The Jeep Wrangler could be headed back to the battlefield. According to reports, negotiations are currently under way with the US Army to adapt the iconical American off-roader for military use. The Wranglers would serve as inexpensive, lightweight, unarmored vehicles that could be more easily airlifted into remote locations than costlier, heavier, and bulkier options.
The proposal is not being fielded by the Jeep brand itself or its parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, but by Hendrick Dynamics. The Charlotte-based offshoot of NASCAR racing team Hendrick Motorsports calls its modified Wrangler the Hendrick Commando. Instead of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 found in most US-market Wranglers, the Commando version employs the 2.8-liter diesel four built by VM Motori, modified to run on any type of diesel fuel or on JP-8 jet fuel to maximize its deployment versatility and comply with the Army’s Single Fuel mandate of 2012.
It would also support a variety of modular attachments for specific jobs, ranging from machine gun mounts and counter-mine rakes to radar arrays and advanced communications equipment. Hendrick says the Commando could also be deployed by helicopter or in cargo planes. And because it’s based on a civilian platform, the Commando would also benefit from the latest advancements introduced by its manufacturer, the parts and service network already in place, and the thorough testing that’s already gone into developing the Wrangler for civilian use.
Hendrick has reportedly built 14 prototypes to date, including the two-door Commando 2 (based on the standard Wrangler), the four-door Commando 4 (based on the Wrangler Unlimited), and even a pickup conversion called the Commando S. It is not, however, the only company adapting Jeep Wranglers for military application. Israel-based Automotive Industries Ltd has been producing successive versions of the Wrangler-based Storm for use by the Israel Defense Forces and other militaries overseas since 1990.
If the US Army awards the contract for the Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) vehicle to Hendrick Dynamics, it would bring the iconic Jeep back to the battlefield where it got its start. The brand and its most prolific model trace their roots back to the Willys MB, launched in 1941 on contract from the US Army for deployment in World War II. In similar (but far more prolific) fashion to the AM General Hummer that followed decades later, its success as a military vehicle led to its adoption by civilians for off-road use. 75 years and several generations of development later, the Wrangler is still produced at the same plant in Toledo, OH.