31 July 2012

FWS: My Favorite B-Movie: Slipstream (1989)


FWS is back! I am happy to report that Endangered Species is finished! I am researching a mega-blogpost on Mecha for next week, but in the meantime, here is a blogpost on my favorite B-movie, 1989's Slipstream. In 1990, while at Pop-In Video in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, My brother and I were scouring throught the lower shelve for a hidden film gem, something different that my Dad's choices of Shoot'ems up, Mob films, or Westerns. There on the second to last shelf was the box for Slipstream, and either one of us had heard of it, but one name attracted us to it: Mark (Luke Skywalker) Hamill. That name alone caused Slipstream to be the hardest VHS tape to get at Pop-In Video for months (they only had one copy!), and when we finally got it, I was rewarded with a film that I've loved since. One of the real missed opportunities in my life was when I met Bill Paxton (who plays Matt Owens in Slipstream) at Brace Books while they were filming 1996's Twister around Ponca City, Oklahoma (where I went to High School). We mainly talked about ALIENS, but in the excitement of  I completely forgot to ask him about Slipstream!
Here is my tribute to my favorite B-movie: Slipstream. I would see what is your favorite B-movie of all time! Comment below and let me know!

The Plot of Slipstream
The film opens with actress Kitty Aldridge telling the viewer that in the future man's destruction of the Earth caused for a Gaia's Revenge scenario that causes the Earth's landmasses to split and fuse differently, mixing races and cultures together, and drowning most of the major cities. This was called the 'Convergence'. One of the major changes was the formation of river of wind, called the Slipstream. This makes Terra a mix of unrelated terrains and peoples, and lowers most technology to basic levels, only a few possess anything close to pre-Convergence level tech. At some point after the Convergence, but within the lifetimes of the main characters (maybe 15 or 20 years?), a new city is constructed, called the Settlement (which is never seen onscreen), and it's government is attempting to rebuild some resuming society prior to the Convergence. Everyone from lawmen, to criminals, and ordinary people use the Slipstream to travel around the new face of Terra in every type of aircraft, but especially ultralights aircraft.
However, Slipstream film is not about the Convergence, but rather about android on the lamb after murdering a man, this called Bryon (Bob Peck). He is labeled as a hated symbol of the pre-Convergence society apex of technology, and is being hunted by Will Tasker (Mark Hamill sporting a wicked bread) and Belitski (Kitty Aldridge sporting 80's bangs) in their very cool real-world  Edgley Optica light aircraft. They get ahead of Bryon, and land, then use a hook to capture him just as Bryon was about to jump into the Slipstream. During the flight back, the law stops at a post-apocalypse airport/bar for a bite, and where they met Matt Owens (Bill Paxton). Once there, we find out Matt is a vagabond trader and dream, dealing in anything that can get him down stream and onto his dream. Once Matt meets Will, and he finds out about Bryon, and Matt sees his Bryon has his paycheck if he turning in Bryon for the reward money.  
Matt captures Bryon at gunpoint from Tasker, who laughs it off, until another pilot helps Matt escape with Bryon, but not before Tasker injects Matt with a tracker-dart. Throughout the film, Tasker tells Matt he was actually hit with a poison dart, and uses this over Matt. Bryon is taking on a wild ride down the Slipstream to lose the law, and the film takes a road-film with Matt visiting exotic locations, like the cliff-villages of Cappadoccia, Turkey. There we learn that Matt's dream is to open an airship/balloon business in the Settlement with the money for Bryon's capture, but we also find out that Bryon is a walking storehouse of information, even curing a blind boy.
Oddly, during this point, while Matt and Bryon are at a Windworshippers encampment in the cliff-villages that has been attacked by marauders with guns, while Tasker and Belitski hunt down arms/drug smugglers connected to Matt. These religious fanatics notice that Bryon is a android, and hook him up to a giant kite in the slipstream, allowing god to judge him for being the runaway technology that brought about the Convergence. It is during this point that Tasker and Belitski catch up to them, and help free Bryon from the kite, but not before the kite comes lose, freeing them into the wind. The resulting crash gives Matt and Bryon the opportunity to escape, but Bryon, due to his programming, ops to save Belitski. Bryon leaves Belitski and Matt alone in a cave while he searches for Tasker.
During this scene, Matt connects to his female foe, and learns that she on the edge of wanting a change her vocation. But, her loyalty to Tasker and his draconian mission to impose the old ways on the new world draws her back in. During this scene, Bryon and Matt are shown the way out by a red-haired woman named Ariel. She promises to show them a place where Matt can get a new plane and see a doctor.  At the point you could think the film is done, Ariel, Bryon and Matt walk off into the sun headed to some mythic place.
Ah! But we are not...now the film takes a major detour, slowing down and changing themes. It turns out that Ariel is from an buried city that contains a vast library, museum, and all manner of technology not seen in the post-Convergence world. These people seal themselves away from the new world, acting like proper British learned society, then at night, they party and drink, behaving more like hedonists than people of science and books.
Ariel has bought Bryon here to help their locked-away society deal with technologically help, and because she believes that Bryon belongs here. It is in these scenes that we learn more about our android Bryon. He seems that he was custom built for a very rich, but lonely man who lived prior to the Convergence. Bryon was specially developed to be all things to him, nurse, friend, personal assistant. The mystery here is, what happened to Bryon's master? Did the Convergence kill him, or did he die of old age? Some people think that the man Bryon killed was his master, however, I disagree with that. We also learn in more detail, that Bryon is on a quest to locate a colony of androids, attempting to seal themselves away from the post-Convergence world, fearing what the common people might do to them. Cylons fearing the unwashed masses, I guess. Over the next few days, Matt and Bryon dance, drink, and do some soul searching, just before everything does to hell. I will not spoil the ending here...you'll have to get on youtube to watch it for yourself.


