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Tactical Response Armored Car (TRAC)

Written by Del Williams

A new class of vehicle known as the Tactical Response Armored Car (TRAC), like a Swiss Army knife for law enforcement, provides greater safety, versatility and speed of response to officers than previously possible.

Built on a compact armored vehicle platform with tank-like, all-terrain tracks, the operator deploys the attachment needed for the situation, whether an assault platform, breaching ram with wireless camera, grapple bucket, vehicle extraction tool or custom option. The operator can swap out attachments as needed in minutes via quick change couplers, while a custom transport truck gives TRAC and its attachments the portability to quickly go where needed, thus speeding officer response time.

“Most ballistic vests and shields are rated for handgun ammunition,” said Sergeant Dan Frair, SWAT team leader of the Binghamton, NY Police Department, which has about 150 sworn officers. “The vests leave the face and lower body exposed, and the shields also leave the lower body exposed. When rifle-rated shields and vest inserts are used, the added weight restricts mobility.” Officers carrying a shield typically deploy with a pistol, limiting offensive range and firepower.

“Many SWAT teams lack the ability to quickly and effectively enter through a second floor opening,” Frair said. “Some suspects have barricaded the first floor doors to thwart entry by police. If they retreat to the second floor, they may booby-trap stairs or shoot at officers as they come up.”

A Tactical Advantage

Enter TRAC, designed to handle the full range of law enforcement crises while protecting officers. Manufactured by Dolmen, based in Johnson City, NY, TRAC is large enough to carry eight or more personnel. The vehicle’s assault platform, with level II, III or IV armor plating and top, bottom, front and side protection, with matching ballistic glass, is one of its main draws.

To ensure reliability under fire, TRAC equipment offers full manufacturing traceability, including mill certificates with ballistic and heat reports. The curved assault platform’s three large windows give officers an unobstructed view with armor protection, making direct line-of-sight assessment and response possible.

Recently, the Binghamton SWAT team put TRAC to the test in two days of unscripted training. Up to six team members fit in the assault platform with up to four standing on an armored rear platform.

“To get a view into the crisis location without the TRAC, our team has had to approach behind hand-held ballistic shields, which provided limited protection for team members,” Frair said. “With the TRAC, our entire emergency action team can approach the crisis location, observe from behind significant ballistic protection, and even make an emergency entry through a first- or second-floor opening if necessary.

“The assault platform windows gave our team a safe, clear view of what we were dealing with,” Frair added. “In a warehouse exercise, 10 of us deployed from the assault platform door with complete frontal cover in about 30 seconds.” Because the full-sized sliding assault door is balanced and wheel-mounted, it made exit easy for Frair’s team.

Because the assault platform can be raised, Frair’s team was able to achieve simultaneous first- and second-floor entry of a structure in a training exercise via a first floor door and a second floor window. “This capability could help surprise and overwhelm a target,” Frair said. “It could help officers avoid the stairs, known as ‘fatal funnels’ because of how they force officers into such constricted space.”

Frair was also impressed with TRAC’s breaching ram, which creates a controlled breach with a wireless camera on the end of the ram. Providing over 3500 psi, the hydraulic ram is strong enough to punch through steel doors and concrete walls, yet easy enough to manipulate to remove a window shade.

“With the ram, you can create multiple breach points, which keeps the bad guys inside guessing what you’ll do next,” Frair said. “With the camera on the end of the ram, you can breach windows, doors or walls and look around inside the crisis location without exposing officers. To recon the third floor, the platform can lift an officer to the second floor, where he can then raise a pole camera to view inside a third floor window.”

In training, Frair used TRAC’s armored rear platform to “rescue” a downed officer. “By keeping the assault platform between a shooter and downed officer or victim, you can shield them from harm while loading them onto the platform,” he said.

Chris Governanti, a Binghamton SWAT team member who has operated the TRAC, said, “The machine has a zero turn radius and extremely low ground pressure. It’s extremely agile and can conquer urban and rural terrain with ease.” Two joysticks control its functions: one for the vehicle, and one for its attachments.

Governanti appreciates how TRAC’s custom transport truck keeps the vehicle and its attachments in one place, ready for use and deployment. “The transport truck can essentially go wherever a UPS truck does and is more maneuverable in traffic and confined urban settings than a truck-hauled trailer would be.”

A grapple bucket attachment can easily remove burglar bars, security shutters and other difficult-to-handle objects. Similarly, a vehicle extraction forklift attachment can pick up, remove, or place vehicles to remove or create a barricade.

“Because the grapple and forklift can make or remove barriers to enter or exit, they’d help in emergencies such as riot control or clearing streets of debris and fallen trees after a storm,” Governanti said. “The grapple could tear down a house, given time.”

A number of TRAC options help it qualify for Homeland Security grants, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or Explosive (CBRNE) capability, which makes it HazMat compatible, and a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) color digital camera with thermal imaging for enhanced recon capacity. Dolmen provides grant writing resources and assistance on request.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2010

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