The US military fields some pretty impressive vehicles, but they aren't worth much if they don’t fit on the aircraft intended to transport them. Last month, the US Navy removed one obstacle when it cleared the Boeing Phantom Badger combat support vehicle for transport inside a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. After a battery of tests, including form-fit checks, pressure tests and structural evaluations of over four G’s, the modular vehicle was a step closer to deployment by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force Special Operations.
After 30 years of often controversial and expensive development, the V-22 Osprey that flies like a fixed-wing aircraft, yet takes off and lands like a helicopter has come into its own. Used by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force Special Operations, it gets the soldiers to their destination. The problem is, once the Marines and Special Ops guys get there, they’re pretty much walking.
What they need is something that’s modular, versatile, survivable, and operates on all terrains. Oh yes, it also needs to fit in the Osprey’s cargo bay. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything in the US inventory that does all that, so Boeing Phantom Works came up with the Phantom Badger. That may sound like a lame cartoon character, but it’s assigned to a vehicle that’s not only designed to be carried in the belly of an Osprey, but has a modular rear section that can be quickly adapted for particular missions, such as reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, casualty transport, direct action with weapons mounts, or explosive ordnance disposal.
The Phantom Badger has some impressive off-roading specs, including a 240 bhp (179 kW) multi-fuel engine, four-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, and a top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h). There are also hydraulic and suspension systems that allow it to travel at speed in rough conditions without exhausting its passengers with excess buffeting. In addition, Boeing says that its 35-in (90-cm) tires can handle logs as thick as telephone poles, and it can carry 3,300 pounds (1,500 kg) of payload, which is an increase over comparable vehicles. The coachwork comes in anything you like, so long as it’s camouflage.
The development of the Phantom Badger by the Special Pursuits Cell at Boeing Phantom Works took only six months from the first computer design to an operating product. Boeing managed this by going into partnership with MSI Defense Solutions of North Carolina, which brought its expertise in developing NASCAR vehicles as well as tactical vehicles to the project.
So far, the Phantom Badger has completed 5,000 test miles (8,046 km), including airdrops from a C-17 cargo plane. The project has now moved to a production facility in Mooresville, North Carolina, where assembly and fabrication of the vehicle and mission modules will be carried out.
"My experiences at Joe Gibbs Racing provided me the knowledge and skills for suspension tuning that I use today on Phantom Badger," says Andrew Wizorek, MSI’s design engineer and program manager for Phantom Badger. "To fit in the V-22, we have very little room to package all of the subsystems. Even more challenging, we had to design each individual component for commonality and easy maintenance."