Various agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the secret services and State Department are interested in a prototype vehicle called the SmarTruck, which features crowd-dispersing pepper sprays, high-voltage door handles and a ‘weapons station’ that emerges from the vehicle’s roof at the touch of a button.
The vehicle has been developed by the army’s National Automotive Centre (NAC), which links the military with civilian industry, academic research and the government of the US in developing technology, such as fuel cells, for both commercial and military use.
Dennis Wend, executive director of the Michigan-based agency, said that the SmarTruck – which the NAC describes as ‘the army’s James Bond-like concept vehicle’ – had been under development before the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11.
However, it had “taken on a life of its own as a counter-terrorism vehicle” since then. “These technologies had better be ready when called upon,” he said.
The development is part of a re-assessment of the US’s military’s capacity to fight in distant theatres of war and of the country’s ability to mount counter-terrorist operations along its borders.
“There are agencies that needs sedans with enhanced capabilities.
“They need trucks that have modules to assist them in reacting to situations like the one on September 11, 2001.
“It could be thousands of vehicles,” said George Baker, director of GM Defence, a division of General Motors.
The discussions have taken collaboration between Detroit and the military back to levels not seen for half a century, when GM, Ford and Chrysler – now part of DaimlerChrysler – turned their factories over to the production of tanks.
“The big three are showing their patriotism. “I guess it’s back to the way it was in the World War II,” said Wend.
It was not clear when any firm orders for vehicles could emerge, but the border patrol division of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service has bought six prototypes of a vehicle developed by GM for patrolling the US border with Canada.
Government officials had their first chance to inspect a range of prototypes a few weeks ago at a US Marine Corp base in Virginia. The prototypes included a ‘dune buggy’ designed for long-range desert reconnaissance.
There is also interest in a heat-resistant fire truck capable of approaching a burning, crashed airliner – a result of the failure of conventional equipment to reach the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania in 2001.
In a sign of the urgency of the discussions, the government has asked Detroit to find ways to reduce the time it takes to develop vehicles, according to Bernard Robertson, senior vice-president of government relations at DaimlerChrysler. “We are trying to be responsive to that interest,” declared Robertson. SmarTruck II is one such recent development. It is a three-axle Chevrolet Silverado pick-up adapted for multiple use in warfare, and which got the name SmarTruck II. In this case the mighty Xenon-floodlight is on the roof of the cabin while in the back part of the vehicle up to forty laser-guided missiles can be placed.
The police and the army are getting a weapon for varied applications and with a possibility to change the whole structure in a short time of one hour.
SmarTruck II can be used with advantage for fighting in urban areas, in chemical and biological warfare or as a mobile power station – to mention just some of its uses.
The newly-developed SmarTruck II is like a Swiss pocket-knife changed into a vehicle – all in one. Just the color will be different – khaki or black – instead of red or silver, but who knows.
The engine has an output of 350 HP, stroke volume is 6 498 cubic cm. The only information about the price of SmarTruck II is that it starts from $100 000 and weapons installed on it can be from $35 000 to $350 000.