What is Wrong with Slipstream?
In a word: editing. The film is terribly uneven, often scenes do not gel or even flow together, making the film bumpy, like taking an old Jeep off-road. Often dialog drops off, scenes just abruptly end, way too many repeated usage of the same terrain making for Scooby-Do sensation. For example, while Tasker is supposed to be tracking down Matt and Bryon, he instead they drops off to hunt to arrest some smugglers that are connected to Matt. Now, you might think that Tasker would ask them about Matt or connect the two events somehow, but the filmmakers do not, making the scene just seem an excuse for a gun battle, and some self-serving dialog shedding light on the inner-works on the chaser.
The original pace of the film slows why down when Ariel takes Matt and Bryon to the underground museum people, breaking the film for the hunter-prey format, to a soft piece exploring Bryon and Matt feelings, and worst of all, making this segment on if the film seem terribly out-of-place.  The worst then about Slipstream is the DVD release. There was none by a mainstream manufacture. the copies that are out there, are cheap, I bought mine for a few bucks, and it's quality is on par with my 1993 VHS copy that I taped off of HBO one Saturday night. I was lucky to get the semi-okay cover-art for my DVD, some take images from the actor's other film and paste these totally unrelated pictures onto the DVD. This most likely has prevented Slipstream from enjoying cult status, condemning it to used DVD stores and reviews on the Internet. If I still had a laserdisc player, I would track down the Japanese laserdisc which is the only proper letterbox edition. I've read that Steven Lisberger stated that original Slipstream was to have more violent scenes, rounding out the rough patches.  

What is Right with Slipstream!
I cannot say this enough about this little film, it has a great deal of heart, interesting writing, an more original post-apocalyptic film plot than most, great actors, and an incredible musical score. Then there is an impressive job with the usage of the various locations and their ability to convey a sense of a world turned upside down. If you did not live through the rash of post-apocalyptic B-Movies that populated video stores in the 1980's, than some of what makes Slipstream impressive is lost on you, but needless to say, Slipstream is original in setting, unlike hundreds of post-apocalyptic films that liberally dip into the jar of Mad Max.But one of the  best thing about this film? Mark Hamill has Will Tasker. You simple cannot see any hint of cracker-farmboy-turned-Jedi Luke Skywalker in this character who drifts towards the dark side more than once, allowing for Mark Hamill to be seen as actually a good actor if given the right role. Tasker is a complex creature, while he is attempting to force law on the new world, he is willing to break the law, and ethics to achieve his goals. Plus, the plane he uses is very cool.

What Happened to Slipstream?
What original doomed Slipstream was the horrible reviews, lack of support by the studio, and the poor editing job. All of this caused a very limited international distribution deal. The reviews of the time called Slipstream an odd duck of a film, while it had great actors committed to the film and characters, great behind-the-camera crew,and real talent in area of producers and director, overall it simply could not come together to form the movie that Slipstream should have been. Instead, it was completely backhanded by critics, condemned to a limited international release, and VHS only release in most of the world. Today, the film is in public domain, and is released by several low-budget distributors that often do a hack job with it that are no better than VHS. Most people I know that have seen Slipstream happened upon it during the heydays of local video stores. Slipstream lives online mostly now, it is uploaded to video sites, B-movie sites and blogs keep Slipstream from completely dying out.     

Why I Love this Film
Not to get to weird about it, but Slipstream came out when I was in a bad place, and somehow the film spoke to me, and continues to be a film I love to watch, and agonize over its fall from the public imagination. Plus, I love originality that is not just done for the sake of weirdness, Aeon Flux bordered on this, but Slipstream takes the much overdone post-apocalypse genre, and gives a realistic angle, plus it instills a sense of beauty in this new world swept clean by the Convergence. I also enjoy the characters of this film and the work done to make each unique and fulfill a role in the new world. Bryon is a symbol of the advancement of the old world, and rule of technology over man and its drive that fueled him to destroy his mother planet, causing him to be the scapegoat for man's decisions. Tasker is a lawman that sees the new world as a world without law and order, and he is one of the only ones to bring it beyond the Settlement. These sort of complex characters are rare in 1980's post-apocalyptic films, however, recent films like Children of Men, have made great leaps in that genre.

