Mack Defense carries on Mack’s legacy of service
The Mack brand is often associated with long-haul trucks, durable dumps or a fleet of refuse vehicles carrying debris to the local landfill. Whether it’s Mack Anthem®, Granite®, Pinnacle™ or TerraPro, Mack trucks move America. It shouldn’t be surprising then that Mack muscle is also vital on the battlefield.
Mack has made itself indispensable in keeping order in global hot spots for over 110 years. As far back as World War I, when trench warfare brought Europe to the brink, Mack, not even two decades old, sent 6,000 trucks to the European theater for use by the United States and Britain. The trucks were so reliable and rugged on the battlefield that the British soldiers christened them Bulldogs.
Despite this storied history, most of Mack’s core commercial customers aren’t even aware of Mack Defense.
Since 2012, Mack Defense has been a wholly owned subsidiary that brings the best of Mack to America’s military. And Mack’s best consists of durability, logistics, application expertise and supply-chain capabilities.
Mack Defense also taps into Volvo Group’s global operations for new ideas and scalability, all while keeping aspects compartmentalized and in compliance with strict Army security standards. Volvo Group’s leading expertise in autonomous and electric vehicles, something the Army is increasingly emphasizing, can also be tapped into by Mack Defense.
When one thinks of having an apex fighting force, one thinks of the men and women on the front lines, but, as Mack Defense CEO and President David Hartzell says, if those soldiers can’t be supplied with ammunition, fuel and backup, then there is no sustainable fighting force. The soldiers are the fist, but Mack Defense is the arm. And providing high-end trucks and other needs for the Army is paramount.
Hartzell views the role of the company and all of Mack Defense’s employees nobly. “I think it’s our patriotic responsibility to support and use the capabilities that we have as one of the leading truck manufacturers in the world to provide that level of capability to our U.S. military and other partner militaries around the world,” Hartzell says.
For all the promise and buzz artificial intelligence has created this year, Mack Defense’s backbone is still its human intelligence, leveraging scores of specialized skill sets from engineering to finance, project and procurement, quality control and more that goes into making Mack Defense an indispensable ally in the theater.
From Mack Defense to Mack Trucks
Mack Defense’s history and role may be fascinating, but if you are a Mack driver hauling milk outside Omaha or carrying cargo from Detroit to Dallas in an Anthem, how does Mack Defense impact the rank-and-file fleet?
The military has a history of driving innovation. Often, those innovations find peacetime and commercial applications, from silly putty to the EpiPen and numerous other everyday products.
When it comes to transportation, the innovations include powertrain and mobility improvements, which often eventually find their way into the commercial side of Mack.
As the military tasks Mack Defense for various mission-critical modifications or equipment, innovations and efficiencies are being monitored for possible deployment in the commercial sector. For instance, autonomous vehicle development for use in an off-road military environment may one day have applications in oilfields or logging operations.
Mack Defense has its own in-house engineering operation. As its largest division, it shows the premium and priority placed on made-to-order innovations.
With the Army as a customer, you can’t just send a bunch of Granites to Fort Bragg and call it a day. There are numerous situational and operational specifics requested by the Army that Mack Defense must first understand and then engineer a solution to meet these requirements.
“There is an extensive amount of re-engineering done to meet the military requirements for mobility, payload capacity and armored solutions which meet the force protection requirements and so on,” Hartzell explains. This goes right down to the suspension, tire wheel equipment, axles, and anything else to meet the mobility requirements, all while maintaining function and form as a 27-ton armored dump truck.
One of Mack Defense’s largest set of deliverables to the Army has been 446 non-armored dumps, the M917A3, which is a military-grade version of the Granite. The first M917A3s were delivered to the Army in 2021.
The re-engineering process is repeated whether the order is for cranes, wreckers, refuelers or any type of body equipment which can be installed onto a truck.
“So, we ensure the truck design including all body equipment fully meets the military requirements using as much of the commercial components that are available including our Mack engines,” Hartzell says. After Mack Defense provides an engineered solution to the Army, the Army will thoroughly test the truck to ensure all operational performance and durability needs are met, including subjecting the armored trucks to live-fire events to see how easy – or hopefully not at all easy – it is for the enemy to stop them.
Engineering also must factor in transporting the trucks; a collection of 27-ton dumps is challenging to transport from the United States to Iraq, Jordan or Afghanistan, and the truck design must meet military lifting and tie-down specifications for air, rail and ship transport.
Even aspects that seem more aesthetic than engineered are complex. For instance, the paint on the M917A3 dump truck requires extensive engineering and testing. It’s more complicated than just slapping on a coat of camouflage green or desert tan. Hartzell describes how the Army requires a military spec chemical agent-resistant coating, or CARC paint, to meet corrosion resistance, allow decontamination in the event of a chemical attack and to reduce infrared signature of the truck. Standard industrial coatings won’t do the trick.
Many of these innovations eventually find their way into the larger Mack ecosystem.
The Army’s powertrain specifications are incredibly daunting from an engineering standpoint, but Mack has implemented innovative modifications so that the military can have their needs met.
The Army needs increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles. It’s not just an environmental issue but a practical one. There is always the danger of supply chains being attacked as the enemy attempts to disrupt and starve logistics. An enemy’s attempts to deny logistics are less effective if a vehicle can operate continuously and cover longer distances without refueling.
Mack Defense’s engineers leveraged developments within Mack commercial’s vehicle electrification technologies and well as with industry leading suppliers to integrate an electrified propulsion solution to assist in reducing fuel consumption and provide the Army with exportable power for other equipment needs in a theater of operation.
“There’s definitely applicability back into the commercial space,” Hartzell says. So, if past is prologue, perhaps one day you’ll be driving a Granite or Anthem with the same capability being offered to the Army today.