Back to top

GEAR: Cool military 4×4 concepts

15 November 2016

Future (off-road) war concepts

You see them in science fiction movies: war machines of the future with laser guns and amazing ability and speed. In the spirit of the future, we look at six military concepts that, one day, may (or may probably not) see military service.


1. Transformer TX
Imagine a flying Humvee armoured troop carrier… this is essentially what the Transformer TX aimed to be. This R1-billion research project brings flying car tech to war zones, with the proposed TX effectively a four-person, armed troop carrier that is a cross between a helicopter and a Humvee. So it’s a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) machine with a range of 450km (on land or in the air) that can be flown by just about anyone – it has semi-automated flight controls so any GI Joe can fly and drive it.

The TX should have been able to do about 100km/h on land and 240km/h in the air. The vehicle had a 4WD drivetrain for ground operations and also has a silent ‘creep’ mode for added stealth. Made from lightweight composite material, the Transformer had the option of machine guns and cannons for defence. Sadly, it seems as if the Tranformer TX project only served as a thinking platform for another project: ARES, or aerial reconfigurable embedded systems – an automated, pilotless VTOL craft that can be used for reconnaissance, load carrying and strikes. This project is now in a more advanced state of development.


2. Mercedes GTK Concept

The GTK Concept is what happens when a weapon designer gets bored and decides to create a car instead. Well, a car with a 40mm grenade launcher, that is.  Pascal Eggert designed the Concept as a next-generation two-person off-road armoured vehicle with a host of unique features.

For one, it has no axles. It uses four electric wheel hub motors in every wheel. The wheels are attached via six-axis Kuka robot-arms and steered by a Festo fluidSIM system. The (theoretical) result is a very capable off-roader that is fast and agile. The concept has no windows and the aerodynamic shape is designed to deflect ballistic impacts. The vehicle features gullwing doors, an electric winch, 360-degree cameras and a discreet 40mm Heckler & Koch grenade launcher.

Unfortunately this concept was just a concept… there are no plans to manufacture the vehicle. Pity.


3. Land Rover DC100 concept
The venerable Land Rover Series and Defender models have been doing army service since the very first models rolled off the production line in the 1950s. Now the Defender is a thing of the past, its production halted recently.

However, after Land Rover tested the waters with the DC100 concept, touted as a possible Defender replacement, the possibility of a military-spec DC100 was mooted. So the creative folks at obliged by producing a rendering of what a military-spec DC100 may look like, machine guns and all. And, we daresay, it looks pretty awesome, even though the next Defender will probably not look like this at all.  We’ll take three, thanks.


4. Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen lapv 6.x
The Mercedes G-Glass was originally created for military use, back in the 1970s. It’s seen action all over the world, and its tough reputation is rock solid. But back in 2010, Mercedes-Benz decided to up the ante some more, introducing the LAPV 6.X Concept. This light armoured patrol vehicle concept used a powerful common-rail turbodiesel engine to ensure a top speed of 150km/h, despite all the extra weight of the armour. It could transport 1.3 tons of payload at the same velocities.

The monocoque full steel body provided ballistic protection, but it was designed for extreme off-road usage… so it has an approach angle of 50 degrees and departure angle of 45 degrees. The modular design allows for damaged plates to be (relatively) quickly replaced. The suspension is pretty cool. With 450mm clearance, the variable lift front and rear coil-over air shocks are adjustable while driving, from inside the cabin. Ditto with tyre pressures for each wheel.

Underneath all the metal lives Merc’s well-proven G-Wagon 4×4 drivetrain, with front and rear lockers and extra low gear ratios to ensure that the 6.X can go anywhere, anytime… every time. It also featured integrated VHF and UHF communications, a jamming system and a vehicle data recorder. Sadly, the concept never made it to the production line.


5. Oshkosh L-ATV
This vehicle may have started out as a concept vehicle, but earlier this year it received the green light from the US Army. By 2040, it is expected that more than 50 000 Oshkosh L-ATVs will do service in various US military outfits. The process started in 2007 during the Iraq war. There, the army’s non-armoured Humvee became the target of improvised explosive devices (IED), and the US military suffered heavy losses. Armour was added, but the Humvees were never designed to carry so much weight, so their 4×4 ability and durability suffered.

Enter the Oshkosh light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle. Although it’s not expected to replace the Humvee altogether, the Oshkosh will fill a more active combat role. It is powered by a GM Duramax 6.6-litre V8 turbodiesel with about 230kW on tap, coupled to an Allison automatic gearbox and Oshkosh transfer case. Operational range is almost 500km, and the L-ATV can reach a top speed of around 110km/h.


6. Panhard CRAB
The Panhard was developed through a private venture and intended for use by the French Army. CRAB is an acronym for combat reconnaissance armoured buggy, and it is expected to join active army service from 2018. It can be fitted with a variety of weapons, and is powered by a rear-mounted Steyr M16 turbocharged diesel engine that delivers 250kW, and it’s coupled to an automatic gearbox.

Hydro pneumatic suspension provides height adjustment from inside the cabin while the four tyres can be inflated or deflated via the press of a button. The main aim of this light-armoured buggy, though, is to cover rough terrain as fast as possible while carrying up to three soldiers, and to deliver some lead and mortars along the way. Although its top speed is said to be only 110km/h, it can do that kind of speed on just about any terrain. It also has an operational range of 800km.