The provision of internal security has expanded as new concerns have surfaced across the Asia-Pacific region, with the threat of well-armed and organised groups intent on perpetrating domestic political violence being just one of those challenges.
Responding to civil unrest and mass demonstrations, hostage situations, armed stand-offs and drug trafficking are all contingencies that must be faced. For some countries the job of countering border incursions and internal separatist groups often falls to law enforcement, security, and military forces. These demands along with the growing participation in international operations within and without the region make the fielding of vehicles designed for internal security a priority.
The Internal Security Vehicle (ISV) balances protection and response capabilities while presenting a non-threatening or, at least, a less threatening appearance. These are being increasingly viewed as important criteria when conducting peacekeeping as well. Military combat vehicles are designed primarily to fight which is not a primary role in most internal security tasks. In fact, employing combat vehicles can be seen as provocative. Increasingly the security mission is requiring protection and mobility levels that can only be provided by vehicles specially designed for such roles.
ISVs can fill a number of roles with each specific requirement driving the design. Patrol vehicles tend to be smaller accommodating between two and four people, while incident response vehicles need to carry a team of ten to 14 people, plus equipment for various contingencies. Crowd control vehicles often have water cannons and need to accommodate carrying the volume and weight of water. Attributes like protection against ‘Molotov Cocktails’, rams and blades to push barriers out of the way, and cages over windows may also be required, particularly during riot control.
ISVs for patrol
Maintaining a presence on the ground is key during internal security missions. Regular patrolling gives a firsthand picture of the local situation, and detects and deters threatening activities. Often operating in isolated areas alone or in small groups, the patrol vehicle is a lucrative target for ambush or for roadside bombs. In these circumstances patrolling, once largely conducted by unarmoured vehicles, is increasingly being performed by armoured ISVs. Major General (retired) David Fraser, chief operating officer of INKAS Armoured Vehicles of Toronto, Canada told AMR that “demand for armoured patrol vehicles and the level of protection requested have risen appreciably in the last ten years.”
Protecting ISVs has taken two paths; either adding armour to existing vehicles, referred to as a ‘chassis-based approach’, or developing a new vehicle with integrated protection. The latter often uses a monocoque design which focuses on an armoured ‘capsule’ to which the vehicle’s suspension and subsystems are fitted. The chassis-based approach is less costly than the capsule approach and is effective against ballistic attack, notably gunfire. However, this chassis-based approach has proved less effective against the new weapons of choice, notably insurgent roadside bombs.
The Republic of South Africa, having dealt with mines and bombs during the Border War of 1966 to 1990 which saw South Africa fighting a number of insurgent groups in Namibia and Angola, had perfected vehicles to survive these threats. For example, the Denel RG-32M is one of the most successful blast-protected patrol vehicles with over 800 in service with eight international users including the United Nations. It has an all-steel monocoque hull and shallow ‘V’-hull to protect against small arms and mine blast while the portal axles provide excellent ground clearance yet still keep a stable low profile. Despite having only a 7300 kilogram/kg (16060 pounds/lb) gross weight, it can still carry a payload of over 1000kg (2200lb).
French industry has a long history of light armoured patrol vehicles. The Véhicule Blindé Léger (VBL/Light Armoured Vehicle) developed by Panhard (now part of Renault Trucks Defence) is a true patrol/reconnaissance vehicle. Introduced by the Armée de Terre (French Army) in the 1990s it is discrete with a height of only 1.8 metres/m (5.9 feet/ft) height and is 3.8m (12.4ft) in length accommodating a crew of up to three. The VBL has proved effective in peacekeeping, internal security, and in interventions like France’s ongoing Operation BURKHANE in Mali directed against Islamist insurgents. Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are among the twenty-two countries fielding the VBL. Since 2011, Russia has been negotiating joint production of 500 VBLs for its Border Guards but this initiative remains on hold as a result of Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian civil war.
The Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) has taken a similar approach to the VBL for the design of its internal security vehicle. The Komatsu LAV (Light Armoured Vehicle) is a diesel-powered four-wheel drive vehicle with a four man crew. Initially fielded in 2002, it was deployed during the JGSDF peacekeeping mission to Iraq in 2005. The vehicle can carry weaponry in the form of an FN Herstal 5.56mm Minimi machine gun, General Dynamics/US Ordnance M2HB Browning 12.7mm machine gun, Kawasaki Type-01 LMAT or Kawasaki/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Type-87 Chu-MAT anti-tank guided missiles.
Like Japan, the Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat (TNI-AU/Indonesian Army) has undertaken an indigenous ISV development. The Rantis Komodo is a four-wheel drive tactical vehicle developed by Pundad, a local company, based on a challenge by the country’s then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011. It is in production for the TNI-AU and National Police with 40 reconnaissance models on order with the first delivered in late 2014. The vehicle’s rapid development was possible by drawing on the Renault Sherpa four-wheel drive with which it shares key subsystems. This Sherpa connection is not a surprise, as it has been a very successful patrol/internal security design. Weighing 7.7 to 8.1 tons, the Sherpa can carry up to five people plus medium calibre weapons in roof mount due to its four-ton payload. Indonesia, India, and Brazil are among its users.
