Upgraded Military Vehicles Make Debut at IDEX

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The International Defense Exhibition and Conference opened its doors to visitors on Feb. 23 with companies from all over the world rolling out new military vehicles in hopes of attracting buyers.

Emirates Defense Technology revealed their Enigma armored fighting vehicle prototype at IDEX. With it, the company plans to compete for a contract to build up to 1,200 units for the UAE, said Thyagarajan Raja, its procurement manager.

Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Feb. 22 visited Emirates Defense’s booth and watched the unveiling of the vehicle.

"The crown prince of Abu Dhabi ... was very happy about what he had seen yesterday,” Raja said. “We were all happy with the comments that he made.” 

Enigma was purpose-built for Emirati requirements and environmental conditions, he said. It can be used as an amphibious vehicle, and has the ability to withstand underbelly blasts. It is also equipped with a cyclonic air filter to keep dust and sand from interfering with internal components of the vehicle.

Another feature of the Enigma is its modularity, he said. “We are planning to build this vehicle with various different types of gun mounts.” The prototype is displayed with a BMP-3 turret on it, but other options will be available as well.

The vehicle has a 711-horsepower engine and Caterpillar CX31 transmission, Raja said. It has a 28-ton payload and an independent suspension.

The company will begin testing the vehicle with the UAE military this summer, with swim and firing trials to follow. It will conduct blast testing internally in late spring.

“Hopefully we’ll be getting a contract from the UAE armed forces and we’ll start supplying,” he said. Enigma faces competition from companies such as Finland’s Patria and Turkey’s Otokar Arma.

Meanwhile, U.S. truck manufacturer Oshkosh unveiled an ambulance version of its MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle. The M-ATV Extended Wheel Base Medical was originally developed for the U.S. Army, but the vehicle was mothballed when the service chose not to buy it, said John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense. The company decided to resurrect it because of international demands in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.

“I can't say specifically that we have a contract for the ambulance today, but we’re working toward that end,” he said. “We have shown it to different members of the medical community. They like what they see.”  

The M-ATV is in use by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as other European countries, and Urias said he expects to see customers emerge in both regions for other vehicles in the M-ATV family.

The company has completed internal tests of its medical variant and is ready to conduct any trials required by international militaries interested in purchasing it.

The ambulance can accommodate a driver, commander, medic and four patients — two in ambulatory seats and two in litters, Urias said.

“The purpose of this vehicle is to take them from the point where they were injured to a field hospital where they can seek further treatment,” he said. “Why is this vehicle important? Well, you’re protected against [improvised explosive devices]. It’s a very hazardous battlefield out there.”

Many international militaries move injured troops from combat to hospitals using Humvees, which are less armored than an M-ATV. Another deficiency is that the Humvee’s ride is very bumpy, making it difficult to treat the patient. The M-ATV’s TAK-4 independent suspension makes for a smoother journey, Urias said.

The internal configuration of the ambulance can be customized with whatever medical equipment is needed, such as defibulators, oxygen and plasma.

Litter-bound patients can be loaded into the truck within two minutes or less, company information said.

French vehicle-maker Renault Trucks offered up a new 6x6 medium armored vehicle called the VAB Mark 3, which can be purchased as an armored personnel carrier, infantry combat vehicle, command post, ambulance and mortar carrier.

It can also be kitted for amphibious use, but at the expense of some of its armored protection, which is comparable to an MRAP, said a representative from the company. Renault officials declined to speak on the record to National Defense.

The company has built five VAB Mark 3s for testing and is looking for customers in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. The vehicle is smaller and more agile than the heavy 8x8 platforms that have become predominant in the industry, and customers would be able to buy the VAB Mark 3 for about half the cost, the official said.

The company produced the original VAB in the 1970s. It was then widely used by the French army in conflicts like the Gulf War and exported to more than 10 countries. France has already chosen its own replacement to the VAB, but Renault executives believes foreign users of the original will be eager to try what they see as the VAB’s spriitual successor.

The 20-ton Mark 3 version is a clean sheet design with a 4-ton payload, and in its personnel carrier form can transport a total of 12 troops.

Other companies at IDEX are releasing new weapons and equipment for armored vehicles.

Turkish manufacturer FNSS Savunma Sistemleri’s Saber 25 turret made its international debut at the exhibition. The Saber is a one-man, medium caliber turret for infantry fighting vehicles, said Tony Norrish, technical consultant for engineering and research and development. It can also be used to transform other ground platforms, such as armored personnel carriers, into an infantry fighting vehicle.

“We just completed this in December of last year and started our testing of it,” he said.

The turret comprises two armaments: a 25 mm M242 chain gun made by Alliant Techsystems, now Orbital ATK, and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun from FN Herstal, he said. The guns can fire 240 rounds and 600 rounds respectively.

The sight system includes thermal imaging for night operations, a telescope for daytime operations and a laser range finder.

The Saber is not targeted toward any particular competitions or emerging requirements, he said. “The customer that we’re trying to approach with this is anyone that is interested in our 8x8 wheeled vehicle and also the upgrading of the M113 because this can be added to the M113 family of vehicles very easily.”  The Malaysian Army is FNSS’s first and only customer of the 8x8 platform.

The company is in talks with two Middle Eastern countries about the Saber, but he would not disclose which ones. 

After IDEX, the company will proceed with fire tests and other internal demonstrations, he said. “By June of this year, it will be fully qualified for any customer trials.”

Topics: International, Land Forces

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