Combat Vehicles?

Growler, combat vehicle?

As a member of the overpay-to-play hit parade outlined in our last posting, we thought a little more information on the U.S. Marine Corps’ support cart might be helpful.

The relatively obscure Growler, whose concept dates back to 1999, was purchased by the Corps as a companion to its V-22 Osprey aircraft. It is an “internally transportable vehicle,” designed fit inside the Osprey. Once on the ground, it would tow mortars and a trailer laden with ammunition in support of ground forces.

But its “light” (read: no armor, no protection) construction seems to limit its use. The Corps has said it could be used in Afghanistan, and we suppose that’s true — if the Taliban and assorted factions would lay down their arms.

Some call the Growler Jeep-like. In 2005, USA Today referred to it as “a recycled version of the M151 Jeep.” There might be a reason or two the services moved away from the open vehicles of old toward something like the more-protective HUMVEE. Comments on several blogs reveal frustration with Growler, a program seen as money squandered. Virginia Commonwealth University engineering school dean, Russell D. Jamison, wrote to The Washington Post, saying schools like his could design something better and for less money.

The Osprey is the Corps’ tiltrotor vertical and short takeoff and landing aircraft with its own turbulent and checkered past. Lovechild Growler’s costs shot up 120 percent from $94,000 to $209,000 for each vehicle because of (you guessed it) redesigns and other issues. The trailer has been a small fortune since inception but has jumped 86 percent from $579,000 to just over a million dollars.

But there might be hope. It was reported that, in 2005, the Dominican Republic bought a scaled-down version for $33,000 a piece. Similar kits range from $7,500 to $14,500. Why not send some kits to oceanfront Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., and grab a squad or two of Marines a few cases of beverages? You could build a fleet of these things (on each U.S. coast) in an afternoon.

Growler might quickly go the way of other well-meaning but tactically foolish systems: foreign military sales.

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