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SWAT Team Vehicles

SWAT vehicles must deploy rapidly and require that most equipment be ready in place for that deployment. These manufacturers are designing the vehicles for those particular needs.


The Armored Group, LLC


Jeremy Johnson with The Armored Group stated, “The most important type of armoring for the tactical teams here in the USA is for firearms. The B.A.T.T.® was designed with this in mind and we work to cover all angles, gaps, and perceived points of weakness by assailants, including keyholes, edges of glass, door gaps when doors are open during entry/exit, and optic port creases.


“The teams want to make sure the vehicles can protect their officers as well as any individuals they are working to rescue in a hostile environment. That being said, all of our units come with blast rated floors to protect against skip rounds and certain levels of blasts.”


Johnson reports that they listen to officers about what makes the vehicle easier for them to use.


Officers enter and exit these vehicles in precarious situations, often at night with low light, on uneven terrain, and the truck is built to make the officer’s job easier and safer, including extra-wide door openings, large platforms and running boards, additional lighting to accentuate the steps during night operations, door padding where officers are exiting/entering the unit, and ergonomically favorable grab handles.


Johnson reports the primary question he always gets is about price and TAG offers multiple vehicles under the B.A.T.T. line of armored rescue vehicles for that reason. Other important questions concern the armoring level, space available, HVAC, warranty, off-road capability, and ease of entry/exit.


TAG installs radios, PA systems, sirens, intercoms, throw phone storage and plugs, parabolic microphones, LRAD systems, and the V-Mux control panel. TAG also focused on installing an internal electronic control system to allow departments the ability to add electronic features in the future with less retrofitting because with armored vehicles, making adjustments to them after purchase can be difficult.


TAG offers optional equipment such as multiple cameras, thermal cameras, night-vision illuminator lights, different step and running board layouts, exclusive flip-out running boards for footing for officers riding on the outside, and grab handle layouts.


Lt. Chris Jacobson, Lodi (CA) Police Department reports that purchasing an armored vehicle was not a hard decision because they had been using an old armored bank truck for years although it would not stop rifle rounds. They never know what can happen during the course of a normal shift and for that reason, SWAT deployments always use the armored vehicle and every department member learns to drive the vehicle and has access to it.


Doors on all sides make it easier for officers to deploy from any approach. Their battering ram system not only acts as a ram but has a camera. The 14-foot steel ram can push things open, break windows, and then deploy a camera to look inside structures, over fences, on top of roofs or other areas to determine when a situation is safe.


The Lodi Police Foundation raised money for two years to provide them with the truck, along with a Homeland Security grant. They have not had citizen complaints about a ‘military vehicle’ and stress that it is simply another law enforcement tool, a civilian custom-made armored police vehicle.


LDV, Inc.


Mary Lynch at LDV reports that larger agencies most often purchase SWAT vehicles but

RDVs (Rapid Deployment Vehicles) that are utilized by SWAT teams are going to departments of all sizes in all types of counties and municipalities.


She stated, “LDV mostly sells personnel carriers with storage for guns, shields, helmets, ballistic vests, day boxes, bang poles, and forcible entry tools. Other frequently requested equipment and construction includes thermal imaging cameras, remote controlled spotlights, pole cameras, and heavy-duty reinforced roof construction with safety rails for snipers.”


She added that SWAT vehicles typically include bench seating with storage, dry erase boards, look-out windows, night lighting, hidden emergency lighting, multiple exits, exterior running/riding boards, front swivel seating for two SWAT commanders, breaching tool storage, shield storage, scuba bottle storage necessary for meth lab busts, and sometimes a removable table with an inverter system for crisis negotiations after the team deploys.

High-tech features available on LDV vehicles include mast antennas for wireless robot control and mast or pole mounted cameras that show multiple views of unsecured areas. LDV also offers customers armoring options. LDV has installed Kevlar lining on the sidewalls (which offers protection from 9mm and 44 Magnum handguns and lesser threats) and has also done up-fits of armored vehicles upon request, as well as working with vehicle armoring companies as well as Terradyne.

Sergeant John Pozzi, Rockford (Ill.) Police Department reports that the process of designing and ordering their LDV vehicle was a two-year process from start to finish. “We wanted to make sure we designed this for every need we could project and the professional staff at LDV worked with us and alongside of us during the entire process.”