Trivia:
The outlandish location of wind-worshipers cave/rock settlements are real, and are located in Cappadoccia region in central Turkey, mainly in the village of Göreme and the underground city of Kaymaki.. These villages craved out of the local rock, and are still populated today, despite the Turkish government calls for these settlements to be abandoned. Today, Cappadocia is a world heritage site.I've always wanted to see these settlements for myself. 

The insect-looking plane used by the law enforcement trackers is the real-world Edgley EA-7 Optica as know as the Brooklands Aerospace Optica OA-7. This British light aircraft was meant to replace helicopters in some markets, but issues with the design caused only 25 to be built and the company to go bankrupt.

The original source music for the film is really incredible considering what happened to this film later. It was done by veteran composer Elmer Bernstein who did everything from To Kill A Mocking Bird to Ghostbusters. The song Big Arena used in the scene when Matt loads an CD, is from the British band Then Jericho  

Links and Videos

Another Review of the film:

One of the best review sites for Post-Apocalypse films on the Internet!

The Making of Slipstream:



The 1989 trailer to the film:

27 July 2012

DELAY

Sorry about the delay on updating the blog in the last few days, I've been working on my MSF novel, Endangered Species. I set a goal of being done by the 30th of July. I am happy to report that  everything seems on track for the 30th...then it off to editors, because you know I need one. There is a blogpost near finished on my favorite B movie and then one on Light Machine Guns, then the mega-blogpost all about Mecha!

21 July 2012

FWS News Feed: Neil Blomkamp's Elysium

It is no doubt that Neil Blomkamp is one of the most talented directors working today, and we are finally getting another science fiction tale from him that features Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, and Jodie Foster in the year of 2159. The basic plot of the movie has the super-rich abandoned the sick Earth for a Stanford Torus designed space station in GSO called Elysium. Prices for citizenship packages start at one billion dollars, allowing for the few to leave the many behind to die slowly on the polluted planet below to live in paradise.
This  setup reminds me of the first episode of the old NBC 1994 sci-fi show Earth 2. Matt Damon plays Max, a man with a portable rail gun rifle mounted to an exoskeleton designed to adsorb the recoil and sent on a mission to Elysium who will die in five days. We will seem what the world of 2159 is like on March 1, 2013 and the director has confirmed that NASA helped with the design for Elysium. So, Neil, where the hell is my HALO movie? 

18 July 2012

FWS News Feed: HALO: Forward onto Dawn Trailer!

Here it is! The trailer for the live-action limited run TV series! Time to get back into the Fight! Now where is my battle rifle?!

FWS Topics: The Light Military Utility Vehicle

As with society as a whole, the automobile, changed modern warfare, giving warring armies the ability to cover greater distances, adding firepower and combat effectiveness to units that traditional had little in small numbers, particularly the standard small infantry units. The concept of adding mobility to an entire army was not fully developed until World War II, and the primary tool responsible for that change was the Willys GP military vehicle, classically known as the 'Jeep'. In this blogpost, FWS will discuss one of the most iconic and used tools of modern warfare, the light military utility vehicle (LMUV).
FWS is not responsible if you run out and buy a ex-military diesel blazer, Jeep Rubicon Unlimited, FJ Cruiser, or even a Hummer after reading this post. So read at our own risk!


What is an 'Light Military Utility Vehicles' and its role?


The typical LMUV, from the World War II Jeep to the modern day Humvee, fits into a role as a lightly armored long-distance four wheel drive vehicle designed to haul limited cargo plus at least four soldiers over all manner of terrain and can be fitted with crew-served weapon systems.
LMUV represent the workhorse of any military organization, and the base platform  of these vehicles can be modified into roles varying from ambulance to fast anti-tank TOW vehicle, and even being the platform for mounting next-gen microwave and laser DEW systems.  



