"Just one of their many non-armored specialty vehicles."
Established in 1992, the Armored Group, LLC offers a broad portfolio of both armored and non-armored specialty vehicles for Cash in Transit, SWAT and police, military, and commercial use. The company has held multi-million contracts with various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, has built scores of vehicles for the U.S. State Department, and has provided dozens of armored vehicles to law enforcement agencies nationwide and in Canada. All Armored Group vehicles are fully customizable and can be tailored to existing equipment the buying agency may already have.
Introduction of the RDV
In 2004, the Armored Group introduced the RDV (Rapid Deployment Vehicle) to their product line to address the need for an affordable deployment vehicle as an alternative to the Ford E350 van. According to Jeremy Johnson, Director of International Operations, the RDV was the brainchild of the Irving, Texas Police Department.
Irving PD wanted a vehicle that allowed them to carry their full team in one vehicle and have the ability to stand and deploy in a safer and quicker manner. It would have to offer the ability to deploy out of three different doors (driver side, passenger side, and rear), provide storage ability for basic gear, be easy to drive and maintain, be discreet in society, and most importantly be affordable.
After building the RDV based on this criteria, the Irving team (and the vehicle) appeared on a Court TV show which prompted calls from law enforcement agencies wanting more information on it.
“Through feedback from Irving and the Texas Tactical Police Officer’s Association (TTPOA), I decided to put some marketing behind the RDV to go along with our already established B.A.T.T. (Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport) line of armored personnel carriers. After the first ad, where I ran a small picture of the RDV in the bottom right corner of a larger BATT ad, I knew there was a need for the RDV,” Johnson said. “My phone and e-mail [were] immediately be bombarded for requests concerning information on the RDV.”
The original vehicle was specifically designed for SWAT / Narcotics operations, equipped with all the features necessary for safe and rapid deployment, such as steel-reinforced grab handles in the roof, sliding deployment doors on both sides, and larger double rear doors. At the time, Johnson was unsure if the base vehicle as is would be capable of serving the varied needs of each agency.
However, after the first few units were sold, teams started requesting options that could be added, and today there are multiple variants of the company’s RDV line of Specialty Vehicles, which include Crime Scene, Command, Equipment, EOD, Rescue, Communication, Hostage Negotiator, and Hybrids.
Since starting the Law Enforcement division of The Armored Group, Johnson’s philosophy has been to provide an affordable, quality vehicle customized to each agency’s requirements. “I try to take every department as an open slate, and begin working on that particular vehicle by letting the customer paint the picture of their vehicle needs. Many times we start with the base RDV package as the slate, and then modify it from there to fit the department’s budget.”
Recognizing that economic constraints often force law enforcement agencies to settle for a vehicle that ultimately will not meet their needs, the company works with each department individually to find the right solution at the right price.
Development of the RDV F59
Expansion into the non-armored specialty vehicle market led to the development of the F59, which was designed for agencies that had officers deploying out of converted E350 vans. “Until we started working with the Ford F59 chassis, if you wanted to go larger / longer than an 18-foot body, you had to switch from the more economical Ford E450 / Chevrolet 3500 van chassis to a more expensive chassis (Ford F-Series, Chevrolet or Dodge Ram trucks),” Johnson said.
“The F59 became a popular option for us because it gave us the ability to offer a larger, longer vehicle to supply those departments who needed the additional room for their operational requirements. The F59 is a heavier chassis that can handle larger bodies and is available in longer wheelbases than the other RDV chassis.”
Equipped with a Ford 6.8L V-10 gasoline engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, and power steering, the super-duty chassis can withstand more weight and abuse than the van-chassis other vehicles in its class are built on. Other chassis equipment includes HD power disk brakes with ABS system, HD rear shock absorbers, dual rear wheels, and a 208-inch wheelbase. The interior of the vehicle measures 84 inches high and 93 inches wide, and features cab swing doors and a curbside work-area side swing door.
Three rear exit points that include deployment doors on both sides of the vehicle simplify tactical approach routes, while easy deployment and entry is made possible with an oversized rear deployment bumper with integrated steps. Offering Duraplate walls that allow magnets to be fixed to it, under-seat storage, a rear HVAC unit, and the capability to carry 18-plus officers, this vehicle platform has proven to be a versatile and modular unit.
Some available packages that build up the customization of the RDV include the Crisis and Hostage Negotiation Package, Crime Scene Investigation Package, Command Center Package, and many more. These packages can be built on any vehicle chassis, including the Ford E450, Chevy C4500, Ford F Series Trucks, Dodge 4500, or Ford F59 Super Duty. As with their other specialty vehicles, the F59 comes with the full OEM chassis factory warranty, base body warranty, and multiple extended warranty packages.
The first F59 the company built was for the Metro SWAT team in Ohio, which needed an affordable, multipurpose unit large enough to allow them to use it for multiple operations, and able to handle the weight of the items they needed in the vehicle. Formed in 1990, Metro SWAT is a multijurisdictional team comprised of 18 participating agencies serving a population of over 300,000 in both Summit and Portage Counties. In 2009, when they were looking to replace a 25-year-old tactical vehicle, they worked with two of their emergency management agencies to obtain a Homeland Security grant.
Ron Piatt, administrator for Metro SWAT, said that once the grant was in place, they narrowed the search to three different companies and vehicle styles: a motorhome, a truck with a separate cab, and a UPS-style truck. After meeting with all three companies, they opted for the UPS style truck as it would fit on any road and, with entry doors up front, would have more floor space in the rear. As the only company offering this type of vehicle, Armored Group worked closely with Metro SWAT to design a truck that provided several key tools to assist the team on activations.
“We have Internet service built in, which gives us access to the police computer. We updated our radio system, which gave us the ability to record radio traffic and to talk to all the different departments we serve,” Piatt said. “We also have a camera mast that goes up 25 feet and gives us the ability to get ‘eyes on the target.’ This too can be recorded.”
According to Piatt, the vehicle is separated into two specific areas. The first 12 feet of the truck is for the officers dealing directly with the activation, while the back 6 feet is separated with a wall and a pocket door and serves as the communications area. In addition, their negotiator truck is tied into the new vehicle so when the “throw phone” is deployed, the team gets the video and audio feed on the monitors.
He added that the Armored Group utilized direct input from the Metro SWAT team to build a vehicle that was affordable and would meet their specific needs. Any minor issues that emerge are quickly and efficiently addressed by the company’s support team.
As Contract Manager for The Armored Group, Edgar McGauley pointed out their willingness to work closely with agencies to design an affordable vehicle is just one way in which they differ from their competitors. “We listen to the customer and build the vehicle the way they want and need, rather than giving them a “take-it-or-leave-it” ultimatum,” McGauley stated. They offer grant writing assistance and leasing options to agencies where funding is limited, and have won and maintain two GSA multiple award schedules that provide attractive purchasing options.
Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.