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Oct 08, 2010

Mercedes-Benz keen to bid on SA defence force’s vehicle fleet programmes

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Mercedes-Benz says it is interested in bidding on projects Vistula and Sapula, which aim to rejuvenate the Depart- ment of Defence’s (DoD’s) logistical truck and armoured personnel carrier fleets respectively, as soon as the tenders become available.

The long-awaited Vistula is expected first.

It is estimated that Vistula could involve 1 000 to 1 500 new vehicles, with Sapula rumoured to be at just under 2 000 units.

“We understand that the tender for Vistula awaits Ministerial approval,” says Mercedes-Benz Military Business manager Dr Harry Teifel.

Both Vistula, replacing the old Samil vehicles, and Sapula, replacing the Ratel fleet, are multibillion-rand deals.

Teifel says that Mercedes-Benz will be a level-five turnkey service provider on Vistula should its bid be successful, which means the German company, which also manufactures cars and trucks in South Africa, will supply the vehicles to the DoD, and then also maintain them for a period of 30 years.

“It appears that the DoD wants Vistula and Sapula to have a similar drivetrain, which means a high parts commonality and a saving in costs.”

Should Mercedes-Benz clinch the contract, the vehicles supplied to the DoD will be based on the Zetros and Actros models, available within the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle range.

Teifel says Mercedes-Benz has 106 years of experience in producing military vehicles. To date, the company has supplied 150 000 units to 80 armies worldwide.

Mercedes Benz is to pair with South African defence firm Land Mobility Technologies (LMT) in its bid for the Vistula contract.

In 2007 and 2008, the partnership supplied the Canadian Forces with more than 80 armoured trucks.

LMT is responsible for manufacturing the protected cab on the vehicles.

A typical cab LMT could present for the Vistula project would offer level 1 ballistic protection and level 3a/3b mine protection, which means it will survive an 8-kg land-mine explosion under its wheels or belly, explains LMT production director Andy Hodgson.

He says LMT has a long history of providing armoured cabs for all the vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz military vehicle range, including developing new cabs for the German company.

One of these is the Big Daddy, which Hodgson says provides some of the highest levels of protection in the world.

The cab weighs 4,5 t, with the door alone a hefty 300 kg.

This cab can survive a 10-kg land-mine, multiple shots with a 14,5 canon, and the blast from a 1-m-high, 50-kg improvised explosive device placed 2 m from the door.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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