The Early History of LMUV

While the First World War introduced the truck to the field of battle, the horse was still used for work and mobility. However, the new weapons of warfare, the tank, machine gun, and chemical warfare killed the horse the same has the soldier, causes higher than usual horses losses during the Great War. This fueled military organizations and companies to research combat automobile that could replacement horse during the 1920's and 1930's. The search provided to be fruitless, and the horse remained the primary tool of cross country/overlanding military operations. World War II was the beginning of high mobile warfare under the doctrine of Blitzkrieg, demanding infantry/scout elements leave their horses to keep up with the tanks was forged. This led to the development of the first vehicle LMUV, the 3rd Reich's 'bucket car', the Kübelwagen, also known as the Type 82.
This vehicle was developed for the Nazi Army by none other than the Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, father of the greatest car company in the world. The 3rd Reich used the engineering of his 'people's car', the KdF-Wagen to retool it into a family of LMUVs throughout the war. The Type 82 was only two-drive, but made up for this in speed, light-weight, reliability, and fuel consumption. Two of the more interesting off-shoots of the Type 82 Kübelwagen was the Type 82E, which was an  Kübelwagen chassis with a Beetle frame, and served in North Africa, and the Type 87 Kommandeurwagen, which used a prototype 4x4 drive system of the standard Kübelwagen, mating it to the KdF Beetle body. Both of these military Beetles were porducted in small numbers, but remain a odd favorite of WWII buffs and an historical basis for the Baja Bug (There was 2003 VW modern Beetle prototype of a Dune Buggy that would have been equipped with the 4motion AWD system. It was never made).
I debate at these Nazi, mostly 2wd light military vehicles were the harbinger of the LMUV that we know and love today. I believe, as do most people, that honor belongs to  the 1941 Willys GP/MB 'Jeep'. After Pearl Harbor, the US military put down the requirements to US automobile manufactured for: "a general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 1/4-ton 4x4 Truck", and the government gave these auto makers just 49 days to delivery a prototype for testing. In an twist of historical irony, the winner of the army test, American Bantam Car Company, an American off-shoot of the Austin Car Company of Great Britain, with their BRC (Bantam Recon Car) was not given the production contract. Because Bantam lacked the production ability to mint Jeeps in the numbers needed in 1941, and the Army award production contracts for the Army Recon car to Ford and Willys Overland.
This little vehicle became used in all manner of roles, and since it was easy to repair, soldiers in the field could get them back into the fight. In foreshadowing of the role of future LMUVs, the Long Range Desert Group of the British Army used their modified Willys GPs for marauding overland strikes at Rommel's Desert Group in their own lines, which had the LRDG out manned and outgunned, but could not follow them into the deep desert. These brave men of the LRDG were credited with transforming the replacement for the horse into a  highly mobile quick-strike machine gun platform.   
Throughout the war years, nearly 700,000 Willy and Ford GPs were sent all over the global in the hands of allies and GIs. Even the Imperial Japanese and Nazis got their hands on Jeeps, and while the 3rd Reich was unimpressed, the Japanese copied the Jeep in their AK-10, which led to the bulletproof FJ40 Land Cruiser. The Jeep is often credited with the Allies winning the second world war, and set the standard for all LMUVs to come for the next four decades.  
In the post-war world, the Jeep template was used to develop all manners of copies, from the superior Toyota FJ40, the USSR  GAZ truck, the Indian Mahindra and most importantly, the original Land Rover. Much like the Willeys Jeep in the African deserts, the Series I Land Rover was utilized for long-range overlanding operations with the SAS operations in Oman during the Jebal Akhdar War in the mid-1950's. The British sent in SAS units to support the Sultan bin Taimur using tactics they learned against the Desert Fox. During the 1960's and 70's, the SAS used Land Rover series II/IIA coloured in desert pink for patrols and desert operations, giving a basis for the use of LMUVs for special operations missions that we see today in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a twist of fate, the Land Rover and it's upgraded father, the American M38 Jeep, would serve together in the Korean War.
The next major upgrade to the Jeep came in 1959 and throughout the remainder of its US military service with the M151 MUTT that was built by Ford Motor Company. While the MUTT was tasked with the purpose to replace original Jeep design, it had a major issue: rollovers. This, like the Ford Pinto, gave the M151 MUTT an unfair reputation, souring it to the public and the military on continuation the line of military Jeeps that existed since 1941.Some of the pressure was taken off of the M151 MUTT by militarized civilian off-road utility vehicles for roles like MP patrols, some limited military off-road work, and hauling gear to the front. the most famous of these militarized civilian SUVs was the Chevy K5 Blazer that was transformed into the diesel M1009 CUCV. By the time Vietnam ended, the US military would enter a time of doldrums, allowing the M151 MUTT to remain in service, however, the military was eyeballing a replacement. But it did not come in time for the M151 MUTT to serve in one last conflict, the Invasion of Grenada in 1983.
At this time, other military organizations were beginning to move away for the original Jeep design and fielding new heavier, more SUV-like vehicles to replace their aging Jeep-based LMUVs.This was seen when the German military replacing their Kübelwagen based VW IItis with the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen, and the British Army fielding the Land Rover Wolf over the traditional Land Rover Series I/II. The United State military would have to wait until 1981 until the AM General HMMWV would be approved for service.            

