Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Blackwater Developing Light Strike Vehicle

"The US military is looking for light, high-speed four-wheelers that can zip troops around battlezones," Wired reports. Always ready to serve, Blackwater is coming out with a new prototype, the Light Strike Vehicle.

In recent years, military vehicles have become increasingly heavy. The current incarnation of the Humvee, the M1151, weighs more than twice the original model, the M998. All that additional armor and equipment is great, but it means the vehicle can no longer accomplish all the missions for which it was originally designed. Moreover, the extra weight is putting extra strain on the helicopters that have to ferry these things around.

That's where the Light Strike Vehicle comes in. "Still in the prototype stage, the 3,000-pound vehicle will have a 500-horsepower engine, 41-inch tires and a 2,500-pound payload." And under the right conditions, it can do 100mph.

“A vehicle with outstanding off­road capability and high axle articu­lation requires a compliant and loose suspension with maximum travel,” said Marty Strong, Blackwa­ter USA vice president of communi­cations. “These are the opposite characteristics required of a high­speed platform. Our suspension de­sign spans both worlds by offering high articulation and extreme off­road performance, while still main­taining great manners when travel­ing at speeds approaching 100 mph.

Pictures of Blackwater's Light Strike Vehicle prototype are not yet avaliable, so what you see above is a similar vehicle from Chenoweth, deployed during the first Gulf War.

This is not, of course, Blackwater's first vehicle project; the Grizzly is an armored personnel carrier (APC) on the heavier side of the spectrum, a vehicle which received critical acclaim from those that would have to use it. One military blogger praised it for its "attention to detail" and its design to "deflect the effect of roadside bombs and mines."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Blackwater Develops Better Armor for US Forces

Blackwater Worldwide, in conjunction with ARES Systems, has developed "lighter, stronger, more cost-effective armor," according to a recent press release.

The armor, known as EXO Scale, is an appliqué that can be added to vehicles already in use. At recent tests at the Aberdeen Test Center, Army engineers fired projectiles at EXO Scale armor, which "conclusively passed the live fire test, proving the viability of EXO Scale for MRAP [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected] II vehicles and as an upgrade to earlier generation MRAP I vehicles," the release explains.

EXO Scale clearly provides better protection for our deployed soldiers, said Maj. Gen. Buff Blount (US Army, ret). EXO Scale weighs approximately 30 percent less than the government's current appliqué armor design. That translates to extended vehicle life, lower operations (fuel) costs and lower maintenance costs due to less wear and tear on the vehicle. He went on to point out that EXO Scale is approximately one-third the cost of current MRAP armor solutions.

In addition to its use as an appliqué, EXO Scale is also being employed on the cutting-edge new Grizzly vehicle from Blackwater (pictured above).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blackwater Goes Green

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the most powerful wind-turbine in the state of North Carolina - a 120 ft, three bladed 50-kilowatt unit - belongs to Blackwater, the private security contractor.

The turbine, erected last month at a cost of $180,000, powers the company's 70,000-square-foot Grizzly plant and is expected to produce 110,000 kilowatt hours in the next year.

The project has caught the eye of folks outside the world of security contracting. Brent Summerville, outreach and training programs manager for the North Carolina Small Wind Initiative at Appalachian State University says, "Everything that is installed is going to get scrutiny; projects like this will help."

The Virginian-Pilot explains that "winds off Cape Hatteras average 17 mph at 120 feet off the ground and are rated as some of the most potentially productive in the state, according to a wind map online at the U.S. Department of Energy," making the region a fertile area for developing wind power.