The Air Force knows what it wants for its pararescue teams: a light but rugged truck that can be parachuted into combat, loaded up with wounded troops and driven to a pick-up zone.
Still in the early stages of development, the Guardian Angel Air-Droppable Rescue Vehicle will be big enough to transport four pararescuemen and four troops — two ambulatory and two on stretchers — yet small enough to be dropped from a cargo plane or unloaded from a heavy-lift helicopter or cargo plane.
“Our Guardian Angels have a lot of technical rescue equipment … that you usually see on firetrucks. … Well, our guys have to haul it in on their back so they need smaller, lighter pieces of equipment, and it would be nice to have a vehicle to carry some of that tonnage,” said Jeff Murphy, a former pararescueman helping design the GAARV at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Because of its durability, the truck also will be available for humanitarian missions during hurricanes and other natural disasters. It will be able to operate in up to 3 feet of water, according to specifications posted on a Web site that lists federal business opportunities for private companies.
The Air Force intends to buy 96 of the trucks, according to Stacey S. McKinney, Guardian Angel program manager. She predicted the contract will be awarded before the end of fiscal 2010 but didn’t provide a date when the rescue vehicle will be ready for the field.
Plans call for the M/HC-130P/N, HC-130J, C-130 and C-17, as well as the CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-47 Chinook and eventually the CV-22 Osprey, to carry the truck.
The truck will float down to the ground aboard the joint precision air drop system, which is a parachute system guided by GPS coordinates. On land, it must be ready to drive in all sorts of conditions.
For example, the truck will move as fast as 55 mph across paved roads and will be able to climb 30-degree slopes.
The GAARV will be able to use a variety of fuels — gasoline, diesel, JP8 (a kerosene-based jet propellant) and fuel cell technology — so it can operate anywhere in the world.
Finally, the truck will have the durability to sustain serious damage and continue to operate. If one drive axle is broken, the GAARV must continue to drive at least 5 mph, per Air Force requirements.
Other services have shown interest in the GAARV, McKinney said. The Marine Corps has developed a similar truck — the Internally Transportable Vehicle — that will travel aboard MV-22 Ospreys. With a machine gun mounted on top, the ITV looks like an M151 Jeep driven during World War II. It weighs 4,000 pounds, and certain versions come with a 120mm mortar on a trailer. It, however, is not designed to be dropped out of an Osprey.
Marines have started training with ITVs, fielded this year, with plans to deploy the trucks to Afghanistan.