Want to Drive a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux? Better Talk to Uncle Sam
U.S. Military wants pickups and SUVs that blend into wartime locations
The global Ford Ranger, along with the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser 76 and 79 models aren’t available in the U.S. thanks to safety and emissions regulations. However, the U.S. Military has secured a contract with an Ohio-based company to upfit 396 of the trucks and SUVs with armor and communication equipment for duty in regions where the vehicles are commonly found.
It’s the perfect form of camouflage, actually. The enemy is far less likely to spot a Land Cruiser than a Humvee or MRAP.
The contract is between the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida and the Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio. The five-year contract is worth $170 million for as many as 556 vehicles. According to Military Aerospace, 396 of the vehicles will be armored with the remaining 160 vehicles retaining their OEM looks.
Battelle will add various levels of crew protection like armor, along with stronger suspension and braking systems, frame and body reinforcements, and run-flat tires on special wheels that can withstand small arms fire. Infrared lighting for blackout mode will be included, along with C4ISR equipment, otherwise known as command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment. These upfitted vehicles will mostly consist of the Land Cruiser.
It will be a while before these vehicles see combat, however. Battelle will need time for developing the specialized add-ons for these specific vehicles. The prototypes then have to pass the military’s grueling evaluation process and qualification testing. At that time, the government may issue delivery orders for production. Yep, none of this is set in concrete. Battelle expects to have the contract finished by 2023.
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Why It Matters
The U.S. Military’s current lineup of vehicles is rather well known around the world, making it rather hard for Special Forces to covertly operate. Never mind that our vehicles are plastered with “USA” and the American Flag.
So it makes total sense why the military is utilizing locally ambiguous vehicles to conduct missions. Then again, announcing the contract to the public, naming the vehicles being used, then upfitting them with non-OEM equipment like aftermarket wheels, communications equipment, and blackout lighting isn’t exactly operating covertly. “Hey ISIS, we’re rollin’ in the ‘Cruiser 76 with the tinted windows, big whip antenna, and painted-over reflectors!”
Still, if there was ever a set of vehicles suitable for military use, the Land Cruiser 76 and 79, along with the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux are them. It’ll be interesting to see how well the U.S. Military incorporates these trucks into their fleet.
Source: Military Aerospace