It might look like a golf cart from a distance, but "nothing this light and agile ever offered so much protection for a 3-man crew." At least, that's how Israeli company Plasan is marketing its new Yagu "battle buggy", which features lightweight armor that can withstand concentrated automatic-weapons fire without slowing down.
As the Drive reports, the company is pitching the design, called the Yagu, as a tool for border patrol or local law enforcement. But Plasan explains that the vehicle could also be used for military excursions and special operations, offering a better protected, lightweight vehicle.
The buggy, which Plasan is calling the Yagu, can also be outfitted with "optional" features that would essentially transform it into the world's most lightweight tank.
But many of the Yagu’s other optional features point to its potential utility in military missions, as well. At its core, the buggy is a modified Arctic Cat Wildcat 4x 1000 all-terrain vehicle. It uses the same 95-horsepower engine and automatic transmission, which has the same ability to switch between two and four-wheel drive modes, as the Wildcat.
On top of that, though, Plasan, a specialized in vehicle armoring and composites, has added a new lightweight armored shell with bullet-resistant front and side windows. The company says this provides B6+ level protection on all sides for the crew of three, though an auxiliary power unit and air conditioning system are both exposed at the rear.
A European standard, B6 type armor can stop many high-powered rifle rounds, such as the NATO-standard 5.56x45mm and the ever popular Soviet-era 7.62x39mm. The “+” suggests that Plasan’s protective suite should be able to defeat more powerful cartridges, such as the NATO 7.62x51mm and the Soviet-designed 7.62x54mmR, but only if they don’t have special armor-piercing bullets.
In the past, achieving the level of protection available on the Yagu required installing ballistic steel at least a third of an inch in thickness. But by designing a special composite material, Plasan has achieved this level of protection with a curb weight of just over 3,300 pounds, making it lighter than the General Dynamics Flyer 72.
Further rounding out the "optional" features, Plasan is also offering a drone launching system and remote weapons system, which are both options that Plasan has heavily emphasized in the marketing literature.
The vehicle comes equipped with flashing lights for police enforcement activities, though electro-optical or infrared cameras and other sensors could be installed as well. The remote weapons system can accommodate either a 5.56x45mm Israel Weapon Industries Negev squad automatic weapon or a 7.62x51mm FN MAG-type light machine gun. Meanwhile, the unmanned aircraft, a small quad-copter type design, can fly for 30 minutes at a time.
The vehicle, according to Plasan's marketing materials, is particularly well suited to patrol border territories threatened by increasingly well-armed and organized criminal gangs, conditions that exist both in Israel and the US.
One reason Plasan pursued the development of the Yagu is that the US military had expressed displeasure with the MRZR, a glorified armored golf cart, which military leaders said offered too little protection and had "limited utility" for combat missions.
"I’m sure they use it a lot in noncombat advisory roles in Africa," an anonymous Marine told Marine Corps Times. "[But] getting a foot outside the wire in Iraq took an act of God, so tactical golf carts wouldn’t cut it."
Given this fact, it's likely Plasan will find an eager customer in the US military - though the Yagu is still vulnerable to heavy weapons fire.
Plasan could easily pitch Yagu to the U.S. military, as well as other military and para-military organizations, as an alternative to MRZRs or similar unarmored all-terrain vehicles. Its new design could also provide a more practical option for missions requiring a more robust internally-transportable vehicle that is easier to load on and off helicopters and Ospreys than the Flyer 72. This could be even more of an issue if the added weight of new weapon mounts and armor weigh those vehicles down and make them harder to transport and less mobile over certain terrain.
Of course, Yagu still lacks the kind of protection necessary to survive against an enemy with heavy weapons, such as large-caliber machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, and would almost certainly suffer badly at the hands of roadside bombs. Additional lightweight protective suites, such as high-tensile netting that can deflect or pre-detonate incoming anti-tank rockets, or small active protection systems, might help mitigate some of those issues, but at the cost of added weight and bulk.
With its "Batmobile"-like appearance, the Yagu's science-fiction appeal could boost its sales. After all, the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Trump just passed features an unprecedented increase in military spending.
So in terms of being a sales-slam dunk, well, Plasan probably couldn't have picked a better time to introduce the vehicle.