Finally a vehicle that can fit inside the tiny Osprey....
Gator Designer: John Deere and Henry Dreyfuss Associates
[The following articles came from U.S. Army SOLDIERS magazine, and Business Week online. The conclusion is ours]
The U.S. military is notorious for demanding custom-made, gold-plated equipment. But when Soldiers at the U.S. Army's elite rapid-reaction forces, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., tested the Gator--an inexpensive off-road utility vehicle for sale down at the local John Deere dealer--they loved it. ''It functions flawlessly in evacuating [wounded] soldiers from foxholes,'' says Colonel Frederick Gerber, commander of the 55th Medical Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg. ''And I can buy eight [Gators] for the price of one Humvee.''
The military is just the latest convert to be wowed by the Gator. The vehicle--in four- and six-wheel versions--is already being used by farmers, contractors, and sports teams, including the world champion Green Bay Packers, who haul around equipment and transport injured players to the locker room.
THE PARA-GATOR: AIR-DROPPABLE ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE FOR THE U.S. ARMY AIRBORNE
Jim Gibson of the U.S. Army's Material Command said this about the Para-Gator in SOLDIERS magazine: this medium-speed, All-Terrain Vehicle is being evaluated to determine its suitability for use by Airborne Soldiers during air-drop operations. It would be used to quickly and safely move ammunition and other equipment on the drop zone and to evacuate casualties. Gator is a more capable version of the "Mule," which served many uses on fire bases in Vietnam.
"Soldiers can de-rig the Gator from the drop platform much faster than they could a Humvee," Gibson said. It can get into tight areas where the Humvee ambulance cannot go, and it's safer to operate in the DZ environment because it has six high-floatation tires and virtually no ground pressure.
No wonder the judges saw the Gator as ''a classic case of strategic product planning,'' says juror Katherine McCoy of design firm McCoy & McCoy Associates. In designing the Gator, McCoy says, Deere and partner Henry Dreyfuss Associates ''identified some real needs that were not being met'' by existing products. She calls the result an entirely ''new product type,'' which, like Sony Corp.'s Walkman, has revolutionary potential to create new markets.
The Gator began in 1990, when Deere's design team, with partner Dreyfuss, was asked to develop an off-road utility vehicle that possessed both durability and pizzazz. To harden its durability, the prototype was subjected to 15,000 hours of off-road testing, from the broiling Arizona sands to the muck of Wisconsin marshes. The designers made it easy to operate. And for product personality, they broke with Deere tradition by giving it a name, Gator, rather than a model number, and a logo.
When the first Gators rolled out of Deere's Welland (Ont.) factory in 1993, even Deere dealers such as Richard Miller say they didn't know exactly how to market them. At first, ''I sold them mainly as toys for big boys,'' recalls Miller, whose dealership is near Nashville. But when customers ''began to realize how versatile this piece of equipment is,'' Miller adds, his sales took off. They're up 400% this year.
Now, Deere is expanding the Gator line. The new Turf Gator, which drives like a golf car and features high-flotation tires that don't mar delicate golf greens, helped it secure an exclusive contract to supply the PGA Tour's Tournament Players Clubs. The ''Med-Bed,'' a stretcher that can be quickly attached to the vehicle, helped win over the Packers. And the first Gator with a diesel engine opened up the military market. (This is the version that took the 1997 IDEA.) Deere cannibalized parts from existing products and used design-for-assembly to keep prices low, ranging from $5,800 to $9,425. This is design innovation at its best.
THE PARA-GATOR IN AIRBORNE BATTLE
"The Chinese have also developed the 35mm Type W-87 select-fire grenade launcher. Since its round is launched at less than 560 feet per second, this weapon would have to be placed in the medium-velocity category. Its maximum range is listed at 1,500 meters, with an effective range of 600 meters. Two types of ammunition are produced for the W-87--HE and HEAT (high explosive antitank). The HE round, consisting of an explosive charge surrounded by 400 3mm steel balls, has a casualty radius of approximately 10 meters. The shaped-charge round is said to be able to penetrate more than three inches of steel armor.
