(October 20, 2008) -- A new route-clearing armored vehicle is going through testing at White Sands Missile Range to ensure its compatibility with other Army systems.
The A2 version of the Buffalo mine resistant ambush protected vehicle is currently undergoing testing and evaluation by the Survivability Vulnerability Assessment Directorate at WSMR. The vehicle is being evaluated for its ability to survive various electromagnetic environmental effects and threats.
"We want to see if there are any effects from (certain) weapons, near lightning strikes or anything that might interfere with the (Buffalo's) mission," said David Swanson, a test officer with the Survivability Vulnerability Assessment Directorate.
Even though the vehicle is intended to be used in current operations, the Survivability Vulnerability Assessment Directorate has to evaluate its application and use in a much bigger perspective, going beyond the current war on terror and into other possible scenarios.
"Should there ever be some kind of nuclear event we need to know if (soldiers using this vehicle) will be able to carry on mission functions," Swanson said.
The Buffalo is a heavily armored truck specifically designed to protect its occupants in the event of an attack by a mine or improvised explosive device, or IED. According to the manufacturer, the Buffalo's armored V-shaped hull is able to direct an explosion on the ground away from the vehicle, helping to minimize damage.
"It's a sturdy vehicle, even though it's only in the prototype phase," Swanson said.
While the A1 version of the Buffalo is already being fielded in theater, this model has advanced features that give it further flexibility and capability. In addition to its ability to mount advanced counter IED systems and its conventional protective systems enhancement, the Buffalo is equipped with a large robotic arm, making it an ideal vehicle for use by combat engineers and EOD personnel.
At over 30 feet long, the arm is equipped with a high resolution camera and other tools that allow a soldier to examine potentially dangerous items and locate hidden IEDs. The arm is also equipped with a new claw, allowing soldiers to locate, search, manipulate and disable buried devices and devices in locations that the previous version of the claw had difficulty accessing. The arm system, with its improved ability to manipulate and disable devices outside the vehicle, provides an obvious advantage in the protection of combat engineers and EOD personnel who will be using this vehicle.
"It's a huge advantage. They can clear the IED or mine without actually going outside the vehicle," Swanson said.
The interior of the vehicle is roomy, comfortably seating a driver and five soldiers. Equipped with numerous safety systems, including a fire suppression system similar to those found in armored vehicles, the Buffalo has an almost flawless crew survivability rate and is very easy to use.
"It's real simple to operate you can just hit two switches to start it up," Swanson said.
Swanson, a former soldier and Guardsman, uses his experiences in the Army to help evaluate systems like the Mine Resistant Armored Personnel, or MRAP, vehicles.
"A lot of the testing that we do, we have to think, 'What would a soldier do?' 'How would a soldier work with this?' and 'What would a soldier try and do with this?'" Swanson said.
The Survivability Vulnerability Assessment Directorate is expected to perform similar tests on other MRAP vehicles in the coming years.