South Africa's Benoni-based mine-protected and armoured fighting vehicle company, BAE Systems Land Systems OMC, unveiled its latest design, the RG35, at the major British biennial defence exhibition Defence Systems and Equipment International (better known as DSEi) in London on Tuesday.
"We have combined a 4x4 mine-protected vehicle with a modern 8x8 combat vehicle," announced BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa MD Johan Steyn.
"It is groundbreaking. It is a new class of vehicle. The standard model is the 6x6 version. But we plan a family of vehicles, and we will have a 4x4 vehicle."
There is no launch customer for the RG35 yet, but the vehicle is likely to be submitted for the British Army's Light Protected Patrol Vehicle project. The company is confident that its new vehicle will win orders from around the world.
It was the 6x6 standard model that was unveiled in London. Its development is based on expertise gained, on the one hand, from the development of the Ratel and iKlwa armoured vehicles and, on the other, from the development of the RG31 mine-protected vehicle family. The basic V-shaped design of the hull is taken from the RG31.
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 rear of the vehicle.
Further, the vehicle has been designed to accommodate hybrid electric drive, once this becomes available. "It will be very easy to incorporate this drive into this vehicle," says Steyn.
Mounting the power pack on the side creates a large internal volume and the RG35's volume under armour is 15 cubic metres. The vehicle can carry a driver and up to 15 passengers. All critical systems are under armour, which was not the case with previous, mine-protected, vehicles. It has a dual-unit air-conditioning system, so that, if one unit is lost, the other is still available.
The RG35 has a payload of nearly 15 t. 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 additional armour.
The basic version, displayed in London, is fitted with a new generation Overhead Manual Turret - Multiweapon, designed and developed by another unit of the company, Pretoria-based BAE Systems Land Systems Dynamics. However, a wide variety of alternative turrets will be available.
The RG35 will be available in a wide variety of versions, from the basic infantry-carrying combat vehicle, to command post vehicle, engineering vehicle, 120 mm mortar vehicle, anti-aircraft gun vehicle, recovery vehicle, and ambulance.
The 6x6 RG35 is 2,5 m wide, just over 7 m long, and 2,7 m high. It has a turning circle of 15 m, which is less than that of an RG31.
The company has already produced the hull for the first 4x4 version of the vehicle, and plans to have the prototype 4x4 completed and operational by this time next year.
(Keith Campbell is attending the DESi as a guest of BAE Systems)