To the south of Indonesia, Thales’ Australian subsidiary was awarded a $1.3 billion contract in October 2015 by the Australian Ministry of Defence for its Hawkei armoured vehicle as part of its Land 121 modernisation programme, replacing the Australian Army’s Land Rover 110 vehicles. This contract provides for 1100 Protected Mobility Vehicles–Light (PMV-L), plus 1000 trailers for security, command, liaison, utility and reconnaissance. The Hawkei is a seven-tonne indigenous design that was selected in 2011 over a field of international candidates. The vehicle offers protected mobility against gunfire, mines and explosives as well as incorporating improved situational awareness and networking technologies. A senior spokesperson for the Australian Department of Defence told AMR that “(the) Hawkei represents an entirely new capability for the army with significantly improved ability to operate in high-risk areas.” Chris Jenkins, the chief executive officer of Thales’ Australia division said “the three-and-a-half year production phase will begin in mid-2017, with first deliveries expected towards the end of that year.”
Like the Land Rover 110 mentioned above, one of the most ubiquitous four-wheel drive vehicles in service around the world is the AM General HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle). Since its initial fielding in 1983 by the US Army, the HMMWV has been adopted by over 72 countries, and its exceptional off-road mobility and overall dependability have become legendary, as illustrated by its widespread local manufacture and replication; the People’s Republic of China alone has at least three companies producing copies of the HMMWV (apparently reverse engineered commercial models). The original armoured HMMWV protected against small arms, which was viewed as the threat at that time. It was only when the HMMWV found itself used in a direct combat role against Iraqi insurgents and targeted by roadside bombs and explosives that it was overmatched. It is estimated that 70 percent of US and allied casualties in Iraq were caused by such attacks.
Anticipating a HMMWV upgrade program, a number of companies developed concepts that improved its protection and associated suspension and power. Northrop Grumman presented a solution in 2014 that offered MRAP (Mine- Resistant/Ambush-Protected) enhancements while recovering the mobility lost by the weight of earlier armour additions. Textron offers HMMWV improvements in ‘kits’ ranging from new engines to a monocoque protective capsule (see above). Fitting all five of these kits results in the Survivable Combat Tactical Vehicle (SCTV), in which Colombia and Ukraine have expressed an interest. The company presented its VLB-Buffalo (an upgraded SCTV), at the ExpoDefensa 2015 show in Bogota. VLB has been trialled by the Ejército Nacional de Colombia (Colombian Army). These HMMWV upgrade efforts are company-funded initiatives since the United States military have so far not budgeted nor requested such efforts. However, with a potential international market of over 10000 vehicles in twenty-five countries, including over 7000 HMMWVs in service with the Republic of China Army and the Sandataháng Lakás ng Pilipinas (Philippines Armed Forces) such upgrades have a ready clientele.
Textron’s Commando series lineage traces its roots back to the Cadillac Gage V-100 and V-150 which saw extensive service with US Military Police units in Vietnam beginning in 1963. Over the following decades Commando family vehicles were fielded by 33 countries including Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, with a number of vehicles still in service. The Commando distinctive boat-styled monocoque steel armour hull and high ground clearance are proven to provide mine blast protection; characteristics which have been retained in its successor the M1117 Armoured Security Vehicle (ASV). Accommodating a crew of four, the ASV was first acquired by the US Army Military Police in 1999. The US Army substantially added to its ASV inventory in response to demands for convoy escort in Iraq, eventually fielding over 1800.
Typically the ASV is armed with a one-person turret containing a General Dynamics Mk.19 40mm AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher) and an M2HB or FN Herstal M240 7.62 machine gun in a shielded ring mount. The ASV (or versions thereof) has been fielded by Colombia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Afghan Army has 634 Mobile Strike Force Vehicle (MSFV) variant ASVs acquired between 2011 and 2014 which can accommodate up to ten people. Textron, meanwhile, is providing the TAPV (Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle), that is based on the ASV and MSFV, to the Canadian Army. Government testing continues under the 2009 contract and, if successful, the first deliveries of the 500 units could begin this year.
The need to safely deploy forces in response to security situations requires carrying a large number of personnel, plus their personal and mission equipment, while being protected against small arms and bomb blasts. Yet operations in urban environments can require access to upper-storey building windows or doorways during tactical assaults. This can be achieved by using Elevated Tactical Systems (ETS). Charles Fuqua, ETS manager at Patriot3, a leading ETS supplier, told AMR that “ETSs are remotely-operated ramps mounted on the roof of vehicles and positioned to provide a response team direct access to upper storey windows, roofs and doors, including passenger aircraft. This can be a decisive advantage.” Patriot3 has fielded fifty systems in nine Asia-Pacific countries alone.
