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Jeep to re-enlist in the Army?

by Bill Cawthon on

It’s been 75 years since Jeep enlisted in the U.S. armed services, starting a 30-year career that spanned three wars and all branches of the military. Now, a company best known for NASCAR racing is working to return the Jeep Wrangler to its roots.

Jeep-Commando-1

Hendrick Dynamics, a subsidiary of Hendrick Motorsports, partnered with BAE Systems to create Jeep Wrangler-based,   ultralight ground mobility vehicles (GMV) to support the Global Response Force.

An official request for proposals won’t come until later this year, but early guidelines call for a commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) solution that would provide a mobile, low-cost vehicle that can be easily airlifted.

The Army has relied on increasingly larger, heavier, and more expensive vehicles, culminating in Oshkosh Defense’s Light Armored Tactical Vehicle (L-ATV). The original Jeep weighed 2,450 pounds and cost about $10,500, when adjusted for inflation; the L-ATV weighs 14,000 pounds and costs $250,000 (both costs are before being outfitted with military gear).

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The L-ATV protects soldiers from IEDs and other threats, but the Army has many operations that don’t require an armored vehicle, and sometimes need to go where the L-ATV can’t.

Hendrick created three Commandos: the Commando 2 (a two-seater based on the Wrangler), the Commando 4 (a four seater based on the Wrangler Unlimited), and the Commando S (a Wrangler Unlimited-based four-seat pickup that appears to use the Mopar JK-8 conversion kit).

The use of the Mopar kit isn’t surprising; one of Hendrick Automotive Group’s 137 dealerships is Hendrick Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Concord.

Jeep-Commando-4

All the Commandos have been modified to meet military requirements: they have 2.8-liter diesels capable of running on JP-8 fuel, military-style bumpers, and Kevlar-reinforced tires. Options include infra-red headlights and taillights, rifle scabbards, and fittings for unmanned operations.

Around two dozen prototype Commandos have already been used by the Army in the Middle East.

The Army has yet to release its RFP, much less start the process of evaluating vehicles, but the Jeep could be re-enlisting for another tour of duty.

Jeep-Commando-3

The Army’s Ground Mobility Program is not the same as the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Ground Mobility Program. The USSOC, wanting a larger vehicle, capable of being armored, has already selected the General Dynamics Flyer 72.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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