In the mid-1980s, when the U.S. military adopted the HMMWV and phased out the M-151 jeep, the last of the 1/4 ton jeeps, a capability gap was created for light capacity tactical vehicles. The M-Gator, along with the Polaris and other ATVs, has emerged as one of the solutions, providing a small, mobile and capable utility vehicle in the spirit of the M-274 Mechanical Mule.
The John Deere M-Gator Military Utility Vehicle, an adaptation of the popular civilian Deere Gator tractor, was designed exclusively for and is available only to military organizations, with the U.S. Army as the primary customer.
M-Gator 6x4 Utility Vehicles have been used extensively in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom for basic missions including transporting supplies. The M-Gator has supported airborne operations and drop zone recovery with the 82nd Airborne Division and at Fort Bragg, NC, and served on the front lines supporting the XVIII Airborne Corps' artillery. See also this Business Week article about the M-Gator.
10th Mountain Division M-Gator 6x4 Utility Vehicle with later model brush guard and hood tray.
The 6x4 M-Gator Military Utility Vehicle has a three cylinder, 18hp water cooled diesel engine that will run on either diesel fuel or JP8. M-Gator has a continuously variable transmission that eliminates shifting. The multi-position, heavy-duty cargo box has fold-down sides and tailgate plus a power lift. The M-Gator can reach speeds up to 18 mph on its low-pressure all-terrain tires.
The M-Gator is 108 inches long, 60 inches wide and 43.6 inches high. (The A1 is 70.6 inches high with the ROPS extended.) The weight of the M-Gator is 1,450 pounds, including fuel and fluids. Maximum payload for the M-Gator is 1,400 pounds including two passengers.
M-Gator Features and Variants
Early purchases of the M-Gator by the U.S. military were COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) vehicles, meaning that there were few if any modifications from the civilian Gator as sold to the public by John Deere. Many of these were field modified to add military features such as brush guard and hood tray. As numbers increased, a formal program of military modifications was adopted, including:
Military bed, wider than civilian bed, replacing rear fenders
Bed sides and tailgate fold to 90 degrees and lock
Standard front bumper, brush guard, front fender guards, CV guards, rifle mount, keyed ignition, front rack, steering wheel lock, and fire extinguisher
1000-lb cargo capacity, 1500-lb towing capacity, and 1400-lb payload capacity
854cc (25 hp) engine
Tire ball run flat tire system
Keyless ignition switch
Ground speed of 0-32 mph
The John Deere publication TM1804 is the M-Gator Technical Manual. The Operators Manual is Deere publication OMM139953. M-Gator airdrop is covered by FM 4-20.108, Airdrop of Supplies and Equipment: Rigging Military Utility Vehicle (M-Gator), 29 June 2001.
M-Gator Safety Concerns
The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) released Safety of Use Message (SOUM) 03-006 warning of the danger of serious injury or severe vehicle damage if drivers ignore the warnings in the commercial off-the-shelf John Deere technical manuals. In accordance with the SOUM, M-Gator users should adhere to the following limitations:
The M-Gator shouldn't be used to evacuate litters or carry casualties. In the event of a rollover, soldiers in litters are likely to be crushed.
At no time should more than two riders (the driver and one passenger) be on the M-Gator. The cargo load limit of 1,000 pounds must be followed, and the driver and passenger must wear helmets and eye protection while the vehicle is in motion.
All loads over 50 pounds must be strapped securely to the rear cargo tie-downs or to the cargo shelf in the front of the vehicle.
The M-Gator is not towable-doing so will damage the chain drive, transaxle, and tires. In addition, the M-Gator had not been evaluated for its towing ability, so operators should not attempt to tow trailers behind the M-Gator.
To ensure the vehicle is safe to operate after an airdrop, drivers should inspect the M-Gator for damaged or loose components and for fluid leaks prior to operating.
Ammunition must be placed on a pallet and strapped securely in the rear cargo area.
The M-Gator meets neither DoD nor Army Regulation 385-55 safety standards for use on public roads. M-Gators should not be operated on public roadways-except when crossing over them-and then only at designated crossing points or with road guards.
In addition to SOUM 03-006, the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Memo 25-50, Master Policy No. 73, Fort Bragg Safety Policy on Utilization of the Utility Vehicle M-Gator, states, among other directives, that passengers may not ride in or on the vehicle's cargo areas, and that drivers must be licensed and have their qualifications to drive the M-Gator annotated on an OF 348.
Thanks to Dan Parmley Jr. of Tactical Vehicle Depot and mvdataplates.com for help with this page.
Marines from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, with M-Gator during Operation Urban Warrior, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, NC, 20 January 1998. Note early brush guard and hood tray.
Rear view of five M-Gators at the Administrative and Logistical Operations Center, Udayri Range, Kuwait, 24 March 2003.
Soldiers from the 86th Combat Support Hospital use an M-Gator to transport a litter patient to the field hospital, Iraq, 30 March 2003. Note that the cargo box sides have been folded down to make a flat surface for the litter.
US Army 1SGT Larry Foutch, Company B, 700th Support Battalion, Oklahoma Army National Guard, uses John Deere M-Gator to inspect and coordinate activities at the pier along the Mississippi River, in New Orleans, LA, during Hurricane Katrina relief operations, 7 October 2005. Note later military brush guard and hood tray.
Marine Corps Police, in full tactical gear, with M-Gator, Base Safety Office, MCLB Barstow, CA, August 2007. Note later military brush guard and hood tray.
Restored late model M-Gator belonging to Dan Parmley Jr. Photo courtesy Dan Parmley Jr. of Tactical Vehicle Depot and mvdataplates.com.
Late model M-Gator data sticker. Photo courtesy Dan Parmley Jr. of Tactical Vehicle Depot and mvdataplates.com.
John Deere Trail Gator in Military Use
A John Deere 6X4 Trail Gator coming down the ramp of a C-17A Globemaster III, on the flightline at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 27 March 2002. The maintenance personnel are from the 315th Aircraft Generation Squadron (AGS) reserve unit, Charleston AFB, SC.
Rear view of Trail Gator 4x2 parked at the Maintenance Chief's office trailer, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron Two Three Four (USMC VMGR-234), Camp Wild Fang, Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, 28 August 2003.