The Guardian Angel Air-deployable Rescue Vehicle is supposed to be able to fit on C-17s and C-130 transport aircraft as well as CH-53 helicopters. With a range of up to 350 miles, it would allow pararescuemen to be dropped off well outside the range of the enemy's anti-aircraft weapons to rescue or recover casualties. (Air Force)
The Air Force is testing an all-terrain vehicle intended to get rescue teams across rugged terrain or into the midst of combat to rescue or recover U.S. and coalition forces.
The Guardian Angel Air-deployable Rescue Vehicle, which looks like the offspring of a Humvee and a dune buggy, was formally unveiled on Aug. 28 in Geneva, Ohio, where lead contractor HDT Global has a manufacturing facility.
Named for the pararescuemen and combat rescue officers known as the “Guardian Angel Weapon System,” the vehicle’s “main purpose is to get in fast and get out fast,” said Capt. Jeremy Baker, project manager for the vehicle.
The first two production vehicles have started safety certification testing and will undergo operational testing in February at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Baker said. Air Combat Command is expected to decide in July whether to send the vehicles downrange.
Right now, Guardian Angels can reach casualties by parachute or helicopter, but the vehicle, which has a range of up to 350 miles, would allow them to be dropped off well outside the range of the enemy’s anti-aircraft weapons, Baker said.
“It gives them the capability to then drive in and recover the person or persons,” Baker said. “Instead of having to carry all the gear they have to take with them, it allows them to put it on the vehicle.”
The vehicle can carry up to six crew members or four crew members and four patients, Baker said.
The vehicle is supposed to be able to fit on C-17s and C-130 transport aircraft as well as CH-53 helicopters, he said. It is also required to be transportable by CH-47 helicopters, but it is not yet known whether that is possible. But such a combat rescue vehicle comes with risks, said a Guardian Angel who was not authorized to speak on the record. For example, driving into a hot spot would expose the rescue team to enemy fire longer than being dropped off by a helicopter.
“It would also make us susceptible to a different style of, as we used to call them, SAR [search and rescue] traps, where they would try to purposely draw in rescue personnel, and if they know we have vehicles, they may set up a different kind of trap with IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or vehicle-borne IEDs or things like that,” the Guardian Angel said. Still, being able to drive to a rescue scene and then be picked up by a helicopter could expand the Guardian Angels’ capabilities, he said.
“The more avenues we have to get to a victim and get out, the better,” he said. “It only makes sense that we have a vehicle that is more geared toward actual rescue work; however, I don’t see it doing much in the way of replacing a helicopter.”