Sunday March 20, 2011
The Star on Line
The intensity of combat on the modern battlefield requires infantry vehicles that are mobile, survivable and lethal.
EVEN before the Government agreed to the deployment of troops for the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Lebanon a few years ago, military officials were concerned about the protection of our troops during their tour of duty.
But orders are orders, and the troops were deployed, backed up by a squadron of Condor armoured personnel carriers (APC) made in Germany nearly 30 years ago.
Luckily, as a further back-up, the peacekeepers were supplied with 12 newer Nyala mine-resistant vehicles by the UN.
Since the deployment, no major combat incidents have occurred with the Condors, although one vehicle toppled into a gully in the dry hilly terrain of the MALCON East operational area of Kawkaba, killing a soldier.
“The Condor is a good armoured vehicle that has seen better days, along with the heavier Belgian-made Sibmas which were ordered in the early 1980s and delivered in 1983,” said a local defence analyst.
The vehicles had seen action in the Malaysia-Thai border region, the Balkans, Somalia, Timor Leste and now, Lebanon.
Indeed, the 1993 Bakara Market battle in Mogadishu, highlighted in the Hollywood flick Black Hawk Down where scores of American soldiers were killed and wounded, displayed the vulnerabilities of armoured vehicles in modern-day battle.
Several Malaysian soldiers were also injured and one was killed in the fight when the Condors were hit with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire.
“What we are facing now is block obsolescence of our wheeled armoured vehicle fleet because the two types were procured at almost the same time to face the communist insurgency,” an army general told this writer recently.
“The threat environment has changed. New vehicles to meet present and future threats need to be acquired,” he said, adding that “our boys have to have that protection against enemy fire in a modern battle environment”.
“The requirement for new armoured vehicles has been on the table for quite some time now,” he further pointed out.
Analysts have said that despite the various upgrades through the years, the Army’s present fleet of wheeled armoured vehicles are somewhat dated.
They say the intensity of combat on the modern battlefield requires infantry vehicles that are mobile, survivable, and lethal.
Due to budgetary constraints, many armies continue to use armoured vehicles which might be considered obsolete.
But the chances of troop survival in a much older machine in modern-day battle with a well-equipped enemy is low, one analyst said.
Aware of the need to protect our troops, the Government recently decided to equip the Army with a new generation of multi-purpose armoured vehicles.
Defence contractor DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies (Deftech), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd, early this month announced that it had been awarded a contract worth RM7.55bil from the Government to develop armoured vehicles based on a foreign design for the Army.
Deftech had accepted the Letter of Award dated Feb 23, 2011 from the Government to design, develop, manufacture, commission, supply and deliver 257 units of 12 variants of the 8x8 armoured wheeled vehicles.
The contract is for a period of seven years, starting 2011.
And like many local manufacturers anywhere in the world, the vehicle will be developed in collaboration with a main foreign partner, in this case Turkey.
Deftech will utilise the transfer of advanced defence technologies from its technology partners and original equipment manufacturers (OEM), research and development and local vendor development, it said.
The company also said it expected the contract to create new local OEMs through direct and indirect foreign investments and generate higher employment for the local defence industry.
Deftech had earlier said that the cost of the contract included manufacturing and other costs associated with the production of a new combat vehicle.
DRB-Hicom is one of Malaysia’s leading corporations and plays an integral role in the automotive manufacturing, assembly and distribution industry through its involvement in the passenger car and four-wheel-drive vehicle market segment, the national truck project and the national motorcycle project.
It is an open secret that the Malaysian-developed armoured personnel carrier is being built from the PARS APC produced by the FMC-Nurol Defence System (FNSS) of Turkey.
FNSS is currently one of Turkey’s Top 10 defence firms in terms of total revenue.
Turkey’s Nurol Holding, Inc. maintains a 51% controlling interest in the company.
The PARS is a new generation wheeled amphibious armoured combat vehicle designed and manufactured by FNSS for the Turkish Armed Forces, which reportedly plan to order some 1,000 units.
The vehicles can be easily transported by the Airbus A400M and the Boeing C-17 tactical transport aircraft. The Royal Malaysian Air Force is awaiting delivery of four Airbus A400M tactical airlifters.
Many types of 8x8 armoured vehicles of mostly European and Russian designs are in service in the armed forces of many countries. Even the American Stryker is based on the Swiss Piranha.
Neighbouring Singapore has also developed its Terrex armoured vehicle with foreign technology.
It was reported that the vehicle was developed by Singapore Technologies Kinetics and Irish firm Timoney.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that Deftech has designed and produced an armoured vehicle.
The company has produced an armoured vehicle known as the AV4 in a private venture costing millions of dollars.
The vehicle was intended for the Army and Police but, for some reason, it was not bought by any of these services.
FNSS’ cooperation with Malaysia is not new and the latest one can be seen as a natural progression.
Previously, the company supplied tracked armoured combat vehicles which were assembled by Deftech locally.
The ACV 300 was dubbed by the Malaysian Army as “Adnan” after the Malaysian soldier who fought the invading Japanese to his death along with his men during the Battle of Singapore in World War II.
The PARS armoured vehicle is named after a big cat, as Pars is the Turkish name for the Anatolian Leopard.
Models of the Deftech designs displayed at defence shows were dubbed AV8 but whether it will be later renamed after a big Malaysian cat remains to be seen.
Cynics may regard the Army’s programme for its next-generation wheeled armoured carrier as a wasteful exercise.
Some would say that since we are not at war with anyone and there are no more communist guerillas lurking in the jungles now, why then do we need an armed forces.
But then again, why do we need the fire extinguisher in the house when there is no fire. The current ever-changing strategic and security environment requires that vital element of insurance to ensure that stability, development and economic prosperity can continue unabated.
M. Ghazemy Mahmud is editor of “The Asian Defence Journal”.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Here Is Another Analyst Thoughts On The Av8
In the interest of knowledge-sharing, here is the ADJ's Editor comments on the AV8 purchase;