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Billionaires are spending millions on luxury tanks—here’s what it’s like to ride in one

Billionaires! They're just like us. Except some of them cruise around in luxury tanks that cost half a million dollars.

Brothers Michael and Geoff Howe are the founders of Howe and Howe Technologies, the company that sells these tanks to buyers like Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, who bought an entire fleet.

"Our clients tend to be the richest people in the world," the Howes told CNBC. "They're billionaires."

Jay Leno's Garage | CNBC

Jay Leno pays them a visit on Thursday's episode of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" and goes on a ride in their Ripsaw EV2, a tank with an MSRP of $400,000, a 500 horsepower engine and, as Leno discovers, solid handles.

Strapped in behind the wheel using computer steering, Leno topples mounds of dirt and plunges through muddy water. "I've never been in a vehicle you can't damage," he says. "I thought I could break anything. Apparently not."

When he swaps seats with Michael, who's a bit more daring, the Ripsaw seems even more indestructible. The tank actually drifts, nearly goes airborne and whips around the dirt track until Leno begins to look a little squeamish — and wet.

"Well, we know it's not waterproof," he jokes, as mud splashes in from overhead.

When the Howes aren't selling their high-end machinery to civilians, they're selling it to the government. Their RS1 Base System, for instance, is a robot designed to absorb the impact of an improvised explosive device. The RSBI Swat-Bot is an easily transportable, heavy-duty piece of protection for police officers. Each costs at least $100,000.

During the episode, Geoff joins Leno and Michael on the track to show off a new tank model, the Ripsaw SSR1, which hits a top speed of 75 mph and is also for civilian use. According the company website, it has a starting price of $595,000, but, as CNBC previously reported, extra amenities like infrared thermal imaging for late night joy rides and armor plating for who-knows-what could bump that cost.

Leno can imagine why the super-rich might splurge on the vehicles. After his ride, he emerges from the passenger seat, thanks the Howe brothers and says, "I've found a job that's almost as much fun as mine."

CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT.

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Video by Richard Washington