60 MPH, With a Gun and No Driver

ripsaw.jpg

It seems like everybody's talking about it these days.

This unmanned tank that tops 60 mph, can be fitted with a remote gun system and plows over concrete barriers like its a wall of foam.

Colin's down at the Army Science Conference and they're raving about it:

Thats the Ripsaw MS1, a tracked unmanned ground vehicle that no less than Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Armys vice chief of staff, called an an amazing piece of gear this morning.

The Ripsaw may be one of those development programs that lawmakers can use to justify earmarks. It was funded by an earmark worth about $1 million pushed through by GOP Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine. The vehicle is on display for the first time at the Army Science Conference here in Orlando.

Built by twin brothers, Geoff and Mike Howe of Barwick, Maine, the Ripsaw can careen at high speed over obstacles that would leave a vehicles crew dazed and bruised. It is operated by a driver in another vehicle using a modular crew station that can be unbolted and placed in a range of Army vehicles, including the Stryker and all the MRAP models.

A weaponised version, modified by the Armys Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, includes a remotely operated M240 machine gun. The gun is operated by a separate person using another modular station that can be put in a range of vehicles.

In addition to impressive firepower, the Ripsaw can carry a payload of 2,000 pounds. It is not armored and each track can be removed as a unit should it be damaged, according to Bhavanjot Singh, ARDEC project officer.

Singh and the Howe brothers are eager to find a sponsor to help get the Ripsaw into production, or at least to get some prototypes built and tested in the field.

At least four congressional aides checked out the vehicle at the conference display here and Chiarelli had a tour of his own. Singh was enthusiastic about both the vehicle and its builders.

They are very good dreamers, he told me.

And Fox called Ward onto the show to talk about it this morning:

How do I get one of these again?

Seriously, it seems like a good idea. And it reminds me of an email I got from a source of mine yesterday who was blowing his top about how Ford is calling itself "the arsenal of Democracy" to try to win a slice of the $25 billion in bailout money. He makes the point that where were the "Big Three" when the services were asking for MRAPs? When have they contributed to any technological advance in manned ground combat systems within the last decade?

Nope, it takes a million dollar earmark from Susan Collins to fund a couple brothers from Maine who want to take a chance on a revolutionary new vehicle.

Good for them and shame on Ford, GM and Chrysler...don't go waving the bullet-scarred flag at me.

-- Christian

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