The U.S. Army continues to test a lightweight tracked vehicle known as Ripsaw that’s now being pitched to the consumer market as a “luxury super tank.”
The service has evaluated eight of the vehicles at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey to assess in part how remote weapons technology could be used in future combat operations. Indeed, on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, head of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, rode in one of the vehicles with a driver as part of a demonstration.
To be clear, the vehicles the Army tested aren’t the same as the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, product that the manufacturer, Howe and Howe Technologies Inc. of Waterboro, Maine, is now selling to commercial buyers and featured in a new promotional video (see below).
The company describes the 750-horsepower, optionally manned EV2 — which is capable of reaching speeds of almost 100 miles per hour and costs roughly $250,000 — as a “handcrafted, limited-run, high-end, luxury super tank developed for the public and extreme off road recreation.”
But again, the militarized Ripsaw — a version of which is actually due to appear in the upcoming action flick, “The Fate of the Furious” (also known as “Fast & Furious 8”) — is different and, of course, not really a tank, at least in the military sense of the word.
For one, it’s too light. At 9,000 pounds, the Ripsaw is closer in size to the Humvee than a tank. For example, the Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tank tips the scales at more than 70 tons. Indeed, the Ripsaw isn’t even in the same weight class as an M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle or M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Also, it doesn’t carry the same firepower. The Ripsaw is designed to accommodate the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, which can mount any number of weapons — including the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mk19 40mm automatic grenade machine gun, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. By comparison, the M1A2 tank’s main armament is the 120mm L/44 M256A1 smoothbore tank gun.
Finally, it doesn’t have any armor to speak of, just an aluminum frame. Indeed, the new EV2 commercial variant even features gull-wing doors, so it’s really more of a tracked DeLorean than a tank (see picture below).
The manufacturer says the Ripsaw is the “fastest dual tracked vehicle ever developed.” Army officials say that record actually belongs to a Christie M1931 tank, which during a public test in 1931 hit a speed of 104 miles per hour.
Service officials were less interested Ripsaw’s top speed (the fastest they clocked it at was 55 mph during the filming of “Fast & Furious”) than using the vehicle as an unmanned platform to test remote weapons stations.
And that’s why, several years after the vehicle was featured in “Popular Science” magazine in 2009, the Army continues to research how it might incorporate armed unmanned ground vehicles into its combat formations. Last year, for example, a soldier operated an unmanned Ripsaw from a seat in an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier a kilometer away, according to a press release at the time.
Here at Military.com, we’re fascinated by the technology and reaching out to the Army to learn more about how officials are evaluating this slick ride, which is almost guaranteed to get more popular in the months and years ahead.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to provide additional details about the Army’s versions of the Ripsaws beginning in the second paragraph.