The Modern history of LMUVs
By the late 1970's, the tradition role of the military Jeep was being replaced by vehicle similar to the Land Rover and the German G-Wagon, and allowed these newer LMUVs to serve along side the mechanized units that would dominate strategic thinking at the time. This would require a larger vehicle than the typical M151 MUTT Jeep. In 1969, the American firm FMC Technologies began to develop a prototype known as the FMC XR311, or as known as the 'GI Hotrod'. This vehicle was meant to fit the role occupied by the Jeep and militarized SUVs, the US Army was uninterested, and the FMC XR311 was stillborn with only nine prototypes. However, the FMC XR311 would live on with the 1977 Lamborghini Cheetah.
Much like the XR311, the 1977 Cheetah was an open-cockpit designed vehicle designed to be a part of the mechanized armored units that populated military thinking at the time, however, unlike the XR311 scout car, which was designed for two, the Cheetah had seating for four. The similarities between Cheetah and the XR311 were not lost on FMC, which brought a lawsuit against the American firm, MTI in 1977, who had contacted Lamborghini for the actually construction of the vehicle. The US Army did test the vehicle in desert trials, crashing and destroying the prototype, but ultimately rejected the Cheetah due to its being built by a foreign company.
Without the government contract, this left MTI and Lamborghini out the money for the prototype, causing serious hardship on the two companies. There was attempt to sell the Cheetah to Arab nations and arms companies, however there was no interest, and no further prototype was constructed.The legency of the FMC XR311 and the Lamborghini Cheetah would manifest themselves later into two very different future vehicles, the AM General Humvee and the Lamborghini LM002, the 'Rambo-Lambo'. 
The next great evolution of the LMUV came in 1979, when the US military put out the need and specifications for the next military vehicles, and by 1981, AM General was awarded the contract to build the next generation of the US military LMUV over five other bids. By 1985, the first batches of Humvees were being tested at Fort Lewis, and first saw combat in the Invasion of Panama in 1989, however, the first major test of the Humvee came in 1991 in the deserts of the Middle East. It seemed that the Humvee was designed for the local conditions of Kuwait and Iraq, it allowed for infantry to be supported by the Humvees heavier weapons during cleaning operations in villages.
But it would be an urban operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, especially the infamous Blackhawk Down incident were military planners decided to increase the armor protection of the Humvee. After September 11, 2001, the Humvee would be called on again for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the off-road and cargo capability would be critical for long-range operations, especially for US Space Forces. As before in the Gulf War, the Humvee would serve along side the Land Rovers of the British and Australian forces in extreme conditions.
It would in the post-hostile operations where the weakness of the Humvee would be discovered when the enemy resorted to IEDs and mines rather than open attacks. US Soldiers would also take the Humvee on urban patrols where the wideth of the vehicle would hamper its abilities. While the Humvee was not as effective in the urban battlefields of Iraq, the vehicle was heavily used for escort duties for the many trucks that transversed the Iraq highway network. 
It is not just vehicles like the Land Rover, or Jeep, or even Humvee that serve as LMUVs, in many smaller conflicts, especially Africa, armed pickups called Technicals. This grewout of the handiness of pickup trucks, which does not just extend to trips to Lowe's, but to also transporting troops/rebels to the battlefield and act as mobile gun platform with mounted 12.7mm machine guns,  No where is this more true than in A-Stan and Africa. There Toyota trucks, like the unkillable Hilux or Tacoma in the States, serve as mobile gun platforms and troop-movers across the harsh unforgiving terrain. These Special Forces operating in Afghanistan have adopted the Hilux for low-profile operations to maintain OPSEC because nothing screams Americans quite like the Humvee. This makes for a queer battlefield, Humvees, Toyota trucks, and now, the heavy MRAP all serving in the same role. These are truly disturbing times we live in, my friends
In 2007, the US military began the process of replacing the aging Humvee with a next-generation LMUV to be called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle or JLTV. This JLTV would be built to fit the needs of not only the big army, but USSOCOM, and the Marines. In the short-term, while various companies and designers field prototypes, one of the primary roles of the Humvee is already being replaced by the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle or MRAP in 2009. This type of heavier, near APC/IFV armored vehicle was not original developed for the threat of IED attacks in Iraq, but for mines during the Rhodesian Bush War, and MRAP vehicles are made by several companies, like Force Protection Inc, Oshkosh Corporation. and  Textron. Due to MRAPs like the Cougar, being better to withstand attacks with mines, IEDs, and RPGs than the Mad Max'ed armored Humvees floating around, causes the MRAPs to be the choice for outside-the-wire combat patrols today, morphing the Humvee into an inside-the-wire vehicle, much like the old civilian military Blazers of the 1980's.
 This could signal a shift in the world of LMUVs as a whole, heavier vehicles like the MRAP Cougar could become the choice for operations in dangerous urban patrols or even in overlanding patrols in hostile regions, much like what we have seen in A-Stan. Then lighter military utility vehicles, similar to the proposed JLTV designs would take up for less risky operations, and possibly, special vehicle operations, and there could be even a third LMUV, that would operate has a workhorse and inside the wire. This third type of LMUV could mean that the Jeep could return into the fold of the US military service with the JGMS J8. It has been suggested by JGMS, that their light military vehicle, based on the current JK Wrangler platform, could be used in place of vehicles like the Toyota Hilux/Tacoma pickup, and certain models of the Humvee. J8s are already serving in the Israeli and Egyptian Armies,  plus this little badass could serve as an inside-the-wire vehicle. I personally love the J8, and would like to have one...you know, for paintball games, zombies attacks, and runs to Target.


