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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — The Alaska Army National Guard received two rebuilt M-973 Small Unit Support Vehicles from the Red River Army Depot near Texarcana, Texas, Nov. 3.
SUSVs are fully-tracked, all-terrain, amphibious vehicles designed to support platoon-sized units in arctic and mountainous conditions. The SUSV, originally named the Bandvagn 206, was developed by Hagglunds for the Swedish Army.
The two vehicles, along with a team of eight personnel from RRAD, were flown to Alaska aboard a C-5 aircraft. The National Guard Bureau also sent two representatives to oversee the testing of the SUSVs.
“The Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont and Colorado National Guards have been fighting to maintain the SUSV to do cold weather operations,” said Lt. Col. James Palembas, surface maintenance manager of the AKARNG.
According to Palembas, SUSVs were removed from authorized equipment documents of the states in 2009.
“Because the Army does not see the SUSV has a program of record, it has been a fight to keep these as an authorized piece of equipment,” he said. “National Guard Bureau recognizes the importance of SUSVs in performing its federal mission in cold-weather climates, while adding an important capability of meeting its state’s mission for defense in support of civilian authorities response. They have been used many times for search and rescue, bringing emergency fuel to Nome for ship to shore refueling and during fire seasons.”
The National Guard is the only participant in the rebuild program for the SUSVs at RRAD, explained Palembas. This program is funded by the NGB and is the only program left to rebuild the vehicles.
“This is a 30-plus-year-old platform, and parts are hard to get,” Palembas said. “The Alaska National Guard has taken on a couple of new initiatives to maintain this piece of equipment until there is a replacement capability identified.”
These initiatives include participation in the NATO Support Agency BV206 Committee where 10 other countries use the platform, he explained. The AKARNG has also ordered parts from NSPA for the first time since many parts are no longer available through the U.S. military supply chain.
The Alaska Guard also worked with U.S. Army Alaska in a joint effort to develop a point of instruction for SUSV maintenance and are training new mechanics in Alaska on maintaining them, said Palembas. A one-week SUSV maintenance class was held in October with active-duty Soldiers at the Alaska Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop.
“There is no other vehicle that can replicate the same capabilities as the SUSV, and this platform has been identified as being critical in operating in the Arctic. Simply put, it can go where rolling vehicles cannot.”