Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) have progressed significantly since their first deployment during the Rhodesian bush war. Despite at that time being very primitive, they were nevertheless highly effective and saved countless lives.
It was the South Africans who took these developments further and developed vehicles such as the “Buffel” (Buffalo), Casspir, “Kwevoel” and so on. In simple terms, the vehicles were built with V-shaped hulls as it is known that an explosive shock wave travels the path of least resistance and the V-shaped hull allows the shockwave to disperse up the sides of the hull, thus deflecting the blast away from the hull. In turn, this minimises injury and even death.
I know how effective this technique of blast-deflection is as I survived in a Buffel that hit a British Mk7 anti-tank mine. That made my name the first entry into the war diary of 1 January, 1980. That was 29 years ago – and at that period, the Buffel had already seen active service for some time. The Casspir, along with the Buffel, were arguably the first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to enter the combat zone anywhere in the world. Ironically, old South African MPVs/MRAPs are still, today, making their mark in combat zones in Africa and the Middle East.
What I cannot understand – or even believe – is why the British army is still using Land Rovers as combat vehicles. Similarly, the US is using the Humvee. Whereas these vehicles may have a distinctive role to play, it is not something any soldier should be sent into a mine-threat zone or enemy strong-area in. The armour these vehicles have on their sides gives no protection to landmines and IEDs.
But the question that needs to be answered is “what constitutes an ‘ambush protected’ vehicle”? Is it protection against small arms fire or does that include protection against anti-tank weapons? If the latter, then we are a long way from finding a true “ambush protected” vehicle as even the M1 tank is not resistant to certain anti-tank missiles.
However, the typical MPV/MRAP is a very expensive vehicle. That is, until OTT Technologies came along…
With the Puma M26-15, OTT Armoured vehicles (a unit of OTT Technologies), has developed a cost-effective medium MPV/MRAP without compromising the safety of the crew. The M26-15 is a continuation of the Puma 4 x 2 MPV that has been successfully deployed in Iraq.
The Puma M26-15 recently passed its dynamic automotive tests with flying colours.
The main design parameter was to develop a lower cost and robust mine protected vehicle that can be deployed effectively and safely in the harsh environments of Africa and other developing regions whilst offering excellent protection against small arms fire. The M26-15 has a crew complement of 10 (driver and commander plus 8). The vehicle is robust and easy to maintain in the field making it an MPV/MRAP with a low life-cycle cost.
The 8 ton Puma M26-15 has a sustained road speed of 80 km/h, a gradient of 60% and a side slope capability of more than 25⁰. Wide windows ensure a exceptional situational awareness while 12 firing ports plus two roof hatches and a 360⁰ cupola with a pintle mount for a light machine gun ensures quick and furious retaliation from the crew in case of an ambush.
I am very fortunate to have been one of the very few who have to date seen this vehicle – and I am very impressed.
As with any new vehicle, the actual tactical deployment of the vehicle needs to be confirmed.
Something that bothers me is that modern-day soldiers believe they ought to drive into battle. This is the role of mechanised infantry as these soldiers need to dismount prior to or on top of the objective – if all anti-tank weapons have been silenced. If not, they debus before the objective and fight their way through it with the vehicle giving fire support.
MPVs and MRAPs do not constitute mechanised infantry. The deployment of these vehicles therefore calls for an in-depth look at how they should be deployed to give the protection they ought to give. Whereas they can carry weapon systems able to give very good suppressive and supporting fire, they still need to be deployed correctly.
OTT’s new generation Puma will give the infantry the protection they need – as long as the vehicle is not deployed as a mechanised infantry vehicle. If used correctly, it will give the soldier an advantage, allowing him to arrive close to the combat zone, fresh to fight and still allow for effective fire-and-manoeuvre.
I hope that governments will take a look at this vehicle as it gives an excellent level of protection to the soldiers they are keen to commit to battle. At least now their fighting men will stand a chance. If fitted with the Bloodhound Mk1 (see my previous post dd April 2009) they will be able to track each vehicle’s movements and position.
Anyone interested in more information can visit OTT at www.ott.co.za and see the full range of vehicles they manufacture.