The Next-Generation of LMUVs


Due to the conditions that Humvee and other similar LMUVs found themselves in during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the allied militaries started to field more heavily armored vehicles. this altered blurred the lines between the traditional role of the light military vehicle and wheeled APC/IFV, like LAV-25. This translation to armored military utility vehicles is also an outgrowth of the demised role of tanks on the battlefield, with their roles between filled by vehicles like the IAV Stryker. During the height of the combat operations in Iraq in 2005, the US military began the process of replacing the Humvee with another vehicle. One of the designs came from Georgia Tech Research Institute, called the Ultra AP and the 2009 update, the Ultra AP II. The Ford F350 truck mated to a diesel engine is the underpinning of the Ultra AP, allowing for off-road ability with greater fuel efficiency, and the dome in the center of the Ultra AP is the so called blast bucket that offers greater protection for the crew against IED/Mine explosions, and uses lightweight composite material and some features found in NASCAR vehicles.  This vehicle received media attention for its unusual design from such magazine like Car & Driver.
By 2007, it looked certain that US military would be replacing their aging warhorse with a next-generation LMUV made of composite material for most of the body, allowing for greater crew survival, and modernizing the basic design of this beast. That looks uncertain now, with the recent purchase of more Humvees by the US military and lack of process on the JLTV project as a whole since 2009. The reasons given where that no design seems to be protect to the degree of the MRAP, coupled with the recent economic and current drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, the military is eyeballing a date of 2016 for the deployment of a JLTV, and another more heavily vehicle similar to the MRAP and can transport none soldiers, the Ground Combat Vehicle, is on the drawing board for 2019.  


Comparison: M1152 HMMWV  and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited


The US Army's mammoth Humvee vehicle seems a colossal when compared to the original WWII Jeep with it's 60 BHP engine. But, even when comparing the numbers of the most capable out-of-the-box off-road vehicle, the Jeep Rubicon Unlimited, the comparison is staggering. The V8 turbocharged diesel Humvee, at 130inch wheelbase, can forage of 2.5 feet water (w/o the kit), ground clearance of 17.4 inches, has front, rear, and center locking differentials, with  approach angle of 45 degrees, and departure angle of 38.2 degrees. This beast can climb 60% hill gradient and has a low-gear ratio of 2.72:1 (A2 verison), with a 25 gallon fuel tank.
While the V6 gasoline powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has 116inches of wheelbase, can forage of 30 feet water (w/o snorkel), ground clearance of 10.5 inches, has front, rear, and center locking differentials, with  approach angle of 44.3 degrees, and departure angle of 40.4 degrees. This little mountain goat wonder can climb 40% hill grade and has a low-gear ratio of 4:1 (Rubicon verison), with a 22.5 gallon fuel tank.


How did the Jeep get its name?

According to the primary theory, the soldiers of WWII used the word GP for the vehicle until it morphed into another slang-name, the jeep (GP=JEEP), similar to the HUMMV=HUMMER. However my favorite theory is that Willys GP was christened Jeep after the 1937 Popeye cartoon character, Eugene the Jeep, the alien jungle animal that could go anywhere. It is no secret that GIs in WWII read comics, and it makes sense that the Willeys would be christened after this strangle little cartoon animal. 




Off-World LMUV

There already has been a vehicle similar to the original Jeep deployed off-world, the NASA Lunar Roving Vehicle, and the first vehicles off-world will be similar space program exploration vehicles. It would not take to too much imagination to mount a .50 caliber or laser emitter on these off-world rovers. Any colonial settlements on exo-planets will be mostly likely far apart giving rise to off-world Jeep-like vehicles. This also need would extend to off-world military sentry units needing the ability to cross distances with speed, firepower, cargo-space, and adapted to the local planetary conditions.
The first MLUVs will serve on Luna and Mars, and future military planners have two choices when it comes to MLUVs. One, would be to have to be sealed buggy-like vehicle that protected the soldiers against the hostile environment, and have room for the crew to don and repair spacesuits.
 These are the types of off-world buggies seen in NASA concept art, with six to eight wheels and are cylinder shaped. Contrary to that, is more of the approach that NASA used on the Lunar Rover, and hearkens back to the open Jeep-like vehicles, space suited soldiers would ride in a over-sized cab that would allow for easy entry/exit, and would mount some sort of protection against rocks and bullets.



Future Military Application of LMUVs


When a critical piece of technology is created that plugs itself into every facet of society, it cannot be unlearned.This extends to computers, TV, airplanes, nuclear weapons, video games, and of course, the automobile. The car has changed the face of Terra and her human population, allowing us to live further away from away for one another, but also makes the world accessible.
We have even taken the car to the surface of the moon, sent wheeled rovers to Mars, and we will take them with us when we found exo-solar colonies. It will be there when we fight wars off-world. Any future military will not relay solely on Pelican-like aerial armed vehicles to get their soldiers from point A to point B, or even to operate inside-the-wire, there will be vehicles that will link themselves historical to the Willey Gp 'Jeep'.     



