Called to Duty: We Drive Chevy SUVs with Special-Ops Veterans—Using Night Vision ""

By | October 18, 2017

Chevrolet Tahoe Midnight Edition

Every job requires the proper tool. A lumberjack needs a chain saw. A mechanic needs a wrench. A construction worker needs a hammer. If rolling into hostile enemy territory is the job at hand, a Chevrolet Suburban or Chevrolet Tahoe might just be right for the task. It’s no surprise that the presidential motorcade is flanked by these utility vehicles; they’re big and capable and can be outfitted easily to protect occupants.

The Range Complex, also referred to as TRC, is located 40 minutes west of Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It’s a 1000-acre training facility owned and operated by former special operations soldiers, and it’s where Chevrolet offered a unique experience with the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe. Admittedly, the special-ops team says the big-box Chevys aren’t always the right tool for the job. For example, rolling through urban Afghanistan in a shiny new SUV built in America doesn’t exactly disguise who you are. Here at TRC, they are the vehicles used for tactical training purposes.

Chevrolet Tahoe Midnight Edition

With our helmets strapped tight and bulletproof vests secured, we stand on a viewing platform above the CQB (close quarters battle) simulation house. The operators storm the concrete structure in a Suburban equipped with the Midnight package, an option that provides a law-enforcement look. The former soldiers exit the truck with urgency and precision, kicking down the door and sending in a well-trained German shepherd to take down the unsuspecting culprit. The choreographed team dances through the maze of rooms, firing live rounds into would-be threats until all targets are eliminated. After the opposition has been eradicated, the team speeds away in their Suburban, leaving paper targets that just had a bad day in their dust.

As nightfall sets in, Chevrolet rolls out Chevrolet Tahoes equipped with the Midnight Edition Z71 package. The bundle provides a blacked-out look, an off-road-tuned suspension, protective skid plates, knobby Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac rubber, 3.42:1 differential gearing, and a two-speed transfer case. Unlike our instrumented test of a similarly spec’d Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, this event involved an altogether different type of ride and handling evaluation—using night-vision goggles. With only the glow of a campfire and a couple of nearby lights providing scant illumination, we buckle in with the skilled team members. As we proceed along a route marked by infrared beacons, it’s clear these Delta Force veterans have experience behind the wheel moving under cover of night, smashing the throttle in the straights and even drifting through a few turns. We are outfitted with a single-tube night-vision camera. While effective for our passenger role, it still requires the closing of one eye to maintain focus and offers a limited field of view. Our SUV operators’ equipment is the crème de la crème of night-vision gear and certainly makes navigating the darkness much easier. The quad-tube camera attached to their helmets provides nearly 100 degrees of panoramic vision, albeit at a hefty price, with each unit costing roughly $35,000.

Chevrolet Tahoe Midnight Edition

After our guided tour of the outskirts of the TRC complex, it is our turn to drive. This time we are equipped with dual-pod night-vision goggles, which provide a better viewing perspective. From the driver’s seat, an awkward scenario plays out. The interior disappears, mainly because everything is out of focus at close range. Everything is controlled by muscle memory. How many detents is it until the column shifter is in drive? Where’s the button for the ventilated seat? We find it fairly easy to adapt to the goggles: keep your eyes looking straight ahead and move your head for range of vision. Think of looking through the racing line; the same principle applies here. Once accustomed to this sort of movement and the night-vision view, the goggles are far better than headlights, which only light up what’s directly ahead. These also allow vision to the left and right.

We’d love to tell you what it’s like to drive the Tahoe Z71 off-road and into a hostile situation—even a simulated one—but we can’t. Our time behind the wheel covered less than a mile. What we can tell you is that driving with night-vision goggles is a singularly bad-ass experience. We did briefly have the feeling that we were on a mission. And we can confirm that our armed-forces members who perform these tasks on a regular basis certainly have the right tools for the job.

Chevrolet-Tahoe-Suburban-Midnight-Edition-REEL

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