- Vehicles from Polaris Industries to be used in NATO maneuvers
- Army’s 82nd Airborne is unit famed from Normandy invasion
When paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division’s quick-reaction force jump near Torun, Poland, next month on a NATO exercise, an all-terrain vehicle it’s evaluating will descend by parachute as well, an Army commander said.
About 10 of the ATVs made by Polaris Industries Inc. will be air-dropped along with about 600 paratroopers from C-17 transports as part of a “joint, forcible-entry exercise,” Colonel Colin Tuley told reporters in a telephone interview this week.
“These vehicles significantly enhance what would otherwise be foot mobility,” Brigadier General Brian Winski, deputy commander of the 82nd, added in an e-mail Thursday. “They change the dynamic and turn what would have been a 3 mile-per-hour operation into a 50 mile-per-hour operation,” which would let the troops strike “at a pace and in locations the enemy would not expect.” The vehicles can carry as many as six soldiers at 60 miles per hour.
The paratroopers and vehicles are scheduled to take off from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on June 6 -- a storied date for the unit that helped liberate France in the Normandy invasion that began on that day in 1944 -- and to drop into Poland after a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight.
Tuley commands a 4,200-person brigade that’s on rotation as the Pentagon’s “Global Response Force,” designated to respond to a crisis within 96 hours or sooner.
He demurred when asked whether next month’s “Exercise Swift Response” is intended to demonstrate the unit’s prowess to Russia. The U.S. and allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are working to deter an assertive Russia after President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.
“It’s really a united front -- for whatever reason,” Tuley said. “It could be to conduct peacekeeping, it could be how do you respond to heavy immigration challenges in Europe. It’s really just a symbol of a united front amongst alliances and their partners.”
Deterring Russia and stabilizing the Middle East and Libya are among the topics at a meeting Thursday and Friday of NATO foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Brussels.
A battalion of Tuley’s brigade, accompanied by the Polaris ATVs, will join about 1,000 British and Polish paratroopers in the exercise next month.
“Swift Response will demonstrate the allies’ ability to respond to a crisis scenario from staging bases in both Europe and the U.S. within 18 hours of notification,” according to an Army statement.
The ATV, designated the MRZR, is “still in its pilot year,” Tuley said. The 82nd is going to make a recommendation on how many to buy over the 30 already purchased for evaluation from Medina, Minnesota-based Polaris, he said.
Mark McCormick, director of Polaris’s defense sector, said in an interview that the service is considering the vehicle to fill a capability gap that the Army has identified for tactical mobility. The 82nd’s evaluation, including showcasing the vehicle in the exercise, could portend an opportunity to sell 300 more vehicles to equip Army infantry brigade combat teams, assuming it performs successfully, he said.