Pozzi added that SWAT teams order a vehicle designed to meet either their current equipment or projected equipment storage and deployment needs. They made sure their design allowed for proper storage of weaponry and related ammunition in secured storage cabinets, as well as all their tools, equipment, ballistic shielding, and other items. All the items for breaching structures have appropriate storage and are easily accessible for quick deployment.   


Three Day Boxes, which are a must for such types of police vehicles, were installed in their vehicle to properly store ammunition and law enforcement-use explosive devices and that was where an experienced manufacturer was essential. “The team we worked with at LDV had countless years of experience and greatly helped us in meeting our current and projected needs.”

Rockford incorporated state-of-the-art technology such as the Smart Board Technology to assist with mission planning and briefings, and an exterior television monitor incorporated to facilitate the dissemination of information to a large number of personnel quickly. Ample and secured storage is a must, as well as a properly duty-rated generator system. 


Pozzi stated, “Since they handle all builds and specialty equipment fabrication in-house, you always get what you want. You are never forced to accept something less than desired because of a third party distributor’s limited designs. If you desire it in a vehicle they can make it happen—plain and simple.”


Lenco Armor

Lenny Light, VP and General Manager, Lenco Armor, stated that the Lenco BEAR and Lenco BearCat are the most widely used tactical APCs in North America. Over 97 percent of the top 100 urban areas rely on Lenco vehicles, along with 35 State Police agencies, over 600 law enforcement agencies in total. The BearCat G2 and G3 are the most commonly purchased vehicles.


The G2 offers Lenco’s .50 Cal armor protection, seating 10-12 operators with excellent on-road mobility and highway speeds for rapid response. The G3 provides the same tactical benefits, but comes equipped with an off-road capable tire package and run flats for deployments to more rural areas.


Light reported, “Without question, the most important feature to customers is the trust in the armor. Lenco vehicles have been in over 50 ballistic attacks and not a single ballistic penetration has occurred in a BEAR or BearCat.”

Lenco uses only U.S. military approved armor for all vehicles. The integration of custom features used specifically for SWAT applications such as the hydraulic RAM bar, the Gas Injector Unit, or the 4-Way RAM Camera is also important.


Light stated, “Lenco customers range from LAPD and LA Sheriffs to NYPD and Boston PD, as well as much smaller departments in rural areas around the country, representing mutual aid programs covering thousands of departments who operate Lenco vehicles every day.”

Lenco has had many customers speak to the advantages of using the BearCat both to protect citizens and officers, as well as often preventing the necessity of using lethal force. For instance, while serving federal drug warrants, four Dallas SWAT officers were shot and the BearCat operator drove between the shooter and wounded officers and the officers were pulled to safety while the suspect shot additional rounds. The SWAT doctor dressed wounds on the scene and the department credits this rescue to saving the lives of the four officers.

Police vehicles are being targeted for more ballistic attacks from shotgun rounds, rifles and handguns. However, homemade explosive devices such as pipe bombs and pressure cookers are growing in regularity. A well-designed armored police vehicle will defend against both types of attacks with specific armor for ballistic threats and high-velocity projectiles as well as a different grade armor designed specifically for land mines, explosive structures and absorbing shock.


Safety features available include a back-up camera and forward facing camera that alerts the driver to their surroundings. Custom ‘battle bolts’ are also standard for use during riots. Door hold-opens are standard to use in keeping a door ‘pinned’ open during a mission.

The Lenco MedEvac is a new BearCat variant combining the armored protection of a BearCat with the lifesaving trauma response capabilities of a medical response vehicle. Designed for Tactical EMS & SWAT personnel, the Lenco MedEvac has medical equipment storage, a lighted workstation, onboard oxygen, tactical litters, and additional overhead trauma lighting. Trained medics can enter the hot zone in a protected vehicle and rescue downed officers or civilians.


The MedEvac also operates like a standard BearCat by providing Lenco’s standard .50 Cal armor protection, seating for 10 officers, gun-ports, standard LE equipment, and a rotating roof hatch.



Matthews Specialty Vehicles

Michelle Shupe at Matthews Specialty Vehicles stated, “A SWAT vehicle is an inconspicuous, reconnaissance, tactical vehicle. They can be utilitarian in nature. However, Matthews Specialty Vehicles has integrated comfort features into our designs to move away from the traditional utilitarian nature of a SWAT vehicle and making it more comfortable for SWAT operators, while not sacrificing any of the functionality.


