Armor: More Better ATVs For Commandos


September 10, 2015: In July 2015 U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) ordered more MRZR2 and MRZR4 ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) for their operations in remote areas. This was not unexpected as the initial order for these vehicles was in 2013 and the troops liked them so much that SOCOM has now bought over a thousand more, to be delivered through the end of the decade.

The MRZR2 is a 1.1 ton (loaded with nearly 450 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo) 4x4 vehicle. It is 3 meters (9.1 feet) long and has no doors, two seats, and a steel framework on top of which is usually left open for maximum visibility. The vehicle is optimized for cross country operations and 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.

The MRZR4 is a larger MRZR2 that weighs 1.5 tons (loaded with nearly 700 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo) and is also a 4x4 vehicle. It 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. SOCOM only bought a few hundred between 2013 and the latest contract. 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 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.

One of the more popular models was the Ranger, which is a militarized ATV that is 2.9 meters (9 feet) long, 1.6 meters (5 feet) wide, weighs 760 kg, and can carry nearly as much. There are two seats and a rear deck that can hold up to half a ton of cargo. The top speed of 67 kilometers an hour and the ability to ford 76 cm (30 inches) of water contributes to excellent cross country performance. A 49 liter (13 gallon) fuel tank gives the Ranger a range of 500 kilometers or more, depending on how much time is spent off-roads. The Ranger engine burns military JP8 fuel and generates 40 horsepower. The Ranger began arriving in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2006, initially for use by light infantry and commandos. Troop reaction was positive. 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 British used a militarized versions of the Yamaha Grizzly 450. Basically the Grizzly is a four wheel, 285 kg (628 pound) cross country motorcycle. This ATV is 2.73 meters (6 feet) long and 1.1 meters (3.5 feet) wide. In addition to the driver, there are racks on the bike that can carry another 80 kg (175 pounds). Grizzly can tow a trailer carrying another 159 kg (350 pounds) of cargo. Top speed, on a flat surface, without a trailer, is about 75 kilometers an hour. Cross country, it's usually about half that and a bit less if a trailer is being hauled. The British Army bought 250 of the Grizzly 450s in 2005, and these were very popular with the troops in Afghanistan. There they are used for patrolling and hauling supplies to troops in isolated positions. The British paid $41,000 for each bike, although that includes a trailer, spare parts, and technical services. The civilian version goes for about $8,000 each.

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.





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