Most communication between people is nonverbal and comes from mannerisms, posture and presence, which combine to create what we commonly refer to as body language. Law enforcement officers know that when dealing with potential suspects, the lips may be saying one thing, but the body language is what we're really interested in. We hear what they're saying, but really listen to our inner voice that's sizing up the person in front of us.
Law enforcement vehicles are also all about body language, especially when it comes to making a first impression. Consider the days when cops were relegated to the tiny Chrysler K-car for patrols. After you're done grimacing, think of a new Hemi Charger, with its menacing look and aggressive stance same manufacturer, different message. You can bet that people who see a Charger looming in their mirror have a more serious attitude than when they see a toaster-styled rattlebox that screams, "Run from me, I can't keep up."
Carried to the extreme, this concept means some vehicles can provide special operations teams with an intimidating command presence that begins when they arrive on scene.
Last spring, I detailed Phoenix Police Department's SAU Bear, which was a huge step up from the previously used Peacekeepers. When the massive Bear arrives on scene, it leaves an uncooperative suspect with little doubt that Phoenix PD means business (see "The Desert Bear," April 2008 Law Officer). But what about those departments that need a smaller vehicle that still makes a big impression?
Enter Oshkosh Defense and its new SandCat. Although this tactical vehicle is fresh off the drawing board, Oshkosh Defense isn't. The Wisconsin-based company has been designing military vehicles for nearly 100 years and has recently entered into the civilian police market. The SandCat has been positioned as a multi-role vehicle and can be configured in a number of ways. At the 2008 IACP show, Oshkosh had a prototype of the SandCat that I was able to poke around in. I have to say, my first impression of it is that it's one bad feline.
When it comes to command presence, the SandCat delivers in spades. Step closer, and the thickness of the SandCat's armor becomes apparent, as does the thickness of the glass. From its underbelly blast plating, gun ports and angular lines to the optional, massive air hooks in the A-pillars, it looks like a vehicle that can go anywhere and do anything.
Suspension & Engine
As you take a tour around the chassis, the aggressively styled SandCat begins to show its teeth. Built on a modified Ford Heavy Duty 550 chassis, the vehicle has a reconfigured rear suspension that replaces the standard Ford leaf-spring suspension with beefy coilovers. This feature allows much better suspension articulation and control on and off the road, as well as a better ride. This rear suspension rework has allowed Oshkosh to push the vehicle's wheelbase as far to the corners as possible, which creates more interior space, better handling and a more stable platform. It also allows better approach and departure angles off-road, which are 38 degrees and 30 degrees respectively. So the SandCat won't be dragging parts in adverse terrain. By comparison, GM Hummer says that its similarly sized H3 clocks in at 40 degrees and 37 degrees.
Unlike the Hummer, the SandCat uses a Ford 6.4 liter, diesel engine that churns out 325 hp and a whopping 650 lbs. ft. of torque. Transferring this torque to the part-time four-wheel drive system with electric transfer case and auto-locking hubs is a TorqShift five-speed electronic automatic trans mission with overdrive. Add in a rear limited slip differential and ARB locking front unit, and the SandCat can easily climb a 60% grade.
On the road, the powertrain combination translates to a maximum governed speed of approximately 75 mph. That's plenty of speed for a vehicle of this type, because the protective goodies that make the SandCat strong also make it heavy. Its curb weight is 13,300 14,300 lbs., depending on options. Add in the payload capacity, and the SandCat tips the scales at 17,950 lbs. That's a lot of truck. But with its 116" wheelbase and 73" track, coupled with its 13" ground clearance and tidy 19' turning radius, the SandCat remains highly maneuverable.
Although specific ballistic threat protection can't be discussed here, the SandCat has been engineered from the ground up to offer what the company calls its Integrated Survivability System. It's a series of progressively increased threat protection levels that can be tailored to the needs of the customer. Example: The threat protection needed by a relief organization operating in unstable environments may differ than that required by a tactical insertion team (SWAT).
All SandCats come equipped with a standard armor kit, which is a metal-composite design. Optional composite-based armor can be added for even more protection. The cabin structure is a specially designed set of armor panels that have significant overlap for ballistic integrity and intrusion prevention for shrapnel and other projectiles. The system features three layers. The first layer is ceramic segments packed into special panels that make up the armor's foundation. This structure is most apparent in the SandCat's angular lines and allows for coverage of three-dimensional curved shapes inherent in the design. The second layer is the vehicle wall, and the third is a protective inner layer called the Spall Liner. This liner is designed to counter interior projectiles that may develop from a large external blast or protect against penetration by a projectile. This three-layer system is in addition to the optional belly deflector that disperses blasts from below.
On the Inside
Swing open one of the SandCat's heavy doors, and you will immediately know that this is one serious ballistic cocoon. One look at the multi-layered armoring, and little doubt remains as to the purpose of this 7-ton vault on wheels.
When you hop into the driver's seat, the dash isn't that different from what you'd find on a local Ford lot. There's the expected array of HVAC controls, plus some extra switches for the optional fire suppression system and other options. The view from the drivers' seat out the front window is quite good considering the amount of armoring. The small, side windows make for more of a challenge, but given its purpose, less is more in this case.
What is different is the seating system. The prototype at IACP was outfitted with a suspended seat option with collapsible seat bases. Both of these features are designed to mitigate shock to the occupants during a heavy blast situation. Because these conditions might not be frequent in law enforcement, the SandCat can also be ordered with more typical seating arrangements. Its back seats can be suspended or conventional in design.
Also, the SandCat is equipped with gun portals, which are expected to under go revisions prior to the vehicle's law enforcement use because, in the words of Oshkosh, "hostile military situations require the smallest possible opening with less emphasis on accuracy." In other words, out goes the muzzle and "pull till it goes dry." In law enforcement, we don't have that sort of leeway, so the gun portals will be enlarged to allow larger sight pictures and the use of optics to retain the functionality for precision.
More Options & Pricing
The vehicle comes in two basic designs, Utility and Transport. The biggest difference is the slope of the rear shell. The transport configuration makes the most sense for law enforcement because of its ability to carry four to eight fully outfitted officers.
Other options include Gunner Protection Kits, nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) protection, a self-recovery winch, central tire inflation, run-flat tires, air-conditioning and heating systems, and a rear view camera, just to name a few. Because of the variety of features, contact Oshkosh Defense directly for pricing and build options.
Regardless of what ends up suiting your department's needs best, the SandCat certainly makes for a strong command presence, wherever it is.
For more information, contact
Oshkosh Defense at 920/235-9150, or
Note: At press time, the SandCat had yet to make an appearance on Oshkosh's Web site.