Chinese Type W-87 grenade launcher with 12-round drum magazine in place
What is surprising about the Type W-87 is the physical contrasts between it and the American and Russian grenade launchers. While the MK 19 and the AGS-17 are heavy, belt-fed, tripod or vehicle-mounted weapons, the W-87 is extremely light (26.4 pounds), magazine or drum-fed, and made to be fired from the shoulder (it has a pistol grip, buttstock, and integral bipod). It also has a tripod for ground use that is also designed to double as an antiaircraft mount.
The tactical advantages of such a weapon for light infantry could be enormous."
---Stanley Crist, Infantry magazine, March-April 1995
The Chinese Communists have fielded a man-portable automatic grenade launcher, the W-87-- which can sweep the battlefield with small explosions, possibly pinning down Airborne Soldiers on the Drop and Landing Zones. One weapon we have to counter this is the 176 pound Mk-19 40mm grenade launcher, but it requires a vehicle to carry it and its ammunition. The John Deere Para-Gator vehicle can mount a MK-19 using the new M197 pedestal mount developed for the soft-top HMMWV cargo floor. The M197 is made by the RAMO Corporation of Tennnesse, and can mount the light M249 and Medium M60 or M240B medium machine guns as well. The M2 .50 caliber Heavy Machine Gun can also be fitted.
The M274 MULE missed by the Airborne could also transport a M40A2 106mm Recoilless Rifle which has been legendary at destroying hard targets like bunkers and buildings in combat.
We were better armed in WW2 than we are today: 37mm AT gun and a .50 caliber HMG on a truck
106mm Recoilless Rifles on M50 OntosThe world is urbanizing, the Airborne fight only begins at the drop zone, continuing on into the cities----the Para-Gator could provide vital building busting fire support with its narrow size going where 7 foot 1 inch wide HMMWVs cannot, providing Heavy Machine, Auto-grenade cannon, and recoilless rifle SHOCK ACTION so we win like we did in Panama, not get pinned down like in Somalia. The MULE didn't just drive around drop zones in Vietnam, instead it went into the cities during the Tet Offensive to The Para-Gator can also make the M120 heavy, M252 81mm Medium and M224 60mm Light mortar systems with the former's building roof busting power and 7200 meter range compatible with C-130 Hercules aircraft, by making two Para-Gator/120mms and trailers on airdrop platforms possible in every aircraft; along with their crews jumping behind them. Another possibility is using the extended range of tripod-fired Hellfire ATGMs moved by ParaGators for Paratroopers to seize and hold key terrain/mobility corridors like OPFOR does at NTC with manpack TOW ATGMs.
The Para-Gator can fit inside the pathetically tiny V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft pictured above, so U.S. Army SOF units and USAF Pararescue units can fight from the landing zone with a vehicle-sized weapon and not just a hand weapons-only disadvantage. Had Cpt Scott O'Grady been surrounded by foes with even a single bargain-basement Russian armored car, the daylight gyrene rescue would have been cancelled or another Desert One-type flaming disaster.
While the Airborne still needs an ARMORED FIGHTING VEHICLE like the M113A3 Gavin or German Wiesel to replace the shock effect lost when the M551 Sheridan was retired and the M8 Armored Gun System was cancelled, the Para-Gator as a weapons platform and not a mere logistics vehicle can give us the means to bring decisive weapons effects to bear NOW without requiring an inclusion into the Army budget to Congress. The future of war is AIRBORNE, the sooner we realize this truth, the sooner we can maximize our force structure that comes from the sky and controls the peace---on the ground.
By William C. Symonds in Toronto for Business Week
Heike Hasenauer for SOLDIERS magazine, December 1997
PHOTO: John Deere Gator
Tactical Enhancements: 1st TSG (Airborne)