“In keeping with being inconspicuous, the SWAT vehicles are generally small and most SWAT vehicles are built as either conversions of a Sprinter Van or Step Van Style. These smaller vehicles allow for greater maneuverability and inconspicuousness during operations.”

The SWAT vehicles are generally outfitted to hold 8-12 persons and gear. The vehicles need to be both comfortable and functional because a team could potentially wait inside the vehicle for many hours. Matthews’ vehicles include such features as padded seats, TVs, power supplies, hidden emergency lights, radios, black out curtains, ceiling mounted handrails, and customized lockable storage for gear.

Shupe stated that, “Armoring is available, but is generally heavy and can affect maneuverability of the vehicle. Each department must weigh that decision in regard to cost and benefits.” She added that hidden emergency lights are often included. SWAT vehicles generally do not include bathrooms, kitchens or sleeping accommodations such as are often seen in command centers.



Capt. Yousef Sansour, Guilford County (NC), stated that the purpose of their SWAT vehicle is to deliver their team members to the scene as quickly as possible. It is a deployment vehicle, a mobile assault vehicle to get the officers to the scene.


Their truck is a Freightliner 3500 with a 170-inch wheelbase, 4WD, with a high-gravity suspension. Operators are often standing to quickly deploy and this makes them need more stability in the moving vehicle. Safety is a big concern and they had grab bars installed to help prevent accidents.


Capt. Sansour reports there are some important things to remember when deciding on the specs for a SWAT vehicle. It is important to keep it light and nimble, but also to have rugged capabilities such as 4WD for rough terrain or inclement weather. There needs to be clearance for the doors and enough headroom for officers wearing helmets.


Proper benching is also very important. SWAT officers in full gear may spend an extended time in the vehicle and there needs to be enough room between the bench and wall for them to lean back to sit comfortably and also sufficient space between the benches. That space is then used to hold shotguns or other equipment. The lift-up benches have compartments to fit rams and shotguns. There are also locked compartments.


Sansour stated, “Lighting is key. We can go from full lighting to complete blackout with the flip of a switch. We can exit from all sides of vehicle and it still looks like a delivery van. Rather than outside cameras to observe, we opted for windows all around to allow for seeing outside.


Matthews put in see-thru vinyl so the sides look like solid metal but allow operators to see out while no one can see in. Blackout curtains also provide complete darkness.”


Sirchie Vehicle Division

Aubrey Hall, Sirchie Vehicle Division, stated that there are many types of SWAT vehicles and each type is designed to address different and specific types of operations. Some SWAT vehicles are designed to blend in as they are utilized to position a SWAT team to serve high-risk warrants, assist in narcotic operations or other details without drawing attention to the vehicle. 

Other larger SWAT vehicles are utilized to store the SWAT equipment in a single location so the team can respond to an incident scene quickly fully equipped. “The mission for a SWAT vehicle is to get the SWAT team and their required gear to an incident scene quickly and efficiently.”

Sirchie equips vehicles with bumper-mounted winches or push bumpers to assist in breaching a door or secured area. Storage cabinetry can be designed around the breaching tools and specific weaponry to be stored. Often this storage is designed for turn-out gear bags and specialized weapons such as long guns that the team will report to the vehicle with in lieu of storing on the vehicle on a continuous basis.

Sirchie’s exterior lighting normally consists of traditional emergency lighting as well as scene and floodlighting. The major trend in this area is the utilization of LED lighting due to its high output and low power consumption. Interior lighting is also LED but is provided in both red and white. 

Sioux City, Iowa, Bomb Squad Commander Rex Mueller sees the

primary functions for their Sirchie SWAT vehicle as providing transportation for SWAT members and gear, as well as providing ballistic protection for team members or citizens during rescue or tactical operations. “Because of these unique needs, these vehicles are typically larger than normal patrol SUVs or prisoner transportation vehicles, and must have the ability to carry thousands of pounds of specialty equipment, ballistic protection and unit members.” 

Mueller pointed out that, “Prompt response of tactical resources means that most gear can be transported to the scene of an incident with team members. This saves valuable time that would be taken to load any needed gear for a particular situation. Just some of the considerations should be the ability to securely store weapons, ammunition, low-lethality devices and platforms, breaching equipment, radio chargers, technology such as cameras, robots and computers and scene lighting.


Published in Law and Order, Jul 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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