So the Jackal was created. It’s capable of carrying up to five, although it’s usually manned by three – commander, driver and gunner – and is able to function at quite remarkable speeds through all sorts of habitats, even with a 2.1-tonne payload on board, and with a range of around
500 miles on a 200-litre tank of diesel.Of course, the Jackal is made to a client’s brief. You can have it with a closed cab, but most want it open, favouring the extra visibility.
Although most military vehicles have commercial vehicle underpinnings, the Jackal has a bespoke steel box-section spaceframe designed specifically for the purposes required of a rapid, all-terrain armoured personnel carrier.
And it is rapid. The mid-mounted 6.7-litre Cummins straight six diesel punches out 516lb ft
and will propel this deceptively manoeuvrable vehicle to speeds beyond 80mph. I know: I’ve seen it and experienced it.
Arguably, the Jackal’s biggest stroke of genius is its suspension. Hydraulic struts allow it to squat down to a ground clearance of just 180mm and a total height of less than 1.9 metres, enabling its 2.0m-wide body to be driven into a Chinook. Hit the road, or more likely the Afghan outback and the suspension lifts by a further 300mm for full off-road readiness. Huge air springs, designed for commercial use, are mounted laterally, delivering a frankly unsettling ability to drive over just about anything at just about any speed.
To make all this function properly, there’s a four-wheel drive system, which can run in rear-wheel drive, with high and low-ratio gear sets, locking diffs and epicyclical wheel hubs. The mechanicals at each corner are identical, so if you lose a wheel, you can scavenge parts from another Jackal (or its three-axled sibling, the Coyote) and patch it up in an impressive two hours in the field.
Our test track was centred around a woodland near the historic airfields of Dunkeswell and Smeatharpe. Photographer Will went first, tentatively bumping his Kia Sorento around the track. I watched it heave and scrabble, and the Kia is a pretty capable off-roader.
I followed, trundling slowly past a crumbling WW2 hangar. The lofty driving position in the Jackal is predictably utilitarian. The seat is designed more for protection from mine blasts than for rigorous support, so you cling to the wheel as the vehicle leans heavily going around corners. There are no gears to worry about, courtesy of the five-speed torque converter auto, and the hydraulically assisted steering makes it remarkably easy to wield such a hefty bulk.
What is disconcerting initially is having the front axle beneath you, rather than in front of
you, which can encourage an unintended early turn-in. Still, we hit the autumn-shrouded woodland, complete with an unrelieved carpet of leaves, at which point my guide and Supacat veteran Andy Roberts told me: “Floor it”.