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General Dynamics Develops ‘Super Buffalo’ to Enhance Counter-IED Operations

GDLS plans to enhance counter-IED operations: Part 1 – multi-functionality

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In addition to its novel “Tracked Stryker” unveiled at this year’s Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., General Dynamics extended its innovative vision to potential enhancements for counter-IED operations.

“We already have Buffalo in theater, saving heroes’ lives,” offered H.A. “Graz” Graziano, vice president of the Combat Support & Sustainment Business Sector for GDLS. “If you have kids in the fight you want them in a Buffalo. It is an incredible, safe, reliable vehicle. And so what we want to do is extend the capabilities of this [vehicle] beyond the counter-IED ‘interrogation phase.’”

According to Jim Church, director of business development for General Dynamics Land Systems – Force Protection, the company enhancement concept relies on two principles: Multi-functionality and Roboticizing.

Buffalo, M-ATV, Husky

Soldiers assigned to Company C, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Special Troops Battalion, get familiar with the Buffalo mine resistant ambush protected vehicle and Husky route clearance vehicle (at rear of convoy.) 2-1 STB would use the Buffalo as part of their route clearing missions while deployed in combat. GDLS says its Super Buffalo would cut steps out of the sequential process of identifying and disabling improvised explosive devices (IEDs). DoD photo by Sgt. Michael Armstrong

“The first is multi-functionality, where we are creating platforms that can do more than one aspect of the route clearance job,” he explained. “So we are talking about adding a ground penetrating radar to a Buffalo, allowing us to do the detection function and the interrogation function. Why is that important? It’s important because a route clearance operation is a highly sequential process. So an RG-31 [vehicle] is out front. It identifies a suspect location. A Husky comes forward with a ground-penetrating radar, scans that area, and determines that there is something below the ground. Then it pulls back and away. The Buffalo comes forward and uses its interrogation arm to interrogate the site to determine what that thing is below the ground. And, if it is determined that it is an IED, the Buffalo pulls back away and a JERRV [Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle] comes forward – another of our GDLS – Force Protection vehicles. They deploy a Talon [robot] from it. That Talon places a neutralization charge on the IED. Then it pulls back and the charge is detonated. Then it goes back forward and looks to see if the hole is empty. After all of that everybody reassembles and moves on.”

“The ‘sequentialness’ of that whole process takes an enormous amount of time,” he said. “So if we want to give time back to the tactical commander we want to be innovative in creating multifunctional tools that allow a single platform to execute some of those functions and help buy some of that time back. That’s the reason for our looking at how we can create multi-functional tools for the route clearance commander.”

“One way to do that is to put a ground penetrating radar on a Buffalo [with the result being called ‘Super Buffalo’],” he continued. “Installing the radar eliminates one of the vehicles from the route clearance company. And it is a highly protected survivable vehicle – in which soldiers are well protected – that will also be involved in the process in proximity to the IED. So we’re not exposing more soldiers to risk. In fact, we are reducing the number of soldiers exposed to risk.”

See Part II to learn how the company proposes “roboticizing” Counter-IED operations to optimize tactical performance.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...