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Rae-Beck Badger

Fast attack vehicle

Rae-Beck Badger

The Rae-Beck Badger was the best-performing and most cost-effective vehicle submitted to the EFSS and ITV competitions, but it was not accepted into service

 
 
Country of origin United States
Entered service -
Configuration 4x4
Cab seating 2 + 1 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight (curb) 1 350 kg
Payload capacity 900 kg
Towed load 350 kg
Length 4.16 m
Width 1.52 m
Height 1.52 m
Armament
Weapons 12.7 mm machine gun or 40 mm automatic grenade launcher
Mobility
Engine diesel
Engine power 150 hp
Maximum road speed 132 km/h (160 km/h ungoverned)
Range 650 km
Maneuverability
Gradient 70%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 0.46 m
Trench ~ 0.5 m
Fording 1 m

 

   The Badger was a lightweight and compact fast attack vehicle developed by Rae-Beck Automotive LLC of Sterling Heights, Michigan. It was especially designed to be internally transportable in the MV-22 Osprey and CH-53E Super Stallion, and also serve as a light weapons carrier.

   Very little information on the Badger's origins or development has survived to this day. It was created in response to the US Marine Corps' Internally Transportable Light Strike Vehicle (ITV-LSV) and Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) requirements, and was one of several such competing vehicles trialed by the Marines in 2004. The Marines had originally required a larger vehicle with a more powerful mortar (resulting in the Dragon Fire program) in 1997 for the EFSS, but suddenly issued a requirement for a much smaller vehicle carrying an ordinary towed mortar instead in 2002. Both programs thus ended up requiring a small and light vehicle that could be carried inside the CH-53 or a V-22.

   A request for proposals was issued by the Marines later that year for suitable designs. Several small companies across the US submitted competing prototypes, though the two finalists were backed by much larger defense firms; American Growler was sponsored by General Dynamics Land Systems, while Rae-Beck Automotive was sponsored by United Defense.

   American Growler's design, dubbed the Growler, was simply a cut-down and re-tooled M151 MUTT jeep, but Rae-Beck had decided to work from a blank slate. The resulting vehicle ended up being radically different from the Growler.

   At the time of its introduction the Badger looked less like a traditional fast attack vehicle, but rather a design straight out of a high-budget science fiction war film. It had tubular space frame chassis, composite bodywork, and an enclosed cabin with a fully-integrated roll cage. Additional safety features included a collapsible steering column, and 3-point seat belts. There were two doors on the left side of the vehicle, much like those on a sedan. Unusually, the right side had a single, very large gullwing door (allowing for the rapid loading and unloading of large cargo), which spanned the length of the passenger compartment. The design vaguely resembled an exotic sports car (hardly surprising, as Rae-Beck has developed eye-catching concept cars over the years), and as if its exterior cosmetics were not enough of a nod to this idea, the Badger is also a mid-engine vehicle.

   The propulsion consisted of an unspecified 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine generating 150 hp, coupled with an automatic transmission with a 2-speed transfer case, 6 forward speeds, and 1 reverse speed. This provided the Badger a power-to-weight ratio of 54.15 hp/tonne, and a top speed of 132 km/h. This vehicle had a road range of 650 km at a speed of 90 km/h. The engine burned diesel or JP8 jet fuel, but would not run on gasoline or other grades of jet fuel.

   The suspension consisted of fully independent front and rear upper and lower control arms, with 330 mm of travel, allowing for a smooth ride over most terrain at most speeds. The wheels were configured for the Michelin 9.00 A16 XZL TL LAD tire, and each had a disk brake. On average, only 10 minutes of daily maintenance were required to keep the Badger operational.

   The Badger's steering system was a rack and pinion type, allowing for a 7.6 m turning radius. Thanks to a wide wheel track and a low center of gravity, the Badger could tackle a 70% gradient or a 40% side slope. The prototype was also demonstrated to surmount a 0.4 m vertical obstacle and ford a 1 m deep water obstacle.

   A 4 500 kg capacity winch is fitted to the Badger, allowing for self-recovery, or recovery of another vehicle.

   The Badger could be transported by a wide range of transport aircraft and helicopters, and it was light enough to be sling-loaded under as light a helicopter as the UH-60 Blackhawk (which can sling-load a M998 HMMWV, a vehicle almost twice as heavy). It could also be carried inside larger rotorcraft, including the aforementioned V-22 and CH-53, allowing them to transport the vehicle significantly faster and farther than sling-loading allows for. The Badger has been demonstrated to ingress into a V-22 in only 3 minutes, or egress in 1 minute, entirely under its own power, and without using a winch.

   A 360-degree ring mount allowed the Badger to mount a crew-served weapon, which could be traversed through 360 degrees. Weapons as large as the M2HB 12.7 mm heavy machine gun or the Mk.19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher could be fitted, as could lighter weapons, such as the M240 or M249 light machine guns.

