US Military conscripts Kiwi’s favourite utes

US Military conscripts Kiwi’s favourite utes

New Zealand’s favourite utilities are being called up for a new combat role where they retain their factory appearance but possess military grade vehicle electronics, suspension, night vision, ballistic protection, and tyres designed to survive small arms fire.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is ordering a fleet of modified Toyota Hilux, Toyota Land Cruiser 70, and Ford Ranger utes for evaluation in the field, from a non-profit defense contractor in Ohio.

The Battelle Memorial Institute won the US$170 million SOCOM contract to produce armoured and unarmoured vehicles for the next five years at its manufacturing facility in West Columbus.

According to Battelle, it has been designing, building and delivering such commercial-style armoured vehicles to defense customers for more than 11 years.

Battelle says its ground vehicle team takes existing light commercial vehicles and SUVs, re-engineers them with protective armour and adds other durability features, such as stronger suspensions for operations in rugged terrain and enhanced alternators to withstand extreme climates.

Battelle also says its modified vehicles have previously completed formal strength testing and system level armour testing.

The company says the Hilux, Land Cruiser, and Ford Ranger will retain the ‘original equipment manufacturer’ (OEM) appearance, but are re-engineered with crew protection, enhanced suspension for improved off-road mobility, and a reinforced chassis for durability.

Battelle worked on armouring tanks in World War II for the US military and more recent work has included armouring high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs).

It also trained military personnel and contractors to install more than 500 protective armour kits on to existing vehicles.

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