-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter, the Sikorsky H 53 family of military helicopters, or even the H-47 Chinook cargo lifters.
DAGOR can be unleashed in a war zone with an aircraft low velocity airdrop. In this sort of airdrop, a load is parachuted to the ground in order to guarantee as low of an impact as possible.
Larger than Polaris Defense’s MRZR and MV850, DAGOR weighs in at about 4,500 pounds and can carry up to a 3,250-pound payload.
On the ground, it is a highly mobile off-road vehicle featuring some serious suspension and well suited for lugging heavy payloads in extreme off-road environments.
In the standard configuration, it seats four warfighters – two in the front, two in the back — in addition to one in the gunner’s sling seat. It can also be re-configured to carry a total of nine warfighters.
What about weapons? Well, it’s heavy weapons-capable.
DAGOR doesn’t just deliver crucial capability, it also delivers in style. And who doesn’t want a sweet ride to drive to work?
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.
Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted" covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.