   The Badger was also designed to tow a 120 mm smoothbore mortar, which is the same M120 based on the Israeli Soltam K6 that is used as a standalone heavy mortar by the US military, or carried inside the M1064 tracked mortar carrier. This weapon fires a wide range of ammunition, including the M934 high explosive round, the M983 illumination round, the M929 white phosphorus/smoke round, the M931 practice round, and the M935 precision-guided mortar munition. These munitions are within the 14 kg weight range, and can be fired at targets as near as 200 m, or as far as 7 400 m, with effects roughly equivalent to a 105 mm howitzer round of the same type. Both the mortar and its full stock of ammunition are carried on the same trailer.

   While it was not technically an armored vehicle, the Badger's body panels were lined with spall liners, and the polycast glass panes were immensely strong. These provided 360 degrees of protection from small arms fire, debris, and shells splinters, though the crew had no overhead protection.

   There were also a number of sub-variants of the Badger that were developed, including a medical evacuation vehicle with a capacity for two stretchers, and a cargo vehicle (which was basically a pickup truck). Photographs of these vehicles showed them as having a markedly different layout, probably due to the fact that they would require a front engine to perform these missions.

   However, far more interesting than the Badger's design attributes are the reasons why it was not accepted into service. Famed aeronautical engineer Sir Sydney Camm famously stated that "All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics"; though if the Badger experience was any indication, this truism applies just as much to military vehicles.

   During the EFSS trials, the Badger substantially outperformed the Growler, and was offered for a significantly lower price. However, when the evaluation committee met to make their final decision on which vehicle to procure, they were stunned when their commanding officer, General William Catto, announced that the Growler was the winner of the "competition".

   The EFSS requirement was for the vehicle itself to carry both the mortar and its ammunition in a single towed trailer; while the Badger did so, the Growler towed its mortar and ammunition in separate trailers, and the Growler itself was incapable of carrying either. The Badger also employed the Soltam M120 120 mm mortar, which the US military had operated since 1991 and which fired standard NATO 120 mm mortar shells; the Growler employed the TDA MO-120-RT 120 mm mortar (now the M121 in US service), which not only wasn't actually used by the US military at the time, but its rifled bore (the M120 is smoothbore) required proprietary TDA ammunition. The Badger's engine was manufactured in the US, while the Growler's engine was made in Brazil (under military procurement law, by act of Congress under the Barry Amendment, all US military weapons and their components must be made entirely in the US). The Badgers were all factory-new vehicles, while the Growlers were all assembled from decades-old used parts, taken from M151 MUTT jeeps. The Badger proved stable on side slopes of up to 40%, while the Growler proved dangerously prone to tipping-over by simply swerving; in a now-infamous incident at Camp Lejeune, a Growler rolled-over while swerving to avoid hitting a turtle, at a speed of only 24 km/h. The Badger had enough tractive effort in its powerpack to reverse into a V-22, while the Growler couldn't enter at all without using a winch (after this came to light, the US Marine Corps suspiciously revised the requirement to allow for the Growler --- specifically --- a winch; none of the other competitors required one).

   This fiasco received widespread attention from the media, Congress, and the Inspector General of the DoD, and yet (in perhaps the most astonishing twist of all), the US Marines still adamantly defended their selection of the Growler.

   The Marines were often brazen and overt in their disregard for their own requirements. Most notably, when the press noted that the Growler failed to surmount a 381 mm (15 inch) vertical obstacle as required (by the specific requirement being item #76, titled "Performance Specification for the ESS, Para 3.1.1.3 Vertical Step"), the Quantico public affairs office responded that this specification was --- in their own words --- "Paragraph 3.1.1.3 will be deleted". Another example was paragraph 4.3.1.5, titled Tractive Effort" (clarified as "Demonstrate the EFSS's minimum tractive effort to weight ratio of 0.53 on a dry, hard, level surface"). It was revealed that the Growler failed to meet that requirement, after which this too was deleted. Pressed further on the matter, Major Douglas Powell, Director of the Media Branch replied to the media that "Requirements have never changed or been 'watered down'".

   The Marines refused to part with the Growler, even after significant media exposure and a General Accounting Office's investigation into its procurement, and it eventually grew into the M1161 Growler. However, even though they eventually managed to evade scrutiny, the selection of the Growler came back to haunt them in later years.

   Though the Growler was meant to be an interim for the M327 Dragon Fire mortar, however that program was later terminated in 2007. Though the program was given a face lift as the Dragon Fire II, this too was terminated in 2009, and there has been no activity in it since then. Meanwhile, the cost of the "$94 000" Growler had by 2010 grown to $380 000, with the cost for the mortar alone increasing from $579 000 to $1 078 000. The design changed more and more as the years wore on, but the Growler never met its requirements, and the Marines ended up admitting to the press in 2017 that the Growler wasn't viable, and a successor was urgently needed. They also have an extensive stockpile of rifled 120 mm mortars and ammunition to get rid of as well, because neither are usable for any other application in the US military; the mortar will not fire the ammunition used in all other US 120 mm mortars, and the rifled mortar will not fire standard smoothbore 120 mm ammunition. The Marines don't want to apply either to new applications, and the US Army has refused to purchase them. Though there was no guarantee that the Badger would have turned out better for the Marines than the Growler.

