Recently, a highly customized stretched Chevy Suburban was delivered to U.S. Northern Command. Modified sport utility vehicles feature a robust, secure communications system. It is likely to be part of a U.S. task force, which will primarily respond to domestic chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.
Accelerated Media Technologies (AMT) issued a statement earlier this month about the delivery and provided additional details about the “mobile command center” vehicle for U.S. Northern Command. The Auburn, Massachusetts based company offers customized SUVs, trucks, and mobile TV broadcast vehicles for law enforcement and military agencies.
“The physical shell of the vehicle was built by AMT’s master craftsman and stretched 20” to make the custom workspace” and it has been “relined using an entirely new interior, carpets, leather interior, [and] custom work-space,” the company’s statement added. AMT has not mentioned any additional protection or armoring features that will be added to this SUV.
Based on its exterior features and the badges on the front and rear doors, it appears that the command vehicle was originally a Chevy Suburban Texas Edition from the mid-2010s.
The four-door car’s photos show an antenna in the shape of an X, which is usually associated with satellite communication systems that operate at UHF frequencies. On the right-hand side of the roof, you can also see what appears to be a base for a whip type communications antenna. The roof also features a Thule storage box.
Pictures of the vehicle’s interior show a very spacious main cabin with two pairs of seats facing each other. Two flat-panel screens can be moved from the roof to the front and rear. Four cameras are attached to the roof of the cabin, each aimed at a specific seat, and they support videoconferencing.
Multiple radios and phones are visible. A large box at the rear of the vehicle could be used to store more communication gear, computers and other equipment.
Inside, “the Vision Series command center is configured … with both Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) communications and other critical telecom and video communications infrastructure for some of the nation’s most critical missions, according to AMT. “It is powered by our industry crushing MVP-E Power system.”
The SIPR and NIPR are essentially the internal U.S. Military Internets. They are used for transmitting classified and unclassified data, respectively. The two networks are used by American forces to support operations in the field.
AMT offers the MVP-E, a modular auxiliary-power system consisting of up to four LiFePO4 Lithium Batteries 12V Mil-Spec and associated systems. This provides power to onboard systems without the need to keep the vehicle’s engine running.
AMT claims that MVP-E is capable of running for 8-10 hours without needing to recharge. This can be done partly via solar panels depending on how the system was configured and what vehicle it was installed on. In addition, “users report 60% fuel savings and over 50% preventive maintenance savings due to vehicles not idling excessively,” according to the company’s website. Not having to run the engine reduces the vehicle’s noise signature, which can be useful in various contexts, as well.
Uncertain whether this vehicle had already been used by the U.S. military, but AMT was tasked with a major overhaul. The company’s statement about the recent delivery says that the underlying stretched Suburban was first created in 2015 and says that it was “returned to AMT” to “take the truck into the next stage of its life.”
It’s also not clear who specifically will be using this vehicle. AMT’s statement mentions both NORTHCOM and the U.S. Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), as well as an unnamed joint task force, or JTF. One of the interior pictures does show a label that says “JTFCS-C2V” above on of the monitors, which could point to this being a command and control vehicle for NORTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS).
The War Zone NORTHCOM AND AMT have been contacted for further information on this vehicle and its use.
AMT’s mobile command vehicle would be a perfect fit for JTF-CS, which was first established in 1999.
“JTF-CS anticipates, plans, and prepares for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) response operations,” is how one unclassified 2012 briefing describes the task force’s primary missions. “When directed, JTF-CS deploys to command and control DOD forces and conducts CBRN response operations in support of civil authorities in order to save lives, prevent further injury, and provide temporary critical support to enable community recovery.”
It is also important to note that the U.S. Military cannot conduct missions in the United States except as a support force. At the same time, the armed forces possess a slew of capabilities that law enforcement and other civil agencies don’t have and can offer immense additional capacity when it comes to things like logistics and communications in response to a crisis. The presence of task forces such as JTFCS helps to reduce the lag between the initial incident and the deployment of military support.
JTF CS, as a whole, is primarily a headquarters designed to coordinate operations-level support such as medical, aviation and logistics. Although primarily focused on responding CBRN incidents and attacks, the services it offers can be helpful in the aftermath other crises such as natural disasters. The task force can include additional U.S. active duty military units as well as reserve components including the National Guard. This will depend on the specific situation.
Being able to supplement civilian command and control capabilities, as well as provide access to information via U.S. military networks, is one of JTF-CS’s key functions. As well as command vehicles, like the one that AMT delivered to the task force earlier this week, the taskforce has access other modified SUVs known as Deployable Capabilities Systems. AMT’s contracting records indicate that it has also been involved in the conversion DCCS vehicles.
The stretched Chevy Suburban Command Center could belong to other joint task force under NORTHCOM, such as those that are responsible for supporting domestic missions. These units have also access to modified civilian vehicles that can be used as mobile command, control, and communication nodes.
In 2019, for example, it was revealed that the Crisis Response Team of Special Operations Command North, the special operations component within NORTHCOM (SOCNORTH), had acquired a large number of heavily modified Chevy Suburbans formerly operated by the White House Communications Agency. Originally, the WHCA had these vehicles, known as Roadrunners or WHCAs, modified in order to provide essential command and control, and communications support, for presidential motorcades. SOCNORTH’s planned to continue using them in similar roles, but with an altered configuration.
AMT has recently delivered a command vehicle to JTF-CS. However, based upon the information that is available, JTF CS seems the most likely recipient.
The heavily customized stretched Chevy suburban, with its extensive secure communication suite, is sure to make a valuable contribution to whichever unit within NORTHCOM ends up operating it.
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