Military Dune Buggy Now Has an Optionally Manned Variant

The Polaris MRZR X made its debut at the AUVSI unmanned systems show near Washington, D.C., February 8, 2018. (Image: Courtesy of Polaris)
Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck

Since 2017, Marine infantry units have been deploying with Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicles that can fit inside an MV-22 Osprey and zip troops around the battlefield with up to 1,500 pounds of gear.

The vehicle has been in use by U.S. Special Operations Command for even longer, and is operated by more than 30 allied nations.

This week, Polaris introduced the MRZR's sophisticated sibling: the MRZR X, a vehicle that can be operated by a driver; in leader-follower configuration in a convoy; by remote control; or fully autonomously, depending on what the mission requires.

The MRZR X made its debut at the AUVSI unmanned systems show near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

According to information provided by Polaris, the new vehicle was designed with the Army's unmanned Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, competition criteria in mind. The vehicle was developed in collaboration with Applied Research Associates, which designed the modular robotic applique kit the MRZR X uses to operate in unmanned or leader-follower modes.

The other companies competing for SMET are General Dynamics Land Systems, Howe and Howe, and HDT, with a downselect to one company expected next fiscal year.

Per Army requirements, the MRZR X, like its predecessor, accepts JP-8 fuel. It can travel at least 60 miles in 72 hours and carry at least 1,000 pounds of gear.

"The MRZR is the preferred platform among infantry units and Special Forces worldwide, which helps make its integration and the transition from manned to unmanned systems easier for the warfighter," Dr. John Olson, vice president and general manager of Polaris Government and Defense, said in a statement. "The MRZR X maintains the MRZR mission profile and payload our customers are accustomed to, plus it has additional robotic and networked capabilities to further support warfighters."

According to Polaris information, the unmanned capabilities will enable the vehicle to assume a greater variety of roles, including robotic equipment vehicle; autonomous battlefield resupply and logistics support; rescue missions; high-speed casualty evacuation; and, while in manned mode, personnel carrier.

"The advanced MRZR X fully integrates the autonomy systems and optimally places the sensors to safeguard the technology while keeping the physical and software architecture open so it can spiral in future technology," Polaris stated in an announcement. "The vehicle drivetrain is powerful and reliable, allowing for longer missions, high speeds and silent drive when needed -- all on the very familiar, sustainable and intuitive MRZR platform."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.