LMUVs and Science Fiction


One of the most critical military tools of modern warfare is the LMUV, and much like the Willeys Jeep, the Humvess as become a symbol of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but these vehicles are badly represented in science fiction. For much of the history of science fiction, it was not until the era of MSF pen-and-page RPGs that future Jeeps entered into the consciousnesses of sci-fi culture via Battletech and Traveller. Sure, there were vehicles similar to the NASA Lunar Buggy seen here and there, but none that I can remember with machine guns and lasers stripped to their roll bars. This is odd, considering that original Willeys Jeep is credited with being one of the factors of why the Allies won the 2nd World War, and there is not shortage of Jeep Wranglers on the road and Humvees on the news to remind us of LMUVs presences.
So, why is it that sci-fi seems to ignore the LMUVs in their works? During the classic period of sci-fi, when masters like Asimov were crafting their stories, they were not concerned with future armies and their tools of war, because most of them had lived through the 2nd World War, souring them on military stories. When military vehicle appeared, it was it was offer a truck-like vehicles, or the armored car seen in Isaac Asimov's 1953 Pebble in the Sky. By the time when future armies were making appearances in sci-fi works, the soldiers were seen during planetside warfare hopping around planets with powered armor or in landing craft. This point-of-view most likely comes from the air mobility that was granted by the helicopter, and entered the collective mindset during the Vietnam War. Hey, why roll around on the ground and be open for attack when you use a jumpshuttle to get from point A to be point B, right? In 2001 that all changed when HALO: Combat Evolved hit Xbox all around the world and gamers and sci-fi fans alike got to experience the M12 Warthog. With this example, more science fiction creators began to see the logic behind LMUVs in the future battlefields, both here on Terra and off-world.


The Best There is: The M12 'Warthog'  Force Application Vehicle

Prior to the Warthog, there was nothing like in the pages of science fiction and this vehicle alone caused  writers and creators of future war stories reassigning  the role of LMUVs within those fictional armies. This speaks to the design and impact of the HALO video games, and Bungie did one hell of a bang-on job with the Warthog. This vehicle was carefully designed to operate in all conditions, and survive to serve its soldier.  The Warthog uses a hydrogen-injected 12.0 litre liquid-cooled ICE plant mated to a infinity variable transmission.This hydrogen engine speaks to the level of thinking that Bungie invested with the M12 FAV. By the M12 FAV being powered by hydrogen and carrying its own onboard converter for turning all manner of water-sources into fuel, gives the Warthog a great deal of battlefield flexibility.
 Adding to this flexibility, the massive tyres of the M12 FAV are not traditional gas-filled pockets, but nano-tubes that allow the Warthog in the field not to be bogged down with tyre changes, and saving weight from not carrying extra tyres. Much like the modern Humvee and the old Jeep, the M12 FAV is a platform that other vehicles are based on, from the trooper-carrier, to the light anti-armored Gauss 'hog or the missile 'hog, and the most popular, the light recon vehicle. The overall design of the Warthog is similar to the LM002 'Rambo-Lambo', the Lamborghini Cheetah, the FMC XR311, and I believe, the 1982 GI Joe VAMP vehicle. 

Examples of LMUVs in Science Fiction


ROBOTECH:

Oddly, ROBOTECH as one of the most extensive lists of light military utility vehicles, and are seen in all of the three-generations of the ROBOTECH saga.The primary LMUV of the ROBOTECH saga is the RDF AAT30 and AAT40 assault transport, available in either 4x4 (AAT30) or 6x6 (AAT40) design with or without a flatbed, and mounted the 'earl' pulse laser cannon. This was used as a scout/recon vehicle, workhorse, and general military transport. Both variants of the AATs were in the inventory of the RDF, Southern Cross, and the REF. The flatbed AAT30 vehicle was seen by most of us being used by Robotech engineer James 'Luke' Austin during the 3rd Robotech War, and mounted a special anti-armor cannon.
The rest of the LMUVs featured in  Anime series are more basic and little is know about them, these are the oddball six-wheeled open-top vehicle seen running around RDF bases before the 1st Robotech War and onboard the SDF-1 (watch out for Roy Fokker!). Then one of my favorites was the six-wheeled heavy truck seen in Luke's flashback sequence during the episode Paper Hero. 



The M35 Mako from Mass Effect

In the original Mass Effect, there was few joys better than overlanding in the six-wheeled off-world/ off-road M35 'Mako' Systems Alliance LMUV. This badass vehicle was designed for atmospheric standard worlds and lifeless moons, due to off-road systems and thruster pack. These trusters allowed the Mako to be aero-dropped from the mother vessel in rather high atmosphere. To defend itself, it mounts an 155mm mass acceleration cannon and anti-infantry machine guns. While the HALO Warthog takes its design from other LMUVs, the M35 Mako is designed more as armed explorer vehicle, making it a unique sci-fi military vehicle and seen  going off-world to all manner of terrains. I would bet that the Mako will go on to be one of the most iconic military vehicles in science fiction.