   Unfortunately, little other information on the Badger has been published. While it was frequently mentioned in passing in many news articles covering the Growler scandal, it was seldom (if ever) named or described in its full capabilities, and it also appears Rae-Beck did not aggressively market this vehicle. No sales were forthcoming, and the status of the Badger is unclear. In fact, the status of Rae-Beck Automotive LLC *itself* is unclear, as they are no longer in the news, and their web site has been taken down. Boeing recently offered a similar vehicle to the US military for the renewed EFSS and ITV competitions, marketed as the Phantom Badger, but it is unclear if this vehicle is related to Rae-Beck's design.

   It appears as though the Rae-Back's Badger is no longer offered. Despite its futuristic appearance and performance, this vehicle is seemingly a thing of the past.

 

Variants

 

   Light strike vehicle: This is the basic model of the series, as described above.

   Cargo carrier: Moving the engine from the middle to the front changed the appearance of this variant, resulting in what is essentially a compact pickup truck. Most of the Badger variants seem to be derived from the cargo carrier.

   Mortar carrier: This was a proposed dedicated mortar carrier version of the Badger, which is derived from the cargo carrier model. It carries an M120 mortar on the flatbed, which is attached via a hinge and is dropped onto its baseplate when deployed.

   Communications vehicle: This model another derivative of the cargo carrier, and is basically a van with a layout not unlike a sports utility vehicle; i.e., a stretched roof and side panels covering the aft loading bed. A variety of C3I equipment could be carried, allowing this vehicle to be used as a comms relay, or a command and control vehicle.

   Medical vehicle: A variant of the communications vehicle, the medical vehicle had no C3I equipment and weapons, and was instead designed for MEDEVAC operations. It had enough space to accommodate two stretchers.

   Light strike vehicle (six wheels): This was a stretched version of the cargo carrier variant, with a three-axle configuration. It is unclear what this version was developed for, but it was presumably intended to carry larger and heavier payloads.

 

Similar Vehicles

 

   Phantom Badger: Though this vehicle is roughly a size larger than the Rae-Beck Badger, Boeing's Phantom Badger was developed for the same ITV role, and will still fit inside the same rotorcraft. Its name suggests these two vehicles are related, but this is unclear.

   Light Strike Vehicle: Formerly marketed as the Spider, the Light Strike Vehicle is a state-of-the-art fast attack vehicle developed by ST Kinetics in Singapore. It can be carried internally or externally by a CH-53 Sea Stallion or a CH-47 Chinook, or even stacked atop each other for rapid airlift in quantity via the C-130 Hercules.

   Flyer: This is another fast attack vehicle, developed by General Dynamics to meet a US Special Operations Command's Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 requirement. The Flyer was selected for production. Its low-rate initial production began in 2014. Externally it resembles the Badger.

   Oshkosh S-ATV was another contender for the US Special Operations Command's requirement. It was revealed in 2012. This vehicle was developed for reconnaissance and other specialized missions, such as counter-insurgency operations and long-range surveillance. However it lost competition to the General Dynamics Flyer.

   P6 ATAV: A product of Surya Sentra Ekajaya in Indonesia, the P6 ATAV is a light attack vehicle similar in concept to the Badger.

  Delga 1: Developed by STC DELTA in Georgia the Delga 1 was created for use by Georgian special forces units, and was first delivered in 2001. It is more compact and "jeep-like" than the Badger, but designed for most of the same missions.

   Mahindra Axe: Developed in India, the Axe is a modern fast attack vehicle created with foreign assistance, and primarily from commercial "off the shelf" components. It more closely resembles the Growler than the Badger, but has substantial performance for a vehicle in its class. Though while it was developed at the request of the Indian Army, they subsequently opted not to buy any.

   XR311: Devised by FMC in 1969, the design of this prototype US fast attack vehicle was literally thirty years ahead of its time, and it looks nothing like a typical 1960s light utility vehicle. Unfortunately, its history is something of a dress rehearsal for the Mahindra Axe, as it was developed at the request of the US Army, who ended up buying none of them. FMC sold-off the program to AM General, who --- after several subsequent redesigns --- evolved it into the famous M998 HMMWV.

   Gaucho: A joint Brazilian-Argentine effort, the VLEGA Gaucho is broadly similar in design to the XR311, but with numerous optional components more like those seen on the Badger.

   RSOV: Short for "Ranger Special Operations Vehicle", the RSOV is a special operations utility vehicle based on the Land Rover Defender, which was developed for the US Army Rangers. It is similar in concept to the Badger, and even includes a mortar variant that tows a 120 mm mortar.

   Storm SRTV: A product of HDT Global Inc. in the US, the Storm has a design very similar to the Badger, but a very different mission. It was designed for the US Air Force as a rapid deployment vehicle, for use by search and rescue units.

 

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Rae-Beck Badger

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