Marine Corps ground-pounders are just months away from getting a sweet new ride. The Marine Corps has inked a $2.5 million contract for 144 Polaris MRZR-D all-terrain vehicles, with plans to equip each infantry regiment with 18 of the vehicles, Manny Pacheco, spokesman for the Marines' Program Executive Officer Land Systems, told Military.com.
A variant of the same vehicle is already in use by U.S. Special Operations Command. But this version is designed to be diesel-powered, and can run on JP-8 fuel, Pacheco said. It also has the advantage of being small enough to fit inside the MV-22 Osprey, meaning Marines could depart from ship to shore, or from one land destination to another, accompanied by their ground transportation. The unarmored vehicles require a single driver and can fit four Marines.
The plan to field the vehicles comes after the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab completed field user evaluations over the summer to evaluate what the vehicles can do and how much they can carry, Pacheco said. Testing also included demos at the Nevada Automotive Test Center in Silver Spring.
"The idea is to have a vehicle to support the ground infantry carry more logistics, go places the infantry can’t go, more importantly, by V-22," Pacheco said. "They wanted more of a general-purpose vehicle that can be used by the ground infantry, carry more supplies, ammunition, be able to provide casualty evacuation, all kinds of things."
The Marine Corps previously purchased 411 of the jeep-like internally transportable vehicle, or ITV, for transit within an Osprey. But that vehicle is more purpose-built for reconnaissance missions and for towing the Expeditionary Fire Support System, a 120-mm mortar designed to function in tandem with the ITV, Pacheco said. There are no current plans, he said, to purchase more of those systems.
The vehicles will begin delivery to Marine Corps regiments in late January and complete delivery in April, Pacheco said. They will likely see their first deployments with Marine Corps infantry units shortly thereafter. The possibility remains open for the Marine Corps to purchase more of the vehicles in the future, although it's unclear if the service will look to equip non-infantry units with the vehicles.
In evaluations this year with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the Corps' experimental unit, Pacheco said the vehicle had been warmly received by infantrymen.
"What’s in the realm of possible probably remains to be seen once they get out to units," he said.
The small vehicles could present a strategic advantage to the Marines as well. Earlier this month, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments published a report that found, among other things, that the Marine Corps should purchase more vehicles that fit inside Ospreys to make the most of the power-projection capabilities of the tiltrotor aircraft.