Lenco's BearCat is perhaps the most popular law enforcement armored rescue vehicle (ARV) in the world. In fact this ARV is in operation with so many American police tactical units that it has become a symbol of SWAT operations underway. Yet, despite its prevalence, few people in- or outside of law enforcement know how versatile the BearCat really can be.
The base BearCat is the G2 on-road version. Built on a Ford F-550 chassis (like all BearCats), the G2 has a maximum highway speed of 85 mph, seats 10 to 12 fully equipped officers, and its armor can stop .50 BMG rounds. Other variants include the G3 off-road model with four-wheel drive, the Anti-Riot model with fire suppression, the MedEvac model with space for up to four litters, and the EOD model with tactical robot storage and deployment features.
Known to the company and its customers as the "BombCat," the EOD model BearCat was, like most of the company's products, the result of a customer request. Lenny Light, vice president and general manager of Lenco Armored Vehicles, says the NYPD's bomb squad approached the company in 2009 about the development of a special armored vehicle.
"The NYPD's bomb techs came here and met with our company president (Len Light) and with our head engineers," Light says. "They said they wanted a BearCat, but they wanted it to be set up for bomb response. The bomb techs talked about the equipment they used and how they needed an armored vehicle that was set up for their mission with fiber optic spools and a robot ramp, robot storage, bomb suit storage, and stuff like that."
That very first BombCat is still in service with the NYPD bomb techs. And today, Lenco is offering the BombCat as a BearCat option for all of its customers.
BombCats do not need additional armor, as the base BearCat armor shields the vehicle's occupants against flash, blast, fragmentation, and ballistic threats. Where the BombCat differs from the standard BearCat is in the features and layout required for bomb squad operations, especially robot operations.
The BombCat is an EOD robot delivery and control platform. The rear of the vehicle was built with a higher roof than the base BearCat so it can store a nearly five-foot-tall REMOTEC Andros robot. Once the BombCat is in position, the robot can be deployed through a large door and ramp system on the passenger side or at the rear, depending on customer preference. The robot can then be controlled from a computer positioned at the command station on the driver's side of the vehicle.
Light says the combination of an armored vehicle and a remotely controlled robot minimizes the bomb techs' exposure while allowing them to execute their mission. "If you were approaching a suspicious package, wouldn't you want as much protection as possible?" he asks.
The BombCat is just one example of Lenco's recent armored vehicle innovations, and Light says more BearCat variants may be on the drawing board. "We're a can-do company," he explains. "The officers who are deploying these trucks have a very serious mission, and we are going to do what we can to make sure the trucks they are using are best suited for what they do."