US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wants a car that can physically transform to resemble older and existing vehicles on the road to help them blend in any environment. Yes, they want James Bond tech and they want it starting next year.
SOCOM operators normally have modified SUVs and pickup trucks so that they can move discretely within foreign locales. In the long run, this has led the unit to amass a lot of vehicles that are not only difficult to maintain, but also expensive.
This is why they want a standardized vehicle that can be transformed to resemble any vehicle. The project is officially called the Purpose Built Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle, (PB-NSCV), reports The War Zone. This month, SOCOM officials who are in charge of special vehicle development and procurement had a meeting with various contractors, explaining their needs and specifications including what kind of performance they expect from a vehicle like this.
The Pentagon is waiting to conduct a tryout and maybe live demonstrations as early as 2019, notes the report. Formal requests for proposals will begin by the end of next year and by 2020, they expect to select and finalize the design of the PB-NSCV. They will be replacing at least some of over 500 vehicles by 2020.
A contract worth over $170 million specifically for the upkeep of the current fleet of cars ends in 2023, notes the report.
One of the reasons why the SOCOM wants a purpose built design is because the updated fleet will be able to, "satisfy the more strict mission requirements (payload, rugged mission profile, durability)," noted a release by the government. An NSCV fleet will also have, "the potential to reduce cost on the rest of the NSCV fleet by not requiring every vehicle to meet the broad mission requirements."
As of now the SOCOM has a mix of vehicles like the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, and Land Cruiser pickups, as well as Land Cruiser SUVs. Varying types, models and versions of the vehicles give the special unit flexibility when it comes to load carrying and armor. While this offers a great range to the unit, mending and replacing parts, for example, is nothing short of a "logistical nightmare" notes the report.
Models, even in the same range, seldom have parts that are readily swappable.
What the SOCOM wants instead is a car that can be retrofitted with body panels as needed and a drive train and chassis that remains the same throughout the entire series. The engine and drive along with the chassis will need to have a standard setup across the board that will perform for about 10 to 15 years, this will completely streamline the entire fleet.
Body panels from various makers like Ford and Toyota should be able to simply be bolted on and completely transform the car. As of now, notes the War Zone, the special command is looking for a base vehicle that can be swapped out to look like either a Ford Ranger or a Toyota Hilux Vigo.
The transformation should be convincing enough to make the two vehicles indistinguishable from 330 feet away with the vehicle traveling at 35 mph, notes the report. Also, the NSCV will have to fit inside the Chinook helicopters.
While entries from contractors are yet to come in, it will be quite a sight to see what car makers come up with for the Special Operations Command in the coming years.