So Special Operations Command needs a new compact off road fighting vehicle that can transform into different configurations depending on the mission, oh and it has to be transportable by V-22 Ospreys, H-47 Chinooks and H-53 Super Stallions. No problem, the General Dynamics Flyer is ready for flight and for a fight.
Over the better part of the last decade there have been multiple initiatives by various commands to fit small but capable modular combat vehicles into various space-restricted aircraft. A plethora of vendors came to the table with different designs. Now, after a couple of years of evaluation, General Dynamics modular Flyer 72 has made it past the tire kicking stage, with SOCOM putting in a firm order for 82 of the little war wagons.
Of this order for 82 vehicles, SOCOM chose to primarily procure the 'Flyer 72', which gets its name from its width. The Flyer 72 is 72 inches wide and can fit into H-47 Chinooks. This is something that the Humvee can do, but with literally no margin for error, and crews have to sit inside them during their flight into the war zone if they plan on unloading fast, something that is far from ideal safety-wise.
The Flyer 72 Advanced Light Strike Vehicle weights 4,500 pounds and it can haul an additional 5,500 pounds. Carrying up to nine passengers, it can be fitted with a wide array of weapons which can be mounted on an overhead turret (GAU-19 gatling gun, anti-tank missile, 40mm grenade launcher etc) as well as on door frame and dash pintle mounts (M240, M240, M60, etc). Additionally, the truck is built for multiple sensor and communications subsystems to be easily fitted and removed depending on the mission at hand.
General Dynamics already has base configurations for the Flyer in a light strike (armored or unarmored), rescue and personnel recovery, reconnaissance, communications and C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) that can include the mounting of a small unmanned aircraft system, weather station, and/or different optical and radar target acquisition systems. There are also sub-configurations for the Navy SEALs, AFSOC, Rangers, MARSOC and probably Delta Force, although that one is not disclosed (a normal occurrence). Basically, the vehicle can transform into whatever it needs to, as long as the accessories and subsystems will fit inside the aircraft's hold that is deploying it.
Performance is what the Flyer 72 is all about as it can range up to 650 miles on flat terrain at a brisk 40mph, or for 350 miles at higher speeds on rough terrain. Top speed for the vehicle is 100mph, which is faster than just about anything in the inventory. It can handle grades of 60 percent, side-slopes of 40 percent, and it can ford 30 inches of water without any preparation. Approach angle for the agile vehicle 74" or 55.5" with its pushbar & winch attached. Departure angle is 53" and the low slung buggy-like truck still offers 17 inches of clearance.
The Flyer gets its gettup and go from a 4 cylinder DOHC turbocharged and intercooled diesel direct injection engine that runs of jet fuel. The powerplant puts out 195hp with 295lbs of torque, gets 24mpg while cruising and is tied to a 6 speed tiptronic transmission with selective 4X2 (for high-speed) and a full-time low 4X4 transfer case. Limited slip differentials and a central locking system is also standard. Its suspension is derived from baja racers and is said to be one of the best selling points of the platform. The Flyer also has a central tire inflation system.
The whole concept of the Flyer is that it can be rapidly forward-deployed, behind enemy lines if need be, and is capable of heading off on long-range cross country trips on brutal terrain and in almost any weather conditions. When operating in higher risk environments, such as in urban terrain, the Flyer can be converted to a lightly armored vehicle via a system of modular panels with level six ballistic protection rating (capable of consistently defeating at least 7.62X51 rifle rounds) while still retaining the majority of its high mobility, agility and transportability.
Although the Flyer 72 is the most capable out of the Flyer family, its smaller cousin packs the vast majority of the the Flyer 72's features in a smaller width package. Known as the Flyer 60, this more diminutive of the flyer models can be packed into the back of a V-22 Osprey, which represents a huge capability leap for special operators who utilize the Air Force's highly modified CV-22 Ospreys frequently. It was announced last year that SOCOM had ordered ten of the Flyer 60s under the Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 program, for use primarily in conjunction with its CV-22 fleet. These ten early production units, along with the recent order for 72 Flyer 72s, brings the SOCOM order for the Flyer family up to 82 units, with a potential for selling 1000 units to SOCOM to replace a plethora of vehicles over the coming decade.
The Marines, with a fleet of Ospreys that is close to five times larger than the USAF's, could also procure the Flyer 60, which would allow them to deliver a credible and efficient light fighting vehicle deep in to enemy territory without massively impacting the MV-22's range. Currently the less capable and questionably operational M1161 Growler this role to some degree.
When it comes to more capable light fighting vehicles, such as the Humvee, the MV-22s has had to carry them into the combat arena via sling load, something that destroys the Osprey's range and speed advantages and makes them very vulnerable to enemy fire. Being able to punch Flyer 60s, in various configurations, rapidly out of Ospreys' rear ramps would be huge capability improvement and would perfectly fit tactics associated with the MV-22's unique abilities, one of which is inserting Marines behind enemy lines.
The Marines would also be smart to procure the Flyer 60 as it would give their aviation-centric, well deck lacking, American Class amphibious aircraft carriers a vehicle to deploy rapidly that does not require transfer via ship to shore craft like an LCAC, or inhibit the Ospreys' high-speed and long-range capabilities.
Although the Flyer 60 and 72 are not the only pint sized road warriors tailored to platform specific aerial transport needs (also check out the Polaris DAGOR), they do seem to be one of the most versatile, mature and well armed. Additionally, in comparison to their much larger Humvee cousins, they appear to offer more agility, speed, range and flexibility, not to mention they can actually be transported internally by anything larger than a H-60 Blackhawk.
After a decade of increasing armor on virtually all of its land combat vehicles, the US military, and foreign ones as well, seem to be going back to 'lighter-faster' capabilities. These new compact battle trucks are a part of this new trend.
In a time when budgets are tight, yet key programs like the V-22 Osprey continue to be supported, it would seem almost incompetent if the DoD did not give their massive fleet of tilt-rotors a tailor made and potent vehicle to deploy. Whatever investment an armada of these flexible force multiplying vehicles represents will pale in comparison to the hundreds of $70M+ Ospreys that have already been procured, thus letting the Flyer fly really makes dollars and sense.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who 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