Special Operations: ATV Use Goes Viral


March 8, 2017: Portugal has ordered two MRZR2 and seven MV850 ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) for its small special operations force. Portugal is buying these in part because U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has been buying more and more ATVs since 2008, especially the MRZR2 and larger MRZR4. These ATVs have proved ideal for operations in remote areas. The main reason for this is that the manufacturer (Polaris) pays attention to user feedback and reacts quickly. This was especially useful for special operations troops and often a matter of life and death.

The MRZR2 is a 1.1 ton (loaded with nearly 450 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo) 4x4 vehicle. It is 3 meters (9.1 feet) long and has no doors, two seats, and a steel framework on top of which is usually left open for maximum visibility. The vehicle is optimized for cross country operations and has an 88 horsepower engine. Fuel capacity is 7.25 gallons (27.4 liters) and range depends on what sort of terrain is being crossed. The MRZR4 is a larger MRZR2 that weighs 1.5 tons (loaded with nearly 700 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo) and is also a 4x4 vehicle.

The MV850 is basically a 4x4 cross country motorcycle. It is an 869 kg (loaded with nearly 385 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo) 4x4 vehicle. It is 2.4 meters (7.7 feet) long single seat vehicle that can tow up to 680 kg (1,500 pounds) and is optimized for cross country operations. MV850 has a 77 horsepower engine. Fuel capacity is 11.7 gallons (44 liters) and range depends on what sort of terrain is being crossed.

ATVs have proved particularly useful, and popular, in Afghanistan, especially for special operations forces. There are many models in use, all of them militarized civilian vehicles. These vehicles are innovative both in original concept and how they are constantly modified and upgraded. A recent innovation is the use of non-pneumatic tires. The non-pneumatic tires are not solid like traditional tires but built with a web of plastic honeycomb and surrounded by a thick band of rubber that is very similar to the tread found on pneumatic tires. These tires can survive a hit by a 12.7mm (.50 caliber) bullet and keep going. They feel about the same as pneumatic tires, although some users report they are not as effective in mud or watery surfaces.

British special operations troops were the first to develop unique vehicles for commando missions in rough country and SOCOM has formed close ties with their British and (since 2001) NATO counterparts. That has led other NATO special operations troops to quickly adopt new items developed and validated by the Brits and yanks. Moslem nations that have worked with NATO special operations forces since 2001 have done likewise.

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 U.S. 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.


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