Alongside vehicle adornments such as ETSs, local ISV development in the Asia-Pacific is growing. The Royal Thai Army (RTA) and Malaysian Armies have cooperated in developing a new infantry mobility vehicle called First Win. With a 13 tonne wheeled monocoque V-hull design, it provides protected transport against small arms, mines and roadside bombs for ten troops. Initial orders were placed to its manufacturer Chaiseri Defense in 2012 by the RTA and the Thai Ministry of Justice. Subsequently, an additional 250 were purchased with a production rate of 18 yearly. Malaysia’s requirements will be produced under licence by Malaysia’s DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies (DefTech) as the AV-4. A smaller (ten-tonne) version, the First Win-E, has been undergoing trials since late 2014.
Meanwhile, a major aspect of the Republic of Korea Army’s modernisation is its increased emphasis on internal security, countering infiltrators and the control of territory. For these missions the infantry is being equipped with the KW1 Scorpion, a new wheeled armoured vehicle developed by Hyundai Rotem under a $26 million 2012 contract from DAPA, the Republic of Korea’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration. The first vehicles will be a six-wheel drive armoured infantry carrier with a crew of two and ten dismounts. The contract covers a total of 600 to be delivered by 2020 with first fielding in 2016.
Paramount Group, another South African company, has applied its protected vehicle expertise by establishing a collaboration with the Kazakhstan military for a new version of its Marauder. Called Arlan, it is optimized for the climate and conditions of Central Asia. The partnership includes establishing local manufacturing. The Marauder, with a total weight of 17000kg (37400lbs), closely fills the role of a protected troop carrier with a crew of two and eight dismounts. Its large, all-around ballistic proof windows provide excellent visibility of the surroundings for all onboard, a valuable feature for an ISV and offers protection against 12.7mm ammunition and eight kilograms (17.6lbs) of explosives.
Germany’s Streit Group, meanwhile, has applied its armour experience to protected response vehicles. Primarily focused on police and para-military forces its Typhoon four-wheel drive meets the demands by these users for increasing protection levels including mine blast. Two vehicles were delivered in 2014 for use by the Pasukan Operasi Khusus Malaysia, a Special Operations counter-insurgency force. The Typhoon has a crew of two and eight dismounts.
Whereas the Typhoon, Marauder and First Win (see above) were designed from ground up, Lenco, a US firm, builds its BearCat ISV or ‘armoured rescue vehicle’ around a Ford F-550 Super Duty commercial truck chassis. Their open layout and large interior lend themselves not only to transporting a response SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team but adaption for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams, protected emergency medical and evacuation roles. This chassis-based design is generally less costly but is fully suited to urban and primarily road use. Users include law enforcement and military police with vehicles found in Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and the United States.
INKAS uses a similar approach for its Sentry and Huron vehicles employing respectively Ford and Kenworth chassis. Maj. Gen. Fraser indicated a major benefit is that “maintenance is easier even allowing use of local commercial workshops.” He added, an additional consideration is realising that “unlike most military vehicles the ISV must operate within the population which necessitates an entirely different appearance and complete reliance on passive solutions for protection.”
Response to large public demonstrations, unruly crowds, and mass unrest in urban areas present some unique challenges when coupled with a desire for a vehicle to appear non-threatening, and the recognition that the vehicle and its team will spend much of its time ‘standing by’ and waiting. A popular and utilitarian configuration for these urban response vehicles could be called an armoured ‘box’ on wheels. These are often, but not exclusively, locally adapted commercial trucks. However, a number of companies have applied their military and security vehicle design experience resulting in vehicles optimised for this role.
Denel’s RG-12 is representative of such a design. The vehicle received worldwide attention in its use in the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa. It features large armoured windows, powered sliding side access doors (ideal for tight spaces where a hinged door could not be opened), and a large climate controlled interior that can carry up to twelve personnel or provide ample storage for weapons, body armour and riot control equipment. The RG12 is in use with 14 countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Saudi Arabia. Paramount offers a similar vehicle with its Maverick, as does Renault with its MIDS Police Armoured Personnel Transport.
Green or Blue?
Real or perceived concerns over the escalating threats in executing internal security missions has increasingly seen not only the wider adoption of armoured security vehicles but the demand for significantly higher levels of protection. Maj. Gen Fraser again reflected “as the lines between law enforcement and the military become blurred so are the differences (between) the ISV and military combat vehicles, often unfortunately, disappearing.” In fact, excess and retired combat vehicles are regularly being provided for security and tactical law enforcement tasks. With greater involvement in peacekeeping, stability and counter-insurgency operations, which focuses heavily on security tasks, plus continued concerns about well-armed domestic threats, it is clear that the ISV will continue to play an important role.