Armor: Marines Acquire Airborne ATVs


November 29, 2016: In late 2016 the U.S. Marine Corps ordered 144 MRZR4 ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) for delivery in early 2017. This particular ATV was selected because marines had seen SOCOM (Special Operations Command) using it and since some marines are part of SOCOM some of those marines had a chance to try the MRZR4. Another key factor was that the MRZR4 fits in the MV-22 tilt rotor transports the marines (and SOCOM) use.

In 2013 SOCOM began using 1.1 ton MRZR2 and the larger MRZR4 ATVs for their operations in remote areas. SOCOM has ordered over a thousand of these vehicles because users liked them so much that SOCOM had to keep ordering more

The MRZR4 weighs 1.5 tons (loaded with nearly 700 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo). It is a 4x4 vehicle that is 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) long and has no doors, four seats, and a steel framework on top which is usually left open for maximum visibility. The vehicle is optimized for cross country operations and also has an 88 horsepower engine. Fuel capacity is 7.25 gallons (27.4 liters) and range depends on what sort of terrain is being crossed.

Both MRZRs can tow a load of up to 680 kg. Cost per vehicle varies depending on accessories. MRZR can be equipped various electronic navigation and night movement equipment. The latest versions have improved electronic automatic power steering. There are a lot of accessories for storing different types of cargo on a MRZR.

ATVs in general have proved particularly useful, and popular, in Afghanistan, especially for special operations forces. Such vehicles are currently used in Syria, Iraq and Africa. There are many models in use, most of them militarized civilian vehicles. These vehicles are innovative both in original concept and how they are constantly modified and upgraded. The U.S. Department of Defense has been buying ATVs for American troops in Afghanistan for as long as SOCOM has been there.

While SOCOM has long been a user of various ATVs that use became more visible in Afghanistan and led to regular army units getting the ATVs, mostly for hauling gear around remote outposts. ATVs could be flown in slung under a helicopter. The ATVs were often used to collect air dropped supplies that, because of the often unpredictable winds, fell far from the base. The marines will use them in a similar fashion to the army troops. SOCOM often uses them for combat operations deep in hostile territory.

The ATVs have been so popular that many troops have bought them when they get back home and use them for cross-country trips (for camping, hunting, or just sightseeing). The army has bought some of these ATVs for use by troops just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. It's the kind of high-excitement recreation that has been found to help the troops decompress after returning from a combat tour.

SOCOM and the marines both have V-22 aircraft because these are faster than helicopters, especially when not carrying something suspended underneath the aircraft. The V-22 has a rear loading ramp which makes it easy to get a MRZR4 on and off in a hurry. The MV-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off on a ship, level flight, landing, and return) at 390 kilometers an hour. The V-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 135 kilometers an hour. The V-22 can carry a 4.5 ton external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 1.4 tons only 90 kilometers.

The marines are using the faster speed of the V-22s to reach the enemy in a more timely fashion, and run more flights, than a helicopter, in the same time. The V-22 also operates better at the higher altitudes encountered in Afghanistan but much of Afghanistan (and other areas popular with Islamic terrorists) is hot and dusty and that reduced V-22 reliability in increases maintenance costs. All this has made V-22s especially useful for SOCOM operations and the sort of jobs the marines see themselves getting more of in the near future.




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