South African defence company BAE Systems Land Systems OMC, which designs and manufactures armoured and mine-protected vehicles, is meeting evolving international market conditions with a quartet of new vehicles. In recent years, the company’s production lines have been filled by mine-resistant and ambush- protected (Mrap) vehicles for the US military.
“We didn’t expect Mrap orders to go on forever,” states BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa MD Johan Steyn. (Land Systems South Africa comprises three companies: Land Systems OMC, Land Systems Gear Ratio, and Land Systems Dynamics.) “Now that time has come. There are no more Mrap orders. But we have developed new products. We – Land Systems South Africa – spend almost 2% of our turnover on research and development. We are investing millions of rands in these new products, which are not focused on a specific opportunity. In this business, you have to do upfront investment if you want to succeed in later years. “The global BAE Systems group is very supportive of this kind of strategy. This is a very mature attitude.”
Two of the new vehicles are developments and improvements of existing designs, and two are completely new designs. They are the RG31 Mk 6E (which is a 4 × 4 vehicle), the RG32M LTV (also 4 × 4), the RG34 (4 × 4), and the latest, the RG35 (6 × 6, but with a 4 × 4 version under development).
The RG31 Mk 6E is the latest version of the company’s highly successful Mrap design and was first unveiled at the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2008 exhibition in Cape Town. It is fitted with new antimine seats, which incorporate crushable shock attenuation elements developed by Land Systems OMC, which absorb some of the vertical force associated with land mine detonations, decreasing the chance of injury. The RG31 Mk6E is also slightly wider and longer than its predecessor, the RG31 Mk5, and has a greater payload capacity, giving it a gross vehicle mass of 21 t, as against 17 t for the Mk5 (see Engineering News March 13, 2009). “We have received very positive reports on the performance of earlier model RG31s in Afghanistan,” he reveals.
The RG32M LTV is a significant redesign of the RG32M. LTV stands for Light Tactical Vehicle. It has improved mine protection in comparison with previous models, providing greater blast survivability and crew protection. “The RG32M is mine hardened, but the RG32M LTV is mine protected. The RG32M LTV has a V-shaped hull, while the RG32M doesn’t,” explains Steyn. “Even so, the Swedes have deployed RG32Ms – not LTVs – to Afghanistan and we are getting good reports from them as well.”
The RG32M LTV has a gross vehicle mass of only 9 t. Its armour can protect its crew from armour-piercing rifle fire as well as antitank land mine blasts, with its externally mounted windows providing improved side-blast protection. It has a 200-mm- wider hull and 50-mm-greater head space in comparison with earlier RG32Ms. The LTV version also has an increased, 2-t, payload and a new design of load bay, which can take a wide variety of mission-specific equipment (see Engineering News January 30, 2009).
The RG34 is a mine-protected,
amphibious, light armoured vehicle, originally developed by
South African specialist engineering enterprise Industrial & Automotive South Africa, under a contract from Belgian company Sabiex. As a result, the prototype vehicles were built in Belgium and the intellectual property (IP) belonged to Sabiex. Land Systems South Africa bought the IP from Sabiex earlier this year and rebranded the vehicle as the RG34 (see Engineering News July 3, 2009).
The RG35, the company’s latest design, was unveiled recently at the major British biennial defence exhibition, Defence Systems and Equipment Inter- national (better known as DSEi), in London. At the launch, Steyn remarked: “We have combined a 4 × 4 mine-protected vehicle with a modern 8 × 8 combat vehicle. It is groundbreaking. It is a new class of vehicle.” Based on its experiences with the Ratel and iKlwa armoured fighting vehicles and the RG31 Mrap, the company developed the RG35 in just one year.
Advances found in the RG35 include a side-mounted power pack, which can be replaced in just 30 minutes. Traditionally, armoured vehicle power packs have been either at the front or at the rear of the vehicle. The RG35 has a payload of nearly 15 t. It is air transportable in an Airbus A400M (or larger) transport aircraft. One of the benefits of this is that it makes it easy to attach add-on armour to the vehicle without overloading it. It has been so designed that an additional 120 mm of armour can be added to the hull bottom V, while the hull sides can take 50 mm of addi- tional armour (see Engineering News September 18, 2009).
•Campbell recently attended the Defence Systems and Equip- ment International 2009 exhibition in London as a guest of BAE Systems.