On the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division jumped into Poland to test their ability to bolster NATO’s eastern flank in the event of a Russian attack. While the Division was evaluating the capability to put paratroopers on the ground efficiently, it also kept a close look on the performance of their new all-terrain vehicles.
The battalion-sized unit took off from Fort Bragg and rig in the air on the 10-hour flight. The troops dropped with about 10 of their MRZR all-terrain vehicles made by Minnesota-based Polaris Defense. (“MRZR” is not an acronym but simply a designator, according to Polaris.) The Division has already purchased 33 commercial vehicles for proof-of-principle tests.
Even though the four-seat MRZR-4s are still regarded as part of an 82nd Division “pilot program,” the vehicles give the paratroopers more mobility than commercial ATVs. “These vehicles significantly enhance what would otherwise be foot mobility,” Brig. Gen. Brian Winski, deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne, explained in a Bloomberg News interview. “They change the dynamic and turn what would have been a three-mile per hour operation into a 50-mile per hour operation.”
Produced in both 2-person and 4-person configurations, the MRZRs are built around the Polaris ProStar® 900 engine. Its high-torque capacity delivers more power to the ground and less driveline noise, all with lighter weight than found in other ATV powerplants. The innovative design features a helical cut final drive with optimized gear geometry to maximize efficiency.
Both the two-seat MRZR-2 and four-seat MRZR-4 can reach about 60 mph maximum speed with 88 HP. The MRZR-2 can carry 1,000 pounds while the MRZR-4 can carry 1,500. They also have standard features like a winch, aircraft tie-downs, large cargo boxes, and fold-down rollover structures for operator protection.
To ensure maximum agility, the ATVs are built with a low center of gravity. The smooth, highly responsive electronic power steering can help reduce fatigue for operators that have to drive for very long periods. The roll cage has a smart design that provides protection, but can be quickly and easily removed without tools. The vehicles also have keyless ignition,
While the MRZRs were designed to run on gasoline, Polaris announced that a new, turbo diesel-equipped MRZR-D is available. In addition to commercial or local diesel, MRZR-Ds will run on JP-8 jet fuel. According to Defense News, the diesel engine increases the vehicle’s range by up to 30 percent on roads. The MRZR-D comes in new a six-person configuration, as well.
EVALUATION BEFORE FURTHER PROCUREMENT
Whether the Army buys more vehicles depends on tests conducted by the 82nd. Soldiers have evaluated the Polaris MRZR-4, dubbed the light tactical all-terrain vehicle (LTATV), for increased mobility during airfield seizure operations. The vehicle would provide a rifle company with an air-droppable maneuver and small arms platform. The 82nd’s plan calls for it to buy commercial off-the-shelf vehicles in the mid-term and establish a formal acquisition program in the long term.
This past April, the Army issued a questionnaire asking industry about an ultra-lightweight combat vehicle (ULCV) envisioned as an off-road vehicle that would carry a nine-soldier squad and be air-droppable from a C-17 or C-130. The Army specified the ULCV It would be carried internally and externally by a CH-47 Chinook and externally by a UH-60 Black Hawk. The survey’s purpose was to begin informing the acquisition community about the availability and characteristics of commercial products, potentially challenging requirements, and the capabilities of equipment manufacturers in order to inform any future potential ULCV acquisition decisions or strategies.
Polaris, whose core business is recreational vehicles, has several ATVs modified for military operations. It unveiled its first purpose-built military vehicle last year, the DAGOR, which can transport a nine-person infantry squad or carry 3,250 pounds. Last summer, the Army held a demonstration at Fort Bragg in which six companies showed vehicles: General Dyamic’s Flyer; the Boeing-MSI Defense Phantom Badger; Polaris Defense’s deployable advanced ground off-road DAGOR; Hendrick Dynamics’ Commando Jeep; Vyper Adamas’ Viper; and Lockheed Martin’s High Versatility Tactical Vehicle, which is a version of the UK Army’s HMT-400 Jackal.
Then, last October, the 82nd announced that the 2nd Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment would be the first battalion to exercise and assess the light ATV. The idea was that it would allow the unit to swiftly transport and parachute in, then carry a small amount of supplies and hastily evacuate casualties from the battlefield.
US Special Operations Command announced last March that it was making a sole-source purchase of 2,000 LTATVs from Polaris. The contract calls for 1,700 MRZR-4 and 300 of the smaller MRZR-2.