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Jul 21, 2008

SA defence group lands another big US DoD order

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North American defence group General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada has announced yet another order from the US Department of Defence (DoD) for South African company BAE Systems Land Systems OMC’s RG31 mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) 4x4 vehicles, reports US website defenseindustrydaily.com.

The order could be worth $552-million and is for 773 RG31 Mk5E vehicles, and is in addition to 566 RG31s ordered last month (June) by the US; neither of these orders should be confused with the 624 RG31s already supplied to US forces.

Production of the vehicles for this latest order will be split between South Africa and the US.

According to defenseindustrydaily.com the driving force behind these orders is the RG31’s operational success in Afghanistan.

The Americans already have some 800 MRAPs of all types in that country. Reportedly, US commanders in that theatre particularly want more RG31s because this type is smaller and lighter that other MRAP vehicles, yet is well suited to the poor Afghan roads and difficult terrain. Furthermore, the intensity of violence in that country is increasing. Deliveries of this latest batch of RG31s is scheduled for completion by next April (2009).

Benoni-based Land Systems OMC has also enjoyed great success with the US DoD with its RG33 4x4 and RG33L 6x6 MRAP vehicle designs. However, all RG33 family MRAPs for the American forces have been manufactured in the US, with the South African company receiving royalties.

Engineering News has reported previously that key components for the vehicles, such as the armoured steel, the engines, and the transmissions, are imported into South Africa. Land Systems OMC sources quite a lot of things from South Africa, but these components have to be imported because there is no local manufacturing capability. The company sources its armoured steel from a number of plants around the world, so it has more that one option. The imported inputs together amount to about 50% by value of each RG31; however, the labour is 100% South African. So about 60% to 70% of the total value of the South African manufacturing contracts stays in the country

In should be noted that another 295 RG31s were manufactured under licence in the US, also for the Marines. The there are the Benoni company's RG33 4x4 and RG33L 6x6 MRAP vehicles, specifically designed and developed to meet the specifications and requirements of the US military, and produced under licence in the US, bringing in millions of rands in royalties to the Benoni company. Until now, the US had ordered a total of 2 182 RG33s of both types. The new order takes the total to 2 222. The success of this programme has demonstrated the company's ability to rapidly design and prototype vehicles for specific user requirements.

The RG31 is a 4x4 vehicle with a V-shaped monocoque welded steel hull, and comes in amroured personnel carrier (APC), ambulance, and utility vehicle variants. In APC form it can accomodate a driver and up to nine other troops. The utility version can carry cargo or mount weapons, such as an 81 mm mortar, or a 106 mm recoilless rifle, or a 20 mm cannon. The RG31 Mk 5 has a 205 kW powerplant. Maximum speed is 105 km/h. The Mark 5 is 6,6 m in length, has a width of 2,47 m, a height of 2,727 m, a wheelbase of 3,425 m, and a ground clearance of 0,389 m. The payload is 3 700 kg.

The RG33 is a medium weight vehicle with a gross vehicle mass of 22 t - which means it can be airlifted in a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft which is, for the Americans, a tactical aircraft - with a payload capacity of 7 t. It features a V-shaped hull of the latest design, providing enhanced protection, and is armoured against 7,62 mm machine gun fire. Its large, armoured, windows provide excellent vision for its crew and embarked troops, and the vehicle can itself mount a machine gun - fitted with an armoured but transparent shield for the gunner - or, alternatively, a remotely-controlled weapons station.

 

Edited by: Matthew Hill

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