Special Operations Vehicles

Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV)

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Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV), formerly called the Fast Attack Vehicle, is a high-speed, lightly-armored sandrail-like vehicle first used in combat during the Gulf War in 1991. Due to their dash speed and off-road mobility, the DPVs were used extensively during Operation Desert Storm. The first U.S. forces to enter Kuwait City were U.S. Navy SEALs in DPVs. The DPV is currently operated only by SEAL Team THREE, the unit assigned to the Middle East.

The DPV was built by Chenowth Racing Products, Inc. in El Cajon, California. The DPV, powered by a 200 hp VW engine for a payload of 1500 lb, is capable of accelerating from 0 to 30 mph in only four seconds. The DPV can travel at speeds up to 80 mph. With its standard 21 gallon fuel tank, the DPV has a range of about 210 miles. An optional fuel bladder can extend the range to over 1,000 miles.

The DPV is a variant of the Fast Attack Vehicle which was developed during the 1980s as part of the United States’ Army’s High Technology Light Division (9th Infantry Division). The HTLD was given carte blanche to develop doctrine, decide force structure, and design equipment by then Army Chief of Staff Edward C. Meyer. One of the pieces of equipment created was the Fast Attack Vehicle. Chenoweth delivered 120 FAVs to the Army in 1981. Along with light off-road motorbikes, the FAV was intended to provide a highly mobile component to the mostly foot infantry unit.

The original tests used commercial dune buggies modified to carry weapons such as TOW missiles and recoilless rifles. The recoilless rifles still had enough recoil that they were abandoned (they tended to flip the light dune buggies). The TOW missiles had much greater success, but they violated existing Army TOW doctrine. The Army had determined that a TOW needed a 3 man team to operate it. The FAVs could only carry a two man crew and they seemed perfectly capable of operating the TOW, but this would have meant revisiting Army doctrine and possibly changing TOW deployment throughout the Army. Fort Benning decided to offer a “superior” FAV design that allowed a third crewman. This design was rejected by the HTLD team and was never produced.

Eventually, the FAVs were replaced by High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) which did not provide nearly the speed nor extreme off-road capabilities of the FAVs. Eventually, the FAVs were transferred to special forces use.

The basic weapons on a DPV consist of a heavy .50 caliber M2 machine gun, two lighter 7.62 mm M60 machine guns, and two AT4 anti-armor rocket launchers. In some cases, the driver’s M60 or the gunner’s M2 is replaced with a 40 mm Mk 19 grenade launcher.

The United States Marines Corps also fielded a Fast Attack Vehicle. This was a completely separate piece of equipment based on the venerable M151 Willys Jeep. This FAV stayed in use long after the fielding of the HMMWV because it could fit on Marine Corps helicopters while the wider HMMWV could not. In 1999, this FAV began to be replaced with the IFAV (Interim Fast Attack Vehicle) a version of the Mercedes-Benz MB 290 GD 1.5 ton truck.

Today, only two dozen are known to exist, all of which are privately owned.


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