Israeli Military Industries might have created the most extreme wheeled armored vehicle ever with their unveiling of the Combat Guard. This baby packs 54-inch tires, close to three feet of ground clearance, weighs eight tons and can go just about anywhere. Think rock crawler meets Stryker meets Lamborghini LM002 in Halo.
My recent piece on Panhard's innovative CRAB showcased a rugged buggy-like scout/recon vehicle with state of the art electronics and an optional big ass cannon. Well, IMI's Combat Guard is like a CRAB that has been shooting roids and working in a crude outdoor gym for months while living on nothing but red meat, raw eggs and Red Bull. This thing is really wild, and the engineers over at IMI are fully aware that it takes the armored personnel and scout vehicle concept to a whole new extreme.
Although the Combat Guard's armored roots come from IMI, its incredible off-road capabilities come from the Ido Off-Road Center, which developed the Zibar racer and other less extreme off-road military scout vehicles. The collaboration between these two well respected and forward thinking firms resulted in an incredible all terrain vehicle in its own right, regardless of the fact that it is also a configurable battle wagon.
The Combat Guard is powered by a 6.5L GM Cobra Diesel that puts out 30 0hp, although up-rated versions may also be offered in the future. None-the-less the Cobra power-plant can propel the truck up to about 95 mph on-road and 75mph off-road on her massive 54-inch tires.
On the slower side of the envelope, Combat Guard features 90 degree approach and departure angles, can climb 70 degree slopes and can wade through five feet of water. It can also clear a two-and-a-half foot vertical obstacle, which was a key requirement for fighting in urban areas.
IMI is pushing that the concept is a clean-sheet design and that it won't suffer from frame cracking and other wear issues that adapted commercial and logistical vehicle chassis that were never designed for prolonged off-road combat suffer from today.
As much APC is a scout vehicle, the Combat Guard's cabin seats up to eight fully armed soldiers and the floor is elevated high above the truck's bottom which indicates the use of a "v" shaped underbelly, or a multiple tiered collapsible composite blast absorbing structure. This would give the occupants a decent shot at surviving a mine of IED strike from below, which has become an all to popular and deadly tactic among insurgents in Israel's part of the world.
The Combat Guard concept is a modular one, with different cabin configurations and designs available for different missions. For instance, a heavily armored version that sacrifices internal volume, speed and range for survivability in urban environments, and a stripped down version that packs offensive punch for scouting operations over open terrain. Other variants optimized for command and control, peace keeping and border patrol are also being developed.
Multiple remote controlled weapons systems are being offered with Combat Guard, from heavy machine guns to mortars and automatic grenade launchers, all controlled within the protected confines of the vehicle's cabin.
Currently, the promising IMI/General Dynamics "Bright Arrow" weapons and active protection system turret is integrated with the vehicle. This system includes a medium or light machine gun, along with optics for aiming and surveillance, tied to a flat panel display and joystick. Attached to it is an active and passive protection system. The passive part of the system uses an electro-optical jammer, which blinds enemy FLIR targeting systems, while the active "hard kill" part of the system uses an array of radars mounted around the vehicle that detect incoming RPGs and missiles. This system cues the turret to fire a mortar-like projectile at the incoming threat, and this projectile flies downrange and detonates when it gets within lethal range of the RPG, rocket or missile.
Although active protections systems sound like science fiction, Israel has paved the way for their use, and their Trophy system, mounted on the IDF's Merkava tanks is known to be highly effective.
Apparently, IMI has been very smart about how they source the parts and electronic components for their new promising combat vehicle as the majority of them are said to be produced in the USA. This means America's foreign aid can be used to purchase the majority of the vehicle.
I have to say, although the name sucks (it's actually called "Bodyguard" in Hebrew), the Combat Guard really is amazing when you take into account where it can go and what it can do. The fact that it was purpose designed and built by masters in the off-road racing industry to traverse mud, rocks, rubble, sand and dirt lends confidence that it may be actually able to reliably do all that it claims. Also, the fact that it can hold eight troops in a scalable, armored cocoon and features an active protection system based on a proven technology is really a plus.
Although the vehicles are superficially similar in looks, IMI went a different direction than Panhard's CRAB, focusing on extreme mobility, occupancy and survivability over offensive punch and a low profile. Then again, the CRAB is not an APC at all, but it is nice that the Combat Guard can be either an APC or a scout vehicle, and hey more room is never a bad thing in a combat zone.
The rumor is that Israel will be buying and testing these armor encrusted 4X4s out in the near future, but the real question is will these extreme off-road fighting vehicles make their way into other nations' arsenals, especially the USA's? Considering that the majority of the vehicle and its weapon systems are built right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave it may actually have a shot.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer that maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com