Fast, agile and bulletproof, this armoured response vehicle is one of a new breed of robust police cars that are stopping criminals in their tracks.
The Pit-Bull VX is an armoured response vehicle (ARV). Designed specifically for SWAT teams, ARVs offer protection against small arms fire, but without the heavy armour that military vehicles require for protection against cannon fire and anti-tank weapons.
Lighter armour than their military equivalent gives ARVs greater speed and agility. This makes them suitable as first-response vehicles in an emergency situation. Once at a hostile scene an ARV’s tough shell means it can be used tactically as a firing post, for dropping an assault team into position or for rescuing hostages.
In the past police teams have tended to use either commercial pick-up trucks or vans. These provide a reasonably fast response time, however offer little more than the means of getting them to a hostile scene. Some SWAT teams have started to drive military vehicles, but due to their weight and lack of mobility they are not designed to be the first responders to an emergency.
ARVs like the Pit-Bull offer a compromise between the speed of an unarmoured vehicle and the protection of an armoured one. As well as offering its eight-officer crew protection against small arms fire, the Pit-Bull is grenade-proof, while firing ports enable the police to use their weapons from within. A PA system and remote-control floodlights mean they can also communicate with the assailants and illuminate an area without having to step out of the vehicle. To cap it all, if negotiations do break down, the 7.5-ton Pit-Bull VX’s front bumper has been specially designed to be used as a battering ram.
Making an armoured Pit-Bull
The Pit-Bull VX starts life as a Ford F-550. A heavy-duty, four-wheel-drive pick-up truck, it’s a workhorse of the US construction industry. The 6.7-litre V6 engine and transmission of the F-550 and chassis remain in the Pit-Bull VX. However, everything else is armoured or purpose built.
The fuel tank, battery and exhaust pipe are fitted with steel armour plating and the suspension is also strengthened. Tubeless run-flat tyres are installed, which function at speeds of up to 48 kilometres (30 miles) per hour when punctured.
In the event of the tyres being shredded the Pit-Bull VX can still operate on its military-grade wheel rims. Ballistic steel plate is used to provide a mine and grenade-resistant floor, while the main body is made up of overlapping armour plating.
This is built and tested to US National Institute of Justice (NIJ) standards. Despite the armour, the overall weight of the Pit-Bull is 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) less than the F-550 maximum operating limit – plus it still manages to maintain the same speed and performance.
A bulletproof windscreen and windows mean the Pit-Bull VX crew have excellent visibility yet are still protected if they come under fire. Modern bulletproof, or ballistic, glass is constructed in the same way as laminated windscreens. Thin layers of polycarbonate – a transparent plastic – are glued between sheets of glass. The outer layer of glass is often softer so it will flex with the impact of a shot rather than shatter.
A bullet would pierce the outer sheet of glass, but the polycarbonate absorbs the bullet’s energy, stopping it from penetrating the inner layer of glass. Depending on the protection levels offered, a bulletproof pane of glass may be comprised of numerous layers of glass and polycarbonate. The Pit-Bull’s windows offer protection right up to 7.62 x 51-millimetre (0.3 x 2.0-inch)-calibre ammunition – eg an AK-47.