U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has established a new vehicle category, the ULCV (Ultra Light Combat Vehicle) and is buying several of two models of this new all-terrain vehicle design. One is called DAGOR, which is a two ton light truck that can carry 1.4 tons or nine troops. It can be carried inside a CH-47 or slung under a UH-60 helicopter. DAGOR can also be dropped via parachute and be ready to roll within two minutes of reaching the ground. Some are calling this a “21st century jeep” but there are some important differences.
The 2.4 ton HMMWV, which replaced the 1.1 ton jeep and 3 ton M37 "3/4 ton" truck in the late 1980s is being replaced by still heavier vehicles of the same size that are designed to absorb combat damage. The World War II concept of the unarmored light vehicle for moving men and material around the battlefield has been radically changed for the regular troops, but not for SOCOM. Special operations were willing to trade protection for mobility, especially since they often travelled cross country and not through places where they were likely to encounter mines or roadside bombs. SOCOM is also buying another ULCV candidate, Flyer 72, in order to see which performs best in the field. The winner will receive larger orders.
All this is the result of SOCOM long noting that civilian markets were developing (for recreational purposes) the vehicles they needed. Thus in 2009 SOCOM bought 1,625 Mule 4010 4x4 vehicles, calling them Light Tactical All-Terrain (LTAT) Vehicles, and using them for commandos and Special Forces in combat zones. Basically a dune buggy, LTAT weighs 637 kg (1,400 pounds) but can carry 591 kg (1,330 pounds, including four passengers, plus a rear cargo area and a roof rack). The mule can also tow up to 1,200 pounds (546 kg). Top speed is 40 kilometers an hour, and the fuel tank carries 25 liters (6.2 gallons).
Special Operations troops are very fond of dune buggy type vehicles. These are also becoming more popular as civilian recreation vehicles, for cross country travel. The four wheel drive LTAT can easily be moved by helicopter to wherever, and then let the SOCOM operators move on cross country, often at night (with the driver using night vision goggles to navigate). DAGOR and Flyer 72 take advantage of the “dune buggy” tech to deliver a larger vehicle. Each is expected to cost under $200,000 each when bought in quantity. The main reason for the price (higher than civilian models) is the need to build the military vehicles to a more rugged standard.