Jordan Eyes Expansion of Domestic Defense Industry
The Jordanian government is taking steps to boost its domestic defense industry. In particular, a research and development center is achieving tangible results in building sophisticated technology for internal and border security, VIP protection, surveillance and emergency response.
While this equipment, in many cases, answers the needs of the Jordanian armed forces, the center, known as the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau, also is determined to expand its reach in the Middle East and North Africa, Col. Ghazi Khdairi, bureau deputy director general and director of scientific research, told National Defense.
An independent entity within the Jordanian armed forces that reports directly to the king, the bureau has its own laboratories, production and manufacturing facilities. KADDB was established by royal decree in 1999 to provide independent scientific and technical services to Jordan’s armed forces. In the process, the bureau also is assisting the Hashemite Kingdom in creating a sustainable industrial base.
After five years of operation, KADDB now has more than 30 development programs, said Khdairi. Most of the programs are carried out with the help of international partners and Jordanian companies.
“We are not an industrial country, and we bring in the necessary technology by identifying strategic international partners and work with them jointly to develop a product or a technology,” he said.
When it started out, the company’s focus was on converting and armoring existing trucks, land systems and tanks. While that has proven a mainstay for KADDB, it has started moving into building light aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. It also has begun efforts on soldier protection, such as helmets and body armor, Khadairi said. “So far, the work is being done in these areas to meet the requirements of the armed forces,” Khdairi said.
According to bureau documents, part of the strategic direction for this year is to design, develop and evaluate wheeled and tracked armored fighting vehicles. In the process, KADDB plans to establish a series of joint ventures.
Plans involve expanding KADDB’s expertise to communications, battlefield management and air defense systems. Aeronautics also is on the list, to include aircraft upgrades and systems integration. KADDB researchers specialize in software development, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, robotics and genomics.
The first priority is to meet military needs, said Khdairi. Business is balanced between the armed forces’ requests and the bureau’s push for its own technologies or concepts. One example of an idea generated by the bureau for the military is the Desert Iris Jeep. A multi-purpose vehicle, the Desert Iris was developed by Jordan Light Vehicle Manufacturing—a joint venture between KADDB and the United Kingdom’s Jankel Group—and SHP Motorsports, also a U.K. company.
The Desert Iris has a Toyota 2.8 liter engine, manual gearbox and four-wheel drive. With a large load area, the truck can carry four soldiers in combat gear. A variety of weapons can be mounted on the Desert Iris.
Jordanian forces used the vehicle during United Nations peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone. Now the vehicle is employed in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Libya, said Khdairi.
Technologies based on Jordanian military requirements have found markets outside the country, said Khdairi. Wheeled armored vehicles—basically commercial SUVs with extra armor—for counter-terrorism border and internal security “became successful nationally and internationally,” he noted. These vehicles currently are used by the United Nations, he said.
In February, a cooperative venture between Abu Dhabi-based Bin Jabr Group and KADDB, called Advanced Industries of Arabia, won a $41 million contract to supply the UAE armed forces with the so-called Nimr 4x4 high mobility tactical vehicle. The Nimr order calls for 500 vehicles in a mix of four variants. The first batch will be delivered this June. The vehicle has a custom-made cooling system, which allows troops to operate in extreme weather conditions. The Nimr will be manufactured at a KADDB plant in Jordan.
The bureau now is working extensively to upgrade and integrate systems for battle tanks and combat vehicles. In partnership with Raytheon, KADDB is upgrading the M60 A3 tank with an integrated fire control system.
The Phoenix program improves the tank’s shoot-on-the-move capabilities, lethality and survivability. The IFCS consists of a gunner’s primary sight system, a ballistic computer and an enhanced turret stabilization system. Part of the program is the replacement of the M60’s 105-mm rifled cannon with the Swiss RUAG land systems L 50 120-mm smoothbore compact tank gun.
