Motorized military vehicles date all the way back to 1917, when the US Army employed their first standardized wheels in World War I: The Standard B “Liberty” Truck. The cargo truck weighed around four tons and boasted an open cab and wooden-spoke wheels.
From robotics to blimps, military technology certainly has come a long way since the clunky days of the Liberty truck—and that means military vehicles have gotten their fair share of re-vamping, too. In fact, US military expenditures account for a whopping 39 percent of world’s total military dollars. That translates into some serious vehicle and systems development. So, in honor of military appreciation month, we’ve compiled a list of the five craziest, and coolest, military vehicles to date.
1. HEL MD Photon Cannon
The HEL MD (or, High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator) is a massive weapon-on-wheels, developed to dismantle and destroy enemy missiles and mortar shells with an intense, 10-kilowatt laser mounted atop its armored exterior. That’s right: It stops mortar shells with lasers. Developed by scientists out of Boeing, the photon cannon is expected eventually to sport even more high-powered lasers reaching 50 and even 60 kilowatts. The best part? While the driver navigates the cannon, the passenger controls the laser with a laptop and Xbox controller.
2. Desert Chameleon
Developed by Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems, this behemoth is armed with both cannons and machine guns with 90 percent interchangeable parts. This vehicle is not only able to cross rivers and lakes, but is completely armored—360 degree protection. It’s also so massive that seven fully-equipped troops can fit inside. Army Recognition outlines Chameleon’s many features:
“Each side of the hull is equipped with one small door; one hydraulic ramp is mounted at the rear. The cockpit has four panoramic periscopes, two at the front and one to each side. Two gun ports are mounted at the rear side of each side of the hull, with one panoramic periscope on the top of the hull.”
3. MaxxPro Dash DXM
The MaxxPro is an ultra-protected vehicle that protects passengers from land-mines and IEDs. The vehicle’s designer, Navistar Defense, boasts a tight turning radius and smooth ride in this lighter, faster version in the family of MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
4. GPV Captain
General Purpose Vehicles designed this super-stealthy ride, tipping the scales at 19 tons. While a crew of two operates the vehicle, a whole fourteen troops can fit inside the Captain. This fully armored vehicle is also “fully amphibious” meaning it can even head into the water.
This vehicle was developed by Textron as a private venture—TAPV standing for Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle. Weighing in at 17 tons, this armored ride is designed for asymmetrical warfare to protect personnel from land-mines and IEDs. Other versions of the vehicle have been adapted to perform in specific situations, such as ambulances or command vehicles.
It should be said, however, that as cool as these vehicles are, they are useless without brave men and women in our armed forces behind the wheel. A special thank you from our team here at The Zebra to all those who have served in pursuit of peace and freedom for our country.
And to all you military vehicle aficionados—know of any crazy cool vehicles we missed?