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. Larger payload, especially with vehicles that are sling load and 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.
U.S. Special Operators are acquiring a new rugged, arctic-capable, fast-moving light tactical attack vehicle for 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.
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The vehicle significantly increases the performance over its existing MRZR D vehicle with more payload and technical advancements for forces in combat, including 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 and improved suspension for greater off-road mobility, Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS), direct-fire weapons, high-energy laser systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, tactical aviation ground refueling system, expeditionary command and control systems, autonomy packages, litters for casualty evacuation and communication equipment.
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“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, delivers superior off-road maneuverability and handling in the most demanding environments, including deep sand” 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 over 60mph. The vehicle, while heavier than its predecessor, can sling load beneath a Black Hawk helicopter.
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How might some of these technological enhancements impact tactics for Special Ops on the move when incorporated on the MRZR Alpha? 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.
— Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest —