ABU DHABI — Ultralight off-road vehicle manufacturers are not going light on competition for Middle East business at the massive IDEX defense show here this week.
The main American contenders — top-tier defense firm General Dynamics and recreational vehicle maker Polaris Industries — displayed their offerings for the US Army's nascent ultralight combat vehicle effort, seeking local customers as well.
Both The similarities are each all-terrain vehicles are sling-loadable by helicopter, weigh about 4,500 pounds and cost roughly in the neighborhood of $150,000. Both could be used in the region for run-and-gun operations over rugged terrain to fight an unconventional foe like the Islamic State group.
"We're following the threat, we're away from driving on main service roads, between forward operating bases," Rich Haddad, Polaris Defense general manager, said of troops using the vehicle. "The organizations you're dealing with are less than military and they tend to be light, mobile and fast."
Both have a nexus with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The GD Flyer 72's edge in this regard is its selection in 2013 by SOCOM as its Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1. Polaris officials say the are delivering 15 DAGORs under a SOCOM contract, but are not permitted by the command to say more. (Polaris has delivered roughly 500 of each of its two smaller all-terrain vehicles ATVs to SOCOM, company officials will say.)
"This is the first time we have been able to have the vehicle participate, and we think people will take advantage of it because it won the GMV 1.1 competition based on its performance and characteristics," said Sean Ridley, the program director at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.
The stripped-down Flyer 72 weighs 4,500 and can carry nine people. With all the options, including an armor package, its weighs 12,000 — the maximum weight for the GMV 1.1. Its maximum range is 450 miles and top speed is 85 mph.
SOCOM is ordering 1,300 of the Flyer 72s, enough for GD to argue the Army — should it ever decide to procure an ultralight combat vehicle — needs to look no further. Should it pass ongoing production qualification testing with SOCOM, which precedes user tests, it would save the Army the time and expense of doing so, Ridley said.
"All your development is done, your sustainment is done, all you're buying is a system and a package at that point," Ridley said.
GD's Flyer 60, selected by SOCOM as an internally transportable vehicle for the V-22 Osprey, shares a drive train, suspension, electrical systems and engine, Ridley said.
At the show, the Flyer 72 has seen interest from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where it was invited to participate in the summer trials testing event, according to Ridley. Yet he said the vehicle could be used anywhere.
"I don't think it's specifically just this part of the word," he said. "We've got a base vehicle that's light, that can support a variety of missions, whether it's desert conditions, a water environment or urban terrain. The interest in the vehicle has been there for awhile, but we are just getting to where we can bring it to shows like this."
Polaris is showcasing several of its vehicles at IDEX: the single passenger MV850 all-terrain vehicle; the two and four passenger MRZR lightweight tactical all-terrain vehicle, which are on contract with SOCOM; and, mentioned above the DAGOR ultra-light vehicle, which has the capability to transport a nine-person infantry squad or carry 3,250 pounds of payload.
Photo Credit: Polaris
The DAGOR, which debuted publicly in October, is on contract with a Middle East partner, Polaris officials said.
If discovered by an enemy, the DAGOR is better for a quick retreat than as a fighting vehicle, though it does have a roof cut-out for a weapon ring mount. Nor are they good for routes sewn with roadside bombs, the ultralight vehicles are not a good idea. They did say they plan to participate in tests this summer with a country in the region.
"One of these things, 60 feet in the air," Haddad said. "You don't even talk about blast protection with these vehicles."
Large companies are not the only ones that were playing in this class. Spanish firm Jaton Racing adapted a Dakar Rally racing vehicle into the TK-pound "Pastor JTN," which accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds and has a 1,500 pound towing capacity. The vehicle comes in two- and four-passenger variants.
"We are looking at patrol, and our current markets are the Middle East and Africa, where you need to cover a lot of terrain," said Camilo Munoz-Trochez, of the Pastor. "We are talking about an electric variant. Why? Because we are the first to bring an electric vehicle to Rally. We will be really, really silent."
HDT Global, based in Solon, Ohio, displayed its 5,000-pound Storm SRT (search, rescue, tactical) vehicle, which a company rep said SOCOM is purchasing in quantities of 15 per year. HDT Global, of Solon, Ohio, manufactures tents and power equipment and took over the Storm when it acquired a small company Khan declined to name.
"This is really designed for quick, hit-and-run operations that are not accessible by other means," said Hamayun Khan, the company's director of international business development for the region.
The vehicle took part in the UAE's official summer trials last year, according to Khan, and it traveled 700 kilometers on a single tank of gas.
"UAE armed forces are very interested in this," he said.