Rapid surprise hit-and-run attacks, high speed hostage rescue, indirect fire support or high-risk scout operations behind enemy fortifications are all mission expectations for Special Operations Forces facing enemy fire in light tactical vehicles.
U.S. Special Operators are acquiring a new rugged, arctic-capable, fast-moving light tactical attack vehicle to quick strike missions, reconnaissance and small unit transport across rigorous terrain in warzones. They also want a vehicle able to be armed with laser weapons and counter drone systems.
It’s called the MRZR Alpha, made by Polaris Defense, and it is engineered to be expeditionary and travel on-board a V-22 Osprey aircraft as well as a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter. The concept is to forward deploy fast-moving small units of special operations needing to operate in otherwise inaccessible, mountainous or unreachable areas.
The vehicle is an upgraded variant of its existing MRZR D vehicle with more payload and technical advancements for forces in combat, including new sensors, electromagnetic systems, vibration and shock controls, stronger propulsion and an Arctic Enclosure Package with snow tracks, a special cab and heating systems.
“Right now, we are continuing to test and refine in preparation for low rate initial production early 2021. We’ve proven performance and durability at extreme heat and the cold chamber, desert sand dunes and rocky terrain at elevation and extensive durability miles in an off-road mission profile,” Nick Francis, Director, Polaris Defense, told The National Interest in a statement.
The MRZR Alpha is also built with greater payload potential for casualty evacuations and higher ground clearance to enable improved suspension and roadside bomb deflection capability. The Alpha also leverages advanced Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance technologies. In addition, the vehicle will feature counter drone technology and more mobile power sources to support laser weapons. Increased autonomy is also built into the vehicle to optimize integration of the latest advanced algorithms enabling systems to perform a wide-range of functions without needing human intervention. The new chassis, which can be built for two or four passengers and equipped to carry two litters for medical evacuation.
“The MRZR Alpha is powered by a high-performance 8-speed automotive transmission and a powerful, yet quiet, 4-stroke, 118 hp turbo-diesel engine. This provides 200 ft-lbs of efficient torque that, when combined with a selectable locker for the 2WD/4WD drive system,” a Polaris Defense statement said.
The four-seat version includes 2,000 pounds of payload, run flat tires, is built to operate in sand and can reach top speeds up to 60mph. The vehicle, while heavier than its predecessor, can sling load beneath a Black Hawk helicopter.
How might some of these technological enhancements impact tactics for Special Ops on the move. Laser weapons are stealthy, quiet, precise and tailorable in terms of desired effects. They can bring massive advantages against enemy drones, especially in urban areas should there be a need to minimize explosive fragmentation caused by an explosion. Increased autonomy can free up Special Operators to focus on high-value functions such as targeting or casualty assessments without having to perform as many standard procedural functions better done by advanced computers. Larger payload, especially with vehicles that are air droppable in otherwise unreachable areas such as uneven terrain or high altitudes in mountainous regions, can not only help forces maneuver but also improve ability to bring weapons, supplies ammunition and medical supplies to high-risk, high casualty combat areas.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Image: MRZR Alpha.