For more than a century the tank has been a centerpiece of war – the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that brought devastation in the Blitzkrieg, or that rolled over human rights in Tiananmen Square. Now two twin brothers in Maine have transformed the tank into something new: a blend of armor and agility that is as much fleet-footed ballerina as it is oppressive ogre. The Ripsaw from Howe and Howe Technologies is a 9000 lb treaded masterpiece with top speeds over 60 mph, making one of the fastest tanks in the world. And it can turn on a dime. Riptide, its amphibious sibling, is just as fast on land and can travel 15 to 25 knots in the water. The footage of these two tanks is amazing to behold and is more reminiscent of dune buggy racing than tank warfare. There are numerous exciting examples below. Already featured on television and film, the vehicles of Howe and Howe Technologies may be ready to influence the military as well.
The secret behind the Ripsaw is a mechanical clutching system that allows for a much quicker and simpler handling of the hydrostatic transmission. For those who aren’t grease enthusiasts, that means Ripsaw gets the power to its treads very efficiently and wastes no time in hauling ass:
Stripping some of the weight off the Ripsaw, and adding a hull helped create the Riptide – an amphibious vehicle that can jump into the water at breakneck speeds.
The Ripsaw and the Riptide are just two of many innovative vehicles produced at Howe and Howe Technologies. Michael and Geoffrey Howe, the twin brothers responsible for creating such a diverse stable of tanks are also men with…distinct…personalities. As such, they’ve gained their own reality TV show on the Discovery Channel entitled Black Ops Brothers. While the show has more than its fair share of schlock, the strange creations the twins continue to produce are more than worth tuning in for. They’ve worked towards developing solutions for the recent nuclear disaster in Japan – the Riptide could maneuver through water and land while a remote controlled tank with an arm (the Thermite) could retrieve personnel. Howe and Howe are also apparently working with movie producers to create unique vehicles for upcoming films. Their greatest ingenuity, however, seems to come when they try out strange and possibly impractical ideas. Here’s a quick look at a single-manned treaded buggy called the Ripchair:
Amidst all the reality TV hype, Howe and Howe technologies is actually moving forward with military applications. As seen in the following clip, the Ripsaw can be controlled by an onboard driver, remotely with no human passengers, and even outfitted with various tactical and anti-personnel weapons:
The testing of these ultra-fast light weight tanks is impressive, but seems to indicate that the vehicles will find more use in support roles rather than outright assault. That’s fitting perhaps, as our modern wars are more about flexible tactics than rolling over trenches. The Ripsaw also has financial advantages compared to its more armored and armed brethren. A fully equipped version will only run $750,000 as opposed to $6 million for an Abrams. Unmanned Ripsaws, without personnel cockpits, may only cost $200,000!
High speed and agile support tanks may or may not become a staple in the US Army, but the clear interest in Howe and Howe technologies indicates part of the new paradigm in R&D engendered by the past decade’s War on Terror. The United States, and all major military powers, face a much more diverse and unpredictable application space than they did fifty years ago. These countries have to cast the net wide if they want to find all the tools they’ll need to win at 21st Century warfare. The brothers behind Howe and Howe Technologies may be fit fodder for reality TV, but they also have an ingenious array of solutions to getting from point A to B. Don’t be surprised if the next generation of tanks gets a whole lot faster…and a whole lot more fun to watch.
[image credit: Howe and Howe Technologies]
[source: Howe and Howe Technologies]