Technicals from Terminator and Terminator 2


In the original Terminator and Terminator 2, Resistance fighters are seen using Technical-like vehicles savaged from junkers left over from the nuclear strike in 1997. Much like the current Toyota Hilux-based Technicals, these stripped down hulks of their former selves are mobile gun platforms designed to either run from or run at Skynet's war machines. In both examples seen onscreen, these ragtag vehicles are used to counter Skynet's ownership of the skies with either plasma repeater cannons and anit-aircraft missiles, leftover from military bases. Here is a link to a great article on the jerry-rigged Skynet equipment by the Resistance in the dark future of 2029:

The VAMP from GI JOE:
When I was young, I had one of these great plastic vehicles, it was such a great design, and really fun to drive through the mud! This LMUV toy was one of the great touchstones of childhood, and could be the point of reference for so many of the current crop of LMUVs in fiction, especially, the HALO Warthog. 
Red Faction/Killzone/Quake Wars


All of these video games mentioned feature various military-grade light utility vehicles that work off the basic Jeep design, the Warthog, and the Humvee. These vary from the truck in Red Faction, the armadillo seen in Quake Wars,to the more Jeep-like vehicle from Killzone 2 and 3. Unlike the HALO Warthog or others on this list, there is developed on the vehicles and are mostly set pieces for the game. The Jeep from Killzone series is of the better designed, looks to mimic the Land Rovers and Humvees used in desert operations, given the open cockpit design.


The Armadillo from GEARS OF WAR

The Armadillo is much the rest of the Gears of War universe, oversized, bulky, and powerful. Now, I love the Gears of War games, they are complete departure from the normal MSF shooter games that exist on the market today. The COG vehicle, the Armadillo, technical called a APC, is much like the COG soldiers themselves, big, armored, powerful. This vehicles runs over everything, and is outgrowth of the conditions on the ground in the war-torn Sera. This could be a great design for an off-world military vehicle. 


The GAV 'Swan' from AVATAR

The RDA uses the off-world 6x6 Ground Assault Vehicle (GAV) JL-723 for getting around Pandora, and providing close fire support. In practice, the RDA uses the Aerospatiale SA-2 'Samson' ducted-fan vehicle for movement outside-the-wire operations, making the GAV more of a technical than a troop hauler. The nickname of the Swan was due to its gyro-stabilized turret mounted machine gun. The GAV was briefly in one  scene in the film, but the Swan, as it is called, was seen in the first image released for the film, and can be used by the player in the terrible video game of the film. Unlike the AMP suit or the Dragon Gunship, the GAV is not a good design, and would not be my first choice to roll around Pandora.




The Trumbler from the Christoper Noland BATMAN films

The very cool Tumbler was original a military concept vehicle developed by Lucius Fox for Wayne Industries, and could make "rampless jumps" and cross gaps not cover by a bridge. This is undoubtedly one of the coolest military vehicle designs and would make for one hell of a LMUV.

The Combine Patrol APC from HALF-LIFE 2

 The Combine Civil Protection uses a rather oddly shaped APC, but is more of a LMUV, that mounts a pulse DEW machine gun, missiles, and hauls trans-human Combine soldiers to harass Gordon Freeman. This design is very alien for some reason, when I saw the first time, I could not believe how spot-on it was. 





The Terra Nova 'Rover' Electric Buggy


In the time-traveling cancelled FOX TV series Terra Nova, the primary settlement uses two main vehicles, the more up-armored Rhino, and the lighter Jeep-like buggy, called the Rover. The Rover makes up the main vehicle seen onscreen and appears to a 2149 LMUV that runs on either electricity or hydrogen that was modified for duty in the hostile past. Unlike the APC-like Rhino, the Rover does not use doors, risking the driver and passengers more to hostile animal attacks. The prop-vehicles were modified from Land Cruisers and Range Rovers from the 1980's and 90's, and were recently sold off for about $3000.




The Argo Buggy from Star Trek: Nemesis

According to Trekkie myth, even numbered Star Trek films are supposed to be good...that ended with the 2002 Nemesis. But the film did feature the only known Starfleet LMUV, the Argo. This 4x4 off-world off-road vehicle was armed with a rear-facing phaser turret, and part of the Argo shuttle carried by the Enterprise-E. It is believed that the Argo shuttle and vehicle are a new addition to Starfleet, and the E could be testing out the technology for widespread adoption.
Little is known about this vehicle or its role in Starfleet. Some Star Trek sites say that Starfleet, who possess anti-gravity technology, and let us not forget teleporters, would not resort to more traditional wheeled technology. I believe the Argo LMUV was put into the film to jazz it up, punching a bad script, and for audience to see something different in the Star Trek.  Oddly, the vehicle seems to be more Mad Max than 24th century with the skeleton buggy design...makes me think that Tina Turner is about to pop out at any moment.
It is unknown what real-world vehicle was the underpinnings the Argo ATV. It was a fun to see Worf, Data and Picard sporting eye-armor sunglasses, off-roading in the desert...reminding me of that Bridgestone Superbowl advert where some Astronauts off-road to House of Pain in a Lunar Buggy.


VIDEOS of LMUVs

Top Gear testing a Vietnamese UAZ





The History of WWII Jeep (Part One of Five)



A great video of a WWII-era 1944 Jeep off-roading!




Jeremy Clarkson talks about the Warthog



A great video on the KDF-82E 4x4 Military Beetle




The Superbowl Brigdestone Moon Buggy Ad