The Army goes off road with its vehicles, and Polaris plays a role

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It was hard to miss the Polaris booth at the recent AUSA Global Force Symposium at Huntsville's Von Braun Center.  As you'd expect, the booth was dominated by vehicles that resemble the gear Polaris sells to farmers and hunters. Then again, the vehicles at the VBC, with their desert-style pain jobs were obviously military.

"Actually, we've been providing vehicles for over 15 years now of militarized versions of our products," said Mark McCormick, Business Development Director for Polaris Defense.

Even back in the 1990's Polaris sold equipment for use by Special Forces units. The reason they wanted what Polaris had to sell was obvious.

"We're sort of the off-road specialists and I think for the military and particularly, and in recent times, the ability to have that capability met for very light, agile vehicles has been pretty critical," said McCormick.

For Polaris, which describes itself as the number one maker of off-road vehicles in the world, selling to the military has meant taking products that were already tough and making them tougher. "I don't think our civilian products are dropped out of airplanes in parachutes," said McCormick. No they're not, but the military versions certainly might be.

Paint job aside, the parts of the military vehicles look the same as the parts any hunter would find on their Polaris vehicle, but on these rugged versions there are certainly different materials. "Things that fiberglass and plastic do well on the consumer side don't necessarily lend themselves to a military application," says McCormick. For the military-style vehicles there is a lot more metal so it can survive the rough handling of a combat situation.

The new Limestone County Polaris plant doesn't have to worry about making the military vehicles, at least not yet. However, if the demand for these types of vehicles gets strong enough, there's a good possibility they might be made in north Alabama.