There are cer­tain prac­ti­cal­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity re­quire­ments you just won’t get out of stan­dard car and truck plat­forms no mat­ter how much you mod­ify them. When it comes to high-risk sit­u­a­tions, there’s an un­usual com­bi­na­tion of tasks that one ve­hi­cle needs to ac­com­plish, such as ac­ces­soriz­ing for spe­cific emer­gen­cies on short

no­tice, enough ar­mor to pro­tect against a shootout akin to the ’97 North Hol­ly­wood bank rob­bery, and the abil­ity to de­liver or evac­u­ate per­son­nel above the ground floor or in places a con­ven­tional ve­hi­cle can’t reach. So is there one ma­chine that can serve as troop trans­port, bat­ter­ing ram, ex­tri­ca­tion ve­hi­cle, and any num­ber of other tac­ti­cal job du­ties with the proven re­li­a­bil­ity of a well-known brand? Well, ac­tu­ally there is.

First a lit­tle back­ground on the com­pany.

Ring Power was founded in 1962 by L.C. Ring­haver as a Cater­pil­lar deal­er­ship. In 2006, a lo­cal SWAT team mem­ber came to the com­pany with the idea to ar­mor a Cater­pil­lar con­struc­tion ve­hi­cle and out­fit it with spe­cial at­tach­ments to as­sist law en­force­ment by min­i­miz­ing their ex­po­sure to gun­fire. Af­ter build­ing a cou­ple ver­sions made to or­der, by 2011 Ring Power was in full pro­duc­tion on its armored crit­i­cal in­ci­dent ve­hi­cle, also known as the Rook.

While you may be fa­mil­iar with ve­hi­cles like a re­pur­posed M706 be­ing used as a bat­ter­ing ram or Lenco BearCats serv­ing as troop trans­ports, there’s re­ally noth­ing else like the Rook on the mar­ket. Armored trucks typ­i­cally run roughly 120 to 150 psi of ground pres­sure and can get stuck eas­ily. The Rook yields ap­prox­i­mately 5.5 psi on the ground, mak­ing it rather light-footed. The track drive en­ables it to crawl over sep­tic tanks, get into back­yards, and reach ar­eas oth­er­wise in­ac­ces­si­ble to other dual- or triple-axle tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles.

The Phoenix Prod­ucts di­vi­sion of Ring Power trans­forms the off-the-line skid steer into the bul­wark you see here. The cab is cut to their de­sign, given three ex­its, and up-armored (in­clud­ing the en­gine com­part­ment) with NIJ Level IV ar­mor and UL9 glass. The sys­tem comes with the fol­low­ing at­tach­ments: a hy­draulic breach­ing ram, ve­hi­cle ex­tri­ca­tion tool, armored de­ploy­ment plat­form, and grap­ple claw. Be­cause the stock Cat chas­sis can han­dle the ex­tra weight of the ac­ces­sories, no ad­di­tional mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the stock driv­e­train are needed.

The armored de­ploy­ment plat­form fea­tures a slid­ing cen­ter door, batwing doors on the outer edges, and an in­de­pen­dent power sup­ply for lights and cam­eras. There’s enough room to safely shield four fully armed of­fi­cers, and it’s equipped with two lock­ing gun ports, four 5x9-inch bul­let­proof sight ports, and can be de­tached to re­main as a for­ti­fied po­si­tion or be de­liv­ered close to po­ten­tial bomb threats. The Rook can raise the plat­form 11 feet off the ground for sec­ond-story en­tries, while its cam­eras trans­mit feed to the ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor.

The hy­draulic ram also con­tains cam­eras, can ex­tend 6 to 10 feet, and eas­ily pen­e­trate block walls, steel-re­in­forced doors, or be used to just plain tear a house to pieces. A ve­hi­cle ex­trac­tion tool can lift or re­po­si­tion a car or even drag/ push a full-size bus. A grap­ple claw is mainly used for clear­ing de­bris and storm cleanup. Some of the other op­tions avail­able for the Rook in­clude an OC dis­penser, in­te­grated night vi­sion, FLIR ther­mal imag­ing, wire­less re­mote con­trol, CBRN cab over­pres­sure, chem­i­cal war­fare de­tec­tors, and an ex­plo­sives mit­i­ga­tion pack­age to name a few. Cus­tom plat­forms and at­tach­ments are also avail­able.

A va­ri­ety of agen­cies now use the Rook. You may have even seen it tele­vised dur­ing the fi­nal stand­off with Syed

Rizwan and

Tash­feen Ma­lik when their es­cape ve­hi­cle was cor­nered on the free­way in the af­ter­math of the 2015 San Bernardino ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Re­tired sergeant Alex Hor­c­a­sitas, for­mer op­er­a­tional com­man­der of the tac­ti­cal team for New Mex­ico State Po­lice, has par­tic­i­pated in quite a few high-risk events where the Rook was used. “It’s one of those few things that came along in all the years I was in SWAT that was truly a game changer. We all looked back and said, ‘How did we ever work with­out that thing?’ Once we started us­ing it, we found more and more ways it was use­ful to pro­tect our team mem­bers with­out putting the sus­pect or our of­fi­cers in dan­ger,” he says.

Hor­c­a­sitas re­calls one par­tic­u­lar event where a sub­ject had bar­ri­caded him­self in a house and hid in the at­tic area. His de­part­ment was able to push the Rook’s cam­era-equipped hy­draulic ram through one of the vents to get a vis­ual on where the sus­pect was. Af­ter re­fus­ing to sur­ren­der, the of­fi­cers used the ram to lift the side of the roof up, en­abling them to fire less-lethal mu­ni­tions to force the in­di­vid­ual to sub­mit.

“The Rook has ver­sa­til­ity and flex­i­bil­ity. We’ve used BearCats and Rooks; both serve a spe­cific pur­pose. The BearCat is more of a trans­port to get the team there and as a last point of cover to put the of­fi­cers, ne­go­tia­tors, or K9s in front of the house. It’s the work­horse. You can use the Rook to pull off bur­glar bars, open doors, and use the armored plat­form in an­other part of the house, such as the back­yard. It has its own lights, video cam­eras, and once it’s dropped off, the Rook can be used for other tasks rather than just re­main sta­tion­ary,” Hor­c­a­sitas says.

Cost for a fully loaded unit with ev­ery op­tion (in­clud­ing a trailer) is $570,000.

1 The driver can see and com­mu­ni­cate with of­fi­cers on the armored de­ploy­ment plat­form (seen on next page), which can be de­tached and left sta­tion­ary.1

2 Op­er­at­ing the Rook is re­ally no dif­fer­ent than your typ­i­cal Cater­pil­lar trac­tor. Ring Power of­fers train­ing for any­one in the U.S. who pur­chases the Rook.2

3 Be­lieve it or not, the amount of ground pres­sure gen­er­ated by the Rook is much lower than stan­dard tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles, en­abling it to ac­cess ar­eas con­ven­tional ve­hi­cles can't.3

4 An armored plat­form on the rear en­ables four fully armed of­fi­cers to safely po­si­tion them­selves be­hind the driver.4

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