Mike Anderson’s American Iron

Built for a non-traditional delivery system

By Mike Anderson


When equipment manufacturers or their dealers are trying to land a deal to deliver new gear, the actual physical delivery of the equipment is generally part of the hammered-out package: The new excavator or milling machine or motor grader will be floated to this port or that dealership location on such-and-such date, it is negotiated and agreed upon.

Well, in the case of Case’s latest military accomplishment, the physical delivery of the equipment was part of the actual product research, development and testing. That’s because, by being “dropped off,” that new Case skid steer will, in fact, be exactly that – dropped off.

As part of a $162-million contract with the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command that could run as long as 10 years, the CNH plant in Wichita, Kansas has now begun production of 3,000-plus Case M400W skid steer loaders and M400T compact track loaders that will be deployed in military operations throughout the world.

During his inspiring and entertaining address to CNH company officials, trade media and especially enthusiastic plant employees who gathered April 14 in the Wichita plant, U.S. Army Lieut.-Col. Darrell Bennis spoke of the special requirements for any equipment destined for military operations, including the need to sustain air drops.

“That’s probably one of the most exciting things we had to do,” added Sean Straw, product manager for Case skid steer and compact track loaders. “The first time we tested for this, it was in the front yard here at the plant. The machine was lifted about 13 feet off the ground and just dropped at a freefall to simulate the g-forces of an air drop. Almost every engineer wanted to attend that test, and I know that each one who did will never forget it. It’s probably something that everybody’s dreamed of doing – destroying something – but the good thing is, it didn’t get destroyed.”

From the winds of Wichita, the trial machines and their attachment kits were then passed along to military testers at sites throughout the country.

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“Having the opportunity to view some of these photos of the machine being carried through the air, the machine falling safely to the ground with parachutes, really makes you understand that these units are going to be used by our military personnel in some pretty rough conditions,” said Straw. “The juxtaposition of seeing a machine that we design everyday to dig in the dirt and make holes flying through the air was quite a humbling experience.”

The M400W and M400T “are truly built Army Strong” and “built to go right along” whenever the troops need to go, said Pat Hunt, director of strategic accounts for CNH Construction Equipment.

That trip, no doubt, will include a safe landing … before the really important work begins.v