Camp Pendleton, California - First there was the Nikola One, a 735kW, hydrogen fuel-cell powered, long haul sleeper-cab truck. And the short-wheelbase Nikola Two - the same truck but without a bedroom.

Nikola, of course, was the first name of the Serbian-American inventor of the alternating-current electric motor who gave his surname to Elon Musk’s electric car company.

Then the Nikola Motor Company of Salt Lake City, Utah moved sideways to the NZT, an immensely powerful electric dune buggy, with up to 430kW and 980Nm on tap from a 400 volt, 125kWh battery, that can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 3.3 seconds - and now they’ve got the attention of the US Marines.

The buggy you see here isn’t camo-wrapped to protect it from industrial espionage - it’s one of four military grade Reckless Utility Task Vehicle prototypes - which cost a whopping $85 000 (R1.025 million) each - currently on test with the Marine Corp, and camo is its proper finish.

Amped up

That box on top of the roll cage is actually a weapon station mounting a 7.62mm M240 M2 Browning machine gun, that can be remotely operated from any one of the vehicle’s four seats.

What’s got the Marine Corps amped up, however, is that fully loaded, it’s light enough to be carried aboard an MV-22 Osprey VTOL aircraft - the Marines’ primary battlefield transport.

In this official USA Military Channel video, you’ll seen Marine Corps jarheads hooning around their field training area, up and down steep hills, showing off the Reckless’ acceleration and road-holding.

What's in the name?

Reckless is not a description, it’s the name of a horse that served with distinction in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War.

Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Mongolian-bred mare that was bought in October 1952 for $250 from a Korean stableboy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy a prosthetic leg for his sister, and trained as a pack horse for the recoilless rifle platoon, anti-tank company of the 5th Marine Regiment, carrying supplies and ammunition, and evacuating wounded.

Reckless with her primary trainer, Platoon Gunnery Sergeant Joe Latham. File photo: Andrew Clare Geer, US Marine Corps

She learned each supply route after only a couple of trips and often delivered supplies to troops on her own, without a handler. On one day in late March 1953, during the Battle for Outpost Ridge, she made 51 solo trips to resupply different front-line units, for which she was given the battlefield rank of corporal.

Twice wounded in combat, the only Marine Corps horse ever to have taken part in an amphibious landing was honourably retired in the United States after the war with the official rank of Staff Sergeant, having been awarded two Purple Hearts and a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and died of old age in 1968.

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