More and more often, Special Weapons and Tactic Teams (SWAT), Homeland Security, HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials), Counter-Terrorism, Force Protection, Military Base Security, Military Police, and Law Enforcement Special Operations across the United States are resorting to an armored transport truck known as the Lenco BearCat G3. Designed by Lenco Armored Vehicles of Massachusetts, the nation’s leading designer, producer, and manufacturer of tactical armored security vehicles, the BearCat is part armored transport vehicle and part rescue truck depending on mission parameters. Specially designed for Law Enforcement Special Operations, Lenco BearCats are finding their way into police SWAT Teams from New York’s Yonkers ESU to Philadelphia Police SWAT to Los Angeles Police SWAT. This vehicle has better transport and off-road capability and armor ratings than outdated beaten-up used military surplus vehicles (such as the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier or vintage 1970s Cadillac Gage 4X4 “Peacekeeper” armored trucks) found in certain SWAT teams, expensive armored military HMMWVs, or underperforming armored SUVs and non-armored SWAT vans. When bullets are flying, SWAT often calls upon the Lenco BearCat to transport SWAT personnel towards the hostile situation under armor protection.1
The BearCat G3 is a “Counter Attack Truck” (CAT) that is smaller and more mobile than its larger brother, the B.E.A.R. (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response and Rescue) SWAT truck. Made of hardened steel armor plate to MIL-SPEC A46100 standard, a Lenco BearCat is able to stop AK-47 7.62mm AP, but the Lenco website states that the BearCat’s armor is tougher, “…provides 7.62mm AP (Armor-Piercing) to .50 caliber BMG protection” and has a V-hull to deflect explosive blasts outward and away from the vehicle such as those from Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.Ds). This rolling armored truck has Anti-Blast seats (usually seats mounted on springs or an overhead harness system that raise them above the cabin floor to mitigate blast shock) to increase personnel survivability.2
The Lenco BearCat G3 is built on a Ford F550 Heavy-duty commercial truck chassis that comes with a 6.0 Caterpillar diesel turbocharged engine generating 300-plus horsepower and an automatic four or five-speed transmission. Performance specs are impressive with 560 torque, 3,000-pound payload capacity, and 400-mile range on one tank of gas. The high ground clearance of the BearCat combined with its powerful engine horsepower and torque means that BearCats could drive at highway speeds of 75-90 mph and have off-road performance and responsiveness better than SWAT vans and SUVs.3
In CAT-configuration, a 10-man fully-equipped SWAT team could ride in the cabin with a passenger and driver in the cab. Interior cab features include dual heating and air conditioning with dash ergonomics and layout of the F550. Rear cabin options could include overhead lights, side-mounted Anti-Blast seats, dim ceiling red battle lights, swing-open metal side and rear firing ports, rotating roof turret, and thick ballistic window glass in the armored side walls and rear doors. Note that most BearCat G3s do not have an external weapon turret mounting bracket for screwing on a fixed heavy gun, meaning SWAT’s personal small arms rifles, sniper rifles, and machine guns are most likely the heaviest firepower carried. LAPD SWAT’s ambulance BearCat has a custom interior configuration that includes outfitting of side benches, a console with four radios with microphones, medicine cabinets and wall storage, and oxygen supply valve outlets. Exterior configurations consist of Mil-Spec ballistic armored plate up to 1.5 inches thick, run-flat tires in the 2X2 or 2X4 configuration, armored hood, radiator, and fuel tank, and 45-degree slanted frontal transparent-armor windshield which is essentially a sandwich combination of plastics and glass. LAPD SWAT’s BearCat ambulance has custom designs such as a side electrical port for plugging into an electrical outlet for idling power, side running boards for SWAT members to stand on and hold onto roof rail bars, armored vertical louvers covering the radiator grille, door lock bars to prevent the heavy side doors from closing back and squashing the SWAT member standing behind them, pushbar and bumper with winch, and roof-mounted floodlights and lightbars. Other exterior options could include thermal cameras, battering ram, mobile adjustable ramp and ladder systems mounted on the roof, and additional emergency lights and sirens.4
BearCats have a proven success record of shrugging off rifle fire when rescuing injured SWAT personnel or hostages. Many times there have been credited reports of BearCats taking multiple hits from AK-47 or high-powered rifle fire with not one round penetrating the interior. SWAT then replaces the armored glass and touches up the paint. Lenco advertises that its BearCats have defeated fragmentation, mortar attacks, and combat small arms fire. Costs range from $200,000 to $400,000 per BearCat G3. The Lenco BearCat G3s have found uses in cities, bases, and in the battlefield.5
1 Katz, Samuel and Hartov, Steven. “Tactical Wheels Under Fire. The Lenco BearCat (Part 1)” Special Operations Report. Summer 2007: 6 pages. Magazine.
2 Lenco BearCat G3 website: http://www.swattrucks.com/bcat-g3.aspx
3 Katz, Samuel and Hartov, Steven. “Tactical Wheels Under Fire. The Lenco BearCat (Part 1)” Special Operations Report. Summer 2007: 6 pages. Magazine.
4 Jay Leno’s Garage: BearCat video. http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/cars/ford/lenco-bearcat/index.shtml and Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenco_BearCat
5 Katz, Samuel and Hartov, Steven. “Tactical Wheels Under Fire. The Lenco BearCat (Part 1)” Special Operations Report. Summer 2007: 6 pages. Magazine and Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenco_BearCat