Keeping Afghanistan’s roads free of improvised explosive devices is no easy feat when important routes are re-mined within hours of EOD teams clearing them. That’s why US Army has deployed the Buffalo: a six-wheeled, 34-tonne, armour-plated supertruck designed to demolish roadside bombs with abandon.
The Buffalo, built by Force Protection, is classified as a mine-protected clearance vehicle (MPCV) and is based on South Africa’s Casspir APC (armoured personnel carrier). It measures 8m long, 4m tall and 3m wide, and it has room for six. It’s outfitted with a 440HP CAT C13 12.5-litre engine that provides a 90km/h top speed while the 320-litre fuel tank delivers a range of 480km.
Like its namesake, the Buffalo MPCV is built tough. The vehicle is wrapped in layers of BAE Systems L-ROD aluminium armour and has a V-shaped undercarriage that directs IED blasts outwards from the centerline, away from the crew. All six of its steel wheels are equipped with Michelin 16 R 20 XZL aluminium-rim run-flat tyres. In all, the Buffalo can shrug off small arms fire (up to NATO 7.62) and RPGs from the sides and top as well as withstand up to a 20kg landmine to its wheels and 14kg of explosives to its underbelly.
Of course, the route clearance engineers would prefer to dispose of IEDs before they’re sitting on top of them. That’s why these vehicles are also equipped with a 9m robotic claw arm (complete with attached camera, sensor suite and iron manipulator). In addition, the Buffalo can lower a set of disc rollers like a steamroller to run over and detonate bombs planted in the roadway.
The US Army Corps of Engineers deployed its first Buffalo to Afghanistan in 2003 for use in demining, route clearance and convoy protection operations. Five years later, that number had swollen to 200 as the vehicles proved their usefulness and reliability. Many other European and Asian nations, such as the Italians above, have adopted them as well. “There are no RCPs [route clearance procedures] that are 100 per cent,” said Sgt Daniel Martin, a heavy equipment operator in 535th Engineering Support Company, to the Army Times. “It what’s working the best and when the enemy changes we have to change our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).”
And when it isn’t hunting for roadside IEDs, the Buffalo can even be re-equipped as a standard APC or as a heavily armoured medical transport. Eat your heart out, Tango and Cash’s truck. [Army Technology, Defense Update, US Army, Global Security]