November 10, 2009:
ATVs (all terrain vehicles) have proved particularly useful, and popular in Afghanistan. There are many models in use, all of them militarized civilian vehicles. The British use a militarized versions of the Yamaha Grizzly 450. Basically, the Grizzly is a four wheel, 628 pound, cross country motorcycle. This ATV is six feet long and 3.5 feet wide. In addition to the driver, there are racks on the bike that can carry another 175 pounds. In addition, the vehicle can tow a trailer carrying another 350 pounds of cargo. Top speed, on a flat surface, without a trailer, is about 75 kilometers an hour. Cross country, it's usually about half that, and a bit less if a trailer is being hauled.
Four years ago, the British Army bought 250 of the Grizzly 450s, and these were very popular with the troops in Afghanistan. There they are used for patrolling, and hauling supplies to troops in isolated positions. The army is paying $41,000 for each bike, although that includes a trailer, spare parts and technical services. The civilian version goes for about $8,000 each.
The U.S. Department of Defense also buys ATVs for American troops in Afghanistan. But these tend to be larger. One recent purchase was the Ranger, a militarized all terrain vehicle (ATV). The nine foot long, five foot wide vehicle weighs three-quarters of a ton, and can carry nearly as much. There are two seats and a rear deck that can hold up to half a ton of cargo. The top speed of 67 kilometers an hour and the ability to ford 30 inches of water contributes to excellent cross country performance. A 13 gallon (49 liter) fuel tank gives the Ranger a range of 500 kilometers or more, depending on how much time is spent off-roads. The Ranger engine burns military JP8 fuel and generates 40 horsepower. The Ranger began arriving in Afghanistan and Iraq three years ago, initially for use by light infantry and commandos. Troops reaction has been positive. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has long been a user of various ATVs. Eventually, regular army units got the ATVs, mostly for hauling gear around remote outposts. ATVs could be flown in slung under a helicopter. The ATVs were often used to collect air dropped supplies that, because of the often unpredictable winds, fell far from the base.
The ATVs have been so popular, that many troops have bought them when they get back home, and use them for cross-country trips (for camping, hunting or just sightseeing.) The army has bought some of these ATVs for use by troops just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. It's the kind of high-excitement recreation that has been found to help the troops decompress after returning from a combat tour.