The first M60 A3 tank battalion upgraded with the Raytheon system is operational. Another three battalions will follow by 2007.
The IFCS also is being installed in the Al Hussein hybrid tank, a former British Challenger 1 tank outfitted with the RUAG 120 mm smooth bore gun. Additionally, KADDB is planning to install a new auxiliary power unit on the Al Hussein tank. This APU also is proposed to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense for the country’s Challenger 2 tanks, said a company official. The U.K. supplied Jordan with 400 Challenger 1 tanks as part of a government-to-government deal.
Another project, called Falcon, is aimed at the development of a highly survivable, reduced-silhouette turret capable of firing 105 mm guns and all types of NATO 120 mm smoothbore ammunition. The design of the Falcon turret places the crew below the turret ring. The reduced volume helps to diminish the vehicle’s profile.
In conjunction with Mechanology Design Bureau of South Africa, CLS Jordan and General Dynamics, KADDB is working on the Temsah tracked heavy infantry combat vehicle. It can operate alongside the most advanced battle tanks.
The Temsah is can be equipped with reactive armor and has a front-mounted engine to increase protection. It can carry a crew of two and up to 10 troops. The vehicle can be configured as a tracked ambulance, command post or a mortar/howitzer platform.
KADDB is collaborating on a series of projects with the Jordanian armed forces. Monjed P2 is a recovery vehicle based on the chassis of the decommissioned U.S. M60A1 tank. Monjed can be used for recovery and repair of tanks in the battlefield. The vehicle carries a range of repair equipment, including a crane, cutting material and air tools.
Another system, Armored Shield, provides protection for .50 cal. machine gun operators on the M113 and the URUTU armored personnel carriers. The project was initiated in response to an urgent requirement of the military in support of units deployed on U.N. operations. The 90-kilogram shield protects from all directions. Ballistic proof windows provide vision in different directions.
In partnership with the armed forces’ Royal Maintenance Corps, KADDB is able to supply new and refurbished armored fighting vehicles.
KADDB has been touted as the first company to develop military unmanned vehicles in the Arab world. The design and development bureau worked in 2001 with Jordan Aerospace Industries in a joint venture, called Jordan Advanced Remote Systems, to develop a series of tactical drones. “In this case, the need came from the military, and it is almost a given that they are going to use the UAVs,” said Khdairi.
The Falcon UAV is designed for surveillance missions. It performs real-time day and night reconnaissance, remote sensing, surveillance and target acquisition up to 50 kilometers. The Falcon has a two-stroke engine that burns a mixture of gas and oil. The UAV has an endurance of four hours but could be equipped with additional fuel tanks for more capacity.
The system’s ground control station is available in tabletop or shelter-mounted configurations.
The Silent Eye is a backpack portable UAV used for scouting missions, area and perimeter control, highway monitoring and surveillance. It is also suited for search-and-rescue mission support and convoy security.
The Silent Eye can be assembled and disassembled in less than 15 minutes, officials said. Advanced system autonomy enables hands-off operation of the system from takeoff through recovery.
The I-Wing is a mini UAV with a 1.25-meter wingspan, which can be carried by two people in a lightweight, waterproof case and is shoulder launched. The wings and tail of the I-Wing are stored in a folded position, but immediately unfold when rocket-launched. On reaching a 100-meter altitude, the hard propellant engine is ejected, and an electric motor is automatically started.
The Jordan Arrow is an aerial target system that is intended for both air-defense training and testing of weapon systems. The Arrow simulates a variety of air defense threats. The target is a recoverable UAV equipped with power plant, automatic flight control system, recovery parachute and modular multi-version mission payloads.
A sizeable part of KADDB’s income comes from government contracts. The company also funds internal research projects, or partners with other firms to share the costs and, if the products are sold, the revenues.
“The focus of the company will be based on the need of the region,” Khadairi noted. Strategic partnerships with U.S., British, South African, Jordanian and Emirati firms, among many, help the company survive and succeed in the region.