Dear Pentagon: Quit Screwing Around and Buy the Ripsaw Tank from 'Fate of the Furious' Already

(Universal Pictures)

Tanks, high-speed drift battles on ice and Ludacris make sense in a summer blockbuster created to smash ticket sales at the box office. Any red-blooded American service member can tell you that it sounds like one hell of a way to dominate an area of operations, too.

When “The Fate of the Furious” hit theaters in 2017, it featured the usual human stars and a few new motorized ones (check out Business Insider’s breakdown for a full list). Ironically, the fan favorite wasn’t Letty’s Chevrolet Corvette, Dom’s Dodge Charger or a $2 million concept car from Nissan. What fans couldn’t stop talking about was a machine that looked like the lovechild of an M1A2 Abrams and a Group B rally car.

The awesomely named Ripsaw wasn’t a Hollywood prop. It wasn’t the product of digital trickery, either. It was -- and is -- a real vehicle built in Waterboro, Maine, by defense contractor Howe & Howe.

The Ripsaw Is Fairly Fast and Extremely Furious

The cast and crew of 2017’s ‘Fate of the Furious’ movie loved the Ripsaw.
The cast and crew of 2017’s ‘Fate of the Furious’ movie loved the Ripsaw. (Courtesy photo)

Everything about the Ripsaw is excessive. According to the auction sheet for the specific vehicle used by Universal Studios in “The Fate of the Furious,” enough power comes from Chevy’s legendary LBZ Duramax engine and a famously strong Allison transmission to propel the 10,000-pound Ripsaw to more than 60 mph over any terrain.

How did the cast and crew feel about the Ripsaw? According to a behind-the-scenes video, they loved it.

“When I see this tank, testosterone just fills the body,” Ludacris said of the Ripsaw he drove on screen.

It’s not all show and no go, either. If you ask one of the people responsible for the on-screen thrill ride, the Ripsaw performed better than expected.

“Ripsaw was something that none of us had ever seen before, and when they first brought it on the ice, we thought it was gonna be problematic,” Jack Gill, one of the stunt coordinators for “The Fate of the Furious,” said. “We jumped it off of snowbanks, we slammed on the brakes and stood it up on its nose, we turned it around in 360 circles -- it was, like, indestructible.”

“It’s a great military tool, and it worked out perfect for our film,” Dennis McCarthy, the film’s picture car supervisor, said.

(Courtesy photo)

The actual Ripsaw from “The Fate of the Furious” was sold at the Mecum auction for $242,000 in 2023, according to the car enthusiast site Autoevolution. That’s more than the $180,000 the auction house predicted, but still a bargain considering the vehicle cost an estimated $750,000 to build, according to Mecum.

Why the Ripsaw Belongs in the (Real-Life) Military

(Courtesy photo)

The Ripsaw fills the gap between wheeled and tracked vehicles the U.S. military is currently using. It’s faster and more capable across extreme terrain than anything with tires, but it’s significantly lighter, more agile and more maneuverable than an M1A2 Abrams or M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Decision-makers in the U.S. Army see this potential and have expressed interest in adding the Ripsaw to America’s arsenal since 2006, according to Howe & Howe. In 2020, the service awarded a contract to Textron Systems (now the parent company of Howe & Howe) to test out the novel vehicle as part of its Robotic Combat Vehicle program, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Recent fighting in Ukraine has revealed critical vulnerabilities of conventional tanks on the modern battlefield, as Reuters reports. Small, cheap and deadly drones have made the proposition of occupying wide-open terrain with a tank far less appealing. There are definitely times when zipping in and out of close combat with a small, nimble tank such as the Ripsaw is a better option.

The Ripsaw’s unique combination of speed and off-road performance makes it a very compelling option for anyone with access to the national defense budget. The U.S. military doesn't seem interested in the version of the Ripsaw that thrilled audiences in “The Fate of the Furious,” but there could be something even more lethal on the horizon.

Drones: Not Just for the Sky

(Courtesy photo)

One way to make the Ripsaw safer for the service members who operate it is to remove them from the battlefield entirely. Howe & Howe is working with Textron Systems to build a robotic Ripsaw that can carry out missions while being controlled remotely.

According to an Army media release, the U.S. Army named Textron Systems’ unmanned Ripsaw M3 one of four contenders during Phase I testing of the Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) program in September 2023.

An updated Ripsaw M5 raises the bar with cutting-edge robotics, a hardened wireless connection, multiple armor and final drive options, a modular flat deck and a 360-degree view courtesy of a Teledyne FLIR system.

According to a news release from Howe & Howe, the company displayed the new Ripsaw M5 at the 2023 Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., to showcase its capabilities.

At Least Soldiers Can Drive the Infantry Squad Vehicle

The Infantry Squad Vehicle turns small units into highly maneuverable mounted forces that can cover ground faster than any foot soldier but without the limitations of a heavy gun truck.
The Infantry Squad Vehicle turns small units into highly maneuverable mounted forces that can cover ground faster than any foot soldier but without the limitations of a heavy gun truck. (Photo courtesy of General Motors Defense)

There’s no sign of American service members getting to climb inside a Ripsaw like Ludacris anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they’re stuck riding in a heavy-duty Cougar MRAP or wearing holes in the soles of their combat boots.

The Department of Defense recently signed a contract with General Motors Defense for a lightweight assault vehicle based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. Check out our deep dive into the Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) to learn everything we know about the platform so far.

The ISV is an exciting and undeniably capable military vehicle, but next to the Ripsaw, it seems kind of lame. The Army’s new ride from GM Defense has tires instead of tracks, occupants sit in a roll cage instead of a floating cockpit, and I have yet to see footage of anyone launching one off a jump or drifting it across a frozen lake.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. The ISV is a valuable addition to the Army’s garage. But if anyone at the Pentagon is reading this, please reconsider throwing down some cash for the remotely operated, superlight tank.

“It’s everything that my character has always wanted, all in one,” Ludacris said of the Ripsaw. If it’s good enough for him, I’m sure it will have service members grinning from ear to ear, too.

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