General Dynamics Corp. is poised to begin delivering the first batch of new trucks for U.S. Special Operations Command, an official said.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based tank-maker plans to deliver in December nine of its ultra-light-duty, four-wheeled vehicles called the Flyer 72 (for its 72-inch width). The truck was on display this week at an Army conference in Washington, D.C., and resembles a super-sized dune buggy armed with machine guns.
General Dynamics, which also makes the Army's M1 Abrams tank, last year won a contract potentially worth $562 million over several years to build 1,300 of the trucks as part of a program called the Ground Mobility Vehicle to replace the Special Operations Command's Humvee fleet.
The truck can carry seven passengers, weighs about 4,500 pounds and is small enough to be transported by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and C-130 cargo plane, according to Sean Ridley, who manages light tactical vehicle programs for General Dynamics' ordnance and tactical systems unit.
The vehicle on display was configured for a mission to secure an airport or airfield, Ridley said. "Seven guys. Lots of guns. They're dropping in and securing an airfield," he said on Wednesday during the third and final day of the annual conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Association of the United States Army, an Arlington, Virginia-based advocacy group.
SOCOM also bought some thinner, 60-inch-wide versions of the vehicle called the Flyer 60, which can be transported inside a V-22 Osprey, for a separate acquisition program.
"We took all of the history, all of the lessons learned from that narrow 60-inch vehicle, brought it into the 72-inch-wide vehicle and now those two vehicles share an enormous amount of commonality -- they both have the same engine, they both support the same suspension, transmission, electrical," Ridley said.
The Army could potentially save billions of dollars in sustainment costs over the long-term by using the Flyer for programs under consideration, including the Ultra Light Combat Vehicle and the Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, he said. The Flyer can be modified to carry nine soldiers, he said.
"Traditionally, SOCOM has received vehicles from the Army," he said. "If the Army pursues the ULCV and the LRV and they take off and become programs of record, now all they have to do is buy vehicles from SOCOM. SOCOM has now paid for development. They've established a logistics base. And now the Army is going to get the benefit of a vehicle that's already been certified."
After delivering the nine test vehicles in December, the company will build 72 more of the trucks as part of low-rate initial production beginning in May, Ridley said. Pending further approval, the company would then transition into full-rate production, he said. The work will take place at the company's facility in Anniston, Alabama, he said.
SOCOM now uses a version of the iconic Humvee, which entered Army service in 1985 and whose vulnerability to roadside blasts was exposed during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Story was updated to clarify the version of Flyer on display and correct the type of aircraft that can it can be transported in.)