Chariots under fire

Trends in armored vehicles reflect security concerns in a post-9/11 SWAT force


     Maryland-based Lenco Armored Vehicles has designed and manufactured nearly 5,000 armored vehicles internationally for law enforcement, military, special security forces and government, says Len Light, president.

     Lenco's B.E.A.R. and BearCat tactical armored vehicles are built with Mil-spec steel armor plates, which are tested at the Aberdeen Test Center and certified by the Department of Defense. The windows are composed of a glass-clad polycarbonate that was tested to defeat multi-hit rounds from armor-piercing ammunition provided by the Department of State, says Light.

     The BearCat was first developed in 2000 at the request of the Los Angeles Sheriff Special Enforcement Bureau, which wanted a smaller version of the Lenco B.E.A.R. According to Light, the company is already working on a Generation III BearCat.

     The BearCat is 20 feet long, 95 inches wide, stands 7 feet tall and weighs 17,000 pounds. It can seat 10 officers; up to 15 people in an evacuation.

     The bigger of the two vehicles is the 29,000-pound B.E.A.R. at 30 feet long, 100 inches wide, and 10 feet tall. It seats 14 officers but can fit many more, between 25 to 30, when used as an evacuation vehicle. Compared to the BearCat, it has more storage room and can be used as a command and control vehicle.

     "The B.E.A.R can be used in situations where a large vehicle is necessary as a show of force," says Light. "It would be effective in riot control [and] has been used to literally knock buildings down. The B.E.A.R is a much stouter vehicle than the BearCat mostly due to the HD nature of the vehicle platform. It does not have the same maneuverability."

     Both vehicles have the same armor, designed to defeat .50-caliber M2HB. Vehicle floors are blast-resistant Mil-Spec steel. Both are four-wheel drive, have rotating roof turrets and a zero-gravity lift system for the armored roof hatch. The company has developed an on-board SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) system for hazmat situations, including meth lab interdiction. For law enforcement use, they offer padded seating, carpeting and air conditioning/heating systems. Both vehicles have a 25-year life expectancy.

     The TACARM Juggernaut is a rubber-tracked, armored vehicle featuring a hydraulic boom arm with a 24-foot horizontal reach and a 26-foot vertical reach, designed for breaching fortified doors, windows, walls, attics and roofs. The Juggernaut can also move suspect or hazardous vehicles, says the Washington-based company's president, Steve Reopelle.

     "The Juggernaut can be used to help solve barricaded subjects, hostage incidents, dynamic warrant search and riot control situations," he says. "It can deliver negotiations, equipment or chemical agents, and can deploy flash bangs," he says.

     The vehicle — which stands 93 inches tall, 78 inches wide and nearly 14 feet long — has an infrared camera that can be used to search second story rooms or attics. It was designed for law enforcement tactical teams to be more effective and better protected while operating inside the inner perimeter.

     Thanks to the hydraulic arm, tactical officers no longer have to leave the protection of an armored vehicle or transport-type truck, thereby greatly reducing risk, says Reopelle.

     "Suspects can no longer fortify themselves inside a structure, booby trap entrance points or hide in attics," he says. "The Juggernaut provides new capabilities that overwhelm the suspect and facilitate surrender without exposing personnel to the threat."

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