Old soldiers never die; they only fade away.
So went the World War I-era song popularized by British soldiers first, then General Douglas MacArthur later.
And for decades after its introduction in the Second World War, the mighty Jeep saw its military role shrink more and more while its civilian applications grew larger.
Eventually, it just faded away from the battlefield as others assumed leading military-vehicle roles.
Now, however, the US Army believes changing battlefield conditions dictate a need for an inexpensive, lightweight, unarmored vehicle that could be flown into remote locations and used to ferry troops and cargo over rough terrain.
Hendrick Dynamics, a military contractor based in Charlotte, North Carolina, believes bringing back the iconic Jeep warrior would be the perfect solution, according to media reports.
Although their idea is one of many proposed, with no real US Army testing yet, executives with Hendrick are excited about the possibility of Jeep returning to its military roots.
“We’ve got a really good opportunity to deliver to the Army a highly capable platform at a significantly reduced cost,” Marshall Carlson, Hendrick Dynamics general manager, told the Toledo (OH) Blade recently. “One of the best points of the project is you’re starting with such an incredibly capable vehicle which comes right off the line in Toledo.”
Called the Commando, the vehicle is currently available in 2-door (shown above), 4-door, and a pickup conversion. None use the standard 3.6 Pentastar V6, but instead employ a 197-horsepower, 2.8-liter diesel engine which has been modified to run with any type of diesel fuel, thereby maximizing its deployment versatility.
It could also utilize a variety of modular attachments, such as machine gun mounts or advanced communications equipment platforms, according to Hendrick, and can be deployed by helicopter or in cargo planes.
One thing that certainly did not require an upgrade was the brand's legendary off-road capability.
“That Jeep has performed in absolutely the most difficult and austere conditions known to man,” Carlson said.
Hendrick Dynamics showed off one of its prototypes during the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, and says it currently has 14 built for testing.
Other features include 5-Speed Auto Transmission with Overdrive, Two-Speed 4WD System with 4:1 Low Range, Blackout Operations with Infrared Head and Tail Lights, High Performance Onboard Air Compressor, Ground Penetrating Radar with Marking Array, and Stowable Adaptive Countermine Roller and Rake.
US Army officials conducted an initial ultralight combat vehicle demonstration last summer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that included commercial and modified vehicles such as General Dynamics Flyer, the Boeing-MSI Defense Phantom Badger, Polaris Defense's deployable advanced ground off-road DAGOR, Hendrick Dynamics' Commando Jeep, Vyper Adamas' Viper, and Lockheed Martin's High Versatility Tactical Vehicle.
Though the US Army has yet to comment on any application, a September 2015 report from Defense News said the Army plans to evaluate all proposals by the end of 2016 and begin vehicle acquisition in 2017.
General Dynamics, the world's fifth-largest defense contractor, is widely seen as the favorite to land this new vehicle contract as its Flyer vehicle is already under contact to the US Special Operations Command.
However, Hendrick believes the Jeep name and the idea it is already commercially produced, thereby lowering startup and development costs, will help its cause.
“There are multiple vendors, and all options are on the table,” said Lt. Col. Garth Winterle, the provisional program manager, in the Defense News article.
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