This Could Be The Armored ‘Tactical Golf Cart’ The U.S. Military Desperately Needs
This Could Be The Armored ‘Tactical Golf Cart’ The U.S. Military Desperately Needs

Israeli firm Plasan has unveiled a new battle
buggy that it says has armor that can brush off high-powered rifle bullets without any
significant loss of speed or mobility. The company is pitching the design, called
the Yagu, primarily for border patrol and other law enforcement duties in remote areas,
but it could also offer a better protected, lightweight vehicle for certain conventional
military and special operations forces. Earlier in April 2018, Plasan unveiled the
Yagu at the Expo Seguridad 2018 exhibition in Mexico City. That the venue was in Mexico, which continues
to grapple with border security and drug, human, and other trafficking challenges, helps
explain the marketing focus on Yagu as a tool in combating that kind of criminality.“Nothing
this light and agile ever offered so much protection for a 3-man crew,” the company
posted on Twitter after the vehicle’s debut. “Lay chase, maintain the element of surprise. Yagu is your new weapon against trafficking. Your borders will never have been so secure.” But many of the Yagu’s other optional features
point to its potential utility in military missions, as well. At its core, the buggy is a modified Arctic
Cat Wildcat 4x 1000 all-terrain vehicle. It uses the same 95-horsepower engine and
automatic transmission, which has the same ability to switch between two and four-wheel
drive modes, as the Wildcat.On top of that, though, Plasan, a specialized in vehicle armoring
and composites, has added a new lightweight armored shell with bullet-resistant front
and side windows. The company says this provides B6+ level protection
on all sides for the crew of three, though an auxiliary power unit and air conditioning
system are both exposed at the rear. A European standard, B6 type armor can stop
many high-powered rifle rounds, such as the NATO-standard 5.56x45mm and the ever popular
Soviet-era 7.62x39mm. The “+” suggests that Plasan’s protective
suite should be able to defeat more powerful cartridges, such as the NATO 7.62x51mm and
the Soviet-designed 7.62x54mmR, but only if they don’t have special armor-piercing bullets.Typically
this level of protection requires ballistic steel at least a third of an inch thick, which
can greatly increase a vehicle’s weight. With the composite armored box, Plasan says
Yagu has a curb weight of just over 3,300 pounds, more than twice that of the standard
Wildcat. But this would make it lighter than General
Dynamics Flyer 72, especially with its add-on armor packages, but heavier than Polaris’
MRZR all-terrain vehicle, both of which are in service with U.S. conventional and special
operations forces. It’s not clear if that weight figure includes
an optional remote weapon station or small drone launching system, which are both options
that Plasan has heavily emphasized in the marketing literature. The promotional version also has flashing
lights and a siren for law-enforcement duties, but could just as easily accommodate small
electro-optical or infrared cameras and other sensors and missions systems for military
use.The remotely-operated weapon system on the Yagu prototype can accommodate either
a 5.56x45mm Israel Weapon Industries Negev squad automatic weapon or a 7.62x51mm FN MAG-type
light machine gun. It is likely that it will be able to accept
other similarly sized weapons, such as the FN M249 squad automatic weapon, but does not
appear suited to larger machine guns or automatic grenade launchers. The unmanned aircraft, a small quad-copter
type design, can reportedly fly for nearly 30 minutes at a time and has a full-motion
video feed that it sends back to an operator inside the Yagu. A promotional video shows it operating both
independently of the vehicle and physically tethered to it using a retractable cable. In this latter mode, it would function similarly
to an extendable sensor mast, but without the weight and bulk necessary for that type
of system.All of these features could make Yagu a useful and low-cost option to border
patrol or other law enforcement missions in austere locations where there is an increased
threat of particularly well armed and organized criminals. The drone would give the crew the ability
to monitor a much broader area than they might otherwise be able to do with more typical
mounted or handheld optics. But they would also appear to offer an attractive
alternative for conventional military and special operations forces who are looking
for the mobility and payload capacity an all-terrain vehicle might offer, but with some modicum
of protection. A report from Marine Corps Times in January
2018 said that U.S. Marine Corps special operators were particularly displeased with their MRZRs. The MRZR does offer added mobility for light
forces and has a better payload capacity than smaller all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles. However, it has no ballistic protection whatsoever
and therefore has limited utility for missions where there might be the risk of personnel
finding themselves in a serious firefight. “I’m sure they use it a lot in noncombat
advisory roles in Africa,” an anonymous Marine told Marine Corps Times. “[But] getting a foot outside the wire in
Iraq took an act of God, so tactical golf carts wouldn’t cut it.” Later that month, The War Zone was among the
first to report that U.S. Special Operations Command was urgently looking for more firepower
and defenses for Flyer 72 vehicles that various special operations forces units are already
using in combat zones. There are also concerns that these vehicles
may not be as readily air-transportable, especially inside CH-47 and MH-47 Chinook and CH-53 Sea
Stallion-type helicopters and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors, as originally advertised. Conventional U.S. Army airborne units are
slated to get these same vehicles later in 2018, while light infantry units will start
receiving them in 2019. These same units, as well as conventional
Marine elements, are also exploring the expanded use of MRZR-sized all-terrain vehicles. In March 2018, Marines experimented with Nikola
Motor Company’s electric-powered Reckless 4×4 all-terrain vehicle, which is similar
in size to the Arctic Cat Wildcat, during a broader test. The prototype military variant also featured
a remotely operated weapon station with a 7.62x51mm machine gun, but no armor protection.Plasan
could easily pitch Yagu to the U.S. military, as well as other military and para-military
organizations, as an alternative to MRZRs or similar unarmored all-terrain vehicles. Its new design could also provide a more practical
option for missions requiring a more robust internally-transportable vehicle that is easier
to load on and off helicopters and Ospreys than the Flyer 72. This could be even more of an issue if the
added weight of new weapon mounts and armor weigh those vehicles down and make them harder
to transport and less mobile over certain terrain. Of course, Yagu still lacks the kind of protection
necessary to survive against an enemy with heavy weapons, such as large-caliber machine
guns and rocket-propelled grenades, and would almost certainly suffer badly at the hands
of roadside bombs. Additional lightweight protective suites,
such as high-tensile netting that can deflect or pre-detonate incoming anti-tank rockets,
or small active protection systems, might help mitigate some of those issues, but at
the cost of added weight and bulk.It is also possible that Plasan could use the same composite
armor technology it has developed for Yagu to craft other lightweight armor solutions
for other existing platforms, such as the MRZR or Flyer 72. The existing armored shell concept would already
seem readily adaptable to any multi-occupant all-terrain vehicle. And above all else, the Yagu looks like it’s
ripped right out of a science fiction movie, which may help with its grander appeal to
tech-obsessed services. As our own Tyler Rogoway put it “it looks
like the ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile from the Dark Knight movie series did it with a golf cart
and this popped out nine months later.” Considering the popularity of those films,
that probably isn’t a bad thing.

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