Procurement: UAE Armored Trucks


August 6, 2023: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is not a single nation, but a federation of seven emirates created in the 1960s when Britain withdrew its military forces from the region and a suddenly aggressive Iran made moves to take control. This compelled the emirates to unite and seek a new foreign ally. The United States stepped in and based military forces in the emirates in order to protect the continued independence of the UAE. The American presence was welcomed and that relationship continues.

Each of the emirates is a monarchy but the seven emirates jointly elect and operate the UAE government. Currently the UAE has a population of about 10 million but less than 12 percent of those are citizens of the various emirates. The rest of the population are expatriates from other nations who come to the UAE as contract employees to run the government and much of the economy. The emirates make this work because otherwise they would not exist as an independent entity. The UAE survives by being practical and useful to neighbors, allies and trading partners. The UAE provides enticing opportunities to attract its foreign workforce, many of them skilled contractors who prosper by making the UAE economy work. The UAE economy is dominated by local entrepreneurs who seek opportunities to keep the UAE prosperous and an attractive place to do business. While the UAE has oil for export, it achieves its high GDP more by offering much less corrupt, and arguably honest, business services for other nations in the region. Currently the UAE has one of the most prosperous economies in the region with a per-capita income of $88,000.

Among the many businesses the UAE has created or owns there are several that manufacture and market military vehicles. This began in the 1990s with the founding of NIMR Automotive. The UAE contracted Russian firms to help establish NIMR and provide assistance in developing and manufacturing competitive vehicles for export. It took over a decade to get this operation working and using NIMR as a model, UAE entrepreneurs have created several additional manufacturing companies. One of the more successful of these has been Calidus, a Defense Technology Development and Manufacturing Company founded in 2015 to produce vehicles as well as components for aircraft and other high value vehicles. This includes armored vehicles like the nine-ton 4x4 MCAV-20 armored truck. The armor protects against small arms fire and shell fragments as well as roadside bombs. The UAE introduced the MCAV-20 in 2021 and manufactures it at a plant located in the UAE.

MCAV-20 is not the first armored truck the UAE has introduced. In 2017 the UAE firm NIMR Automotive made its first sales outside the Arab world by obtaining an order from Turkmenistan for an undisclosed number of its new LRSOV (Long Range Special Operations Vehicle) 4x4 armored vehicle. LRSOV was designed for cross country operations and is an update of the Ajban armored version of the popular NIMR military truck. This Ajban SOV (Special Operations Vehicle) entered service in 2016 and featured an open top vehicle meant for reconnaissance, border patrol or any mission that required the mobility of a 4x4 military vehicle plus some armor protection. Ajban SOV is a 7.5 ton vehicle with a 2.5 ton payload. That can vary depending on the degree of armor protection carried. In 2017 the LRSOV showed up. It was an upgraded Ajban SOV. There here various technical improvements as well as a higher (three ton) payload. The LRSOV is an eight ton vehicle with a longer range (700 kilometers over relatively flat terrain at speeds of up to 100 kilometers an hour). It has four seats with an option for a fifth one. Standard equipment includes tires that can change configuration to deal with different terrain and run-flat inserts. Optional equipment includes armor add-ons (like a belly armor kit) and electronic options for battery monitoring and additional sensors.

The SOV vehicles are based on the original 2005 NIMR military truck. This is a 4x4 vehicle similar to the American Hummer and designed to cope with the high heat and abundant sand and dust found in the Middle East. The original NIMR weighs 4.4 tons, can carry 1.5 tons (or up to eight people), and can be equipped with a RWS (remote weapons station) 12.7mm machine-gun turret. Top speed is 140 kilometers an hour on roads. This version costs about $82,000 each. There is a larger 6x6 version for carrying cargo. There is also an anti-aircraft version armed with four Mistral missiles ready-to-fire and four more as reloads. An anti-tank version comes equipped with four Milan ATGM (anti-tank guided missiles) ready to fire and four more as reloads. All NIMRs are equipped to take a variety of armor kits (providing different degrees of protection against bullets and explosions). The SOV models can mount a machine-gun and come in configurations for carrying cargo.

NIMR development began in the late 1990s and production began in 2005. NIMR was designed with the help of Russian automotive company GAZ, which also helped set up the manufacturing operation and supplied some of the components. The original MIMR is basically a variant of the GAZ Tigr, which is very much a Russian version of the American hummer. The UAE sold over 3,000 NIMR vehicles, mainly for the UAE armed forces. Some sales have been made to Libya, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Algeria. NIMR, SOV and RIV vehicles are produced in an assembly plant in Jordan and another plant in Algeria.

NIMR, Calidus and several other manufacturing operations are part of an effort by oil-rich Arab countries to develop their economies and not just be dependent on exporting oil and gas. This is difficult because most Arab countries, especially the oil-rich Gulf States, don’t have much industrial infrastructure or a population with the motivation or skills to create one. The UAE is an exception in that it has much less corruption and has always been more entrepreneurial.

Earlier in 2017 NIMR revealed a new special operations ATV (all-terrain vehicles) vehicle. This market has long been dominated by American and British firms. The NIMR RIV (Rapid Intervention Vehicle) is a four ton vehicle with a 1.5 ton payload. RIV is a 4.9 meters (15.6 feet) long four seater that can mount a 12.7mm machine-gun atop the roll bars.

The RIV is similar in layout to the existing (and very popular with Western troops MRZR4 which weighs 1.5 tons (loaded with nearly 700 kg of fuel, passengers, and cargo). MRZR4 is a 4x4 vehicle that is 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) long and has no doors, four seats, and a steel framework on top which is usually left open for maximum visibility. The vehicle is optimized for cross country operations and powered by an 88 horsepower engine. Fuel capacity is 7.25 gallons (27.4 liters) and range depends on what sort of terrain is being crossed. MRZRs can tow a load of up to 680 kg. Cost per vehicle varies depending on accessories. MRZR can be equipped with various electronic navigation and night movement equipment. The latest versions have improved electronic automatic power steering. There are a lot of accessories for storing different types of cargo on a MRZR.

RIV has a more powerful 300 horsepower engine giving it a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour on roads. RIV is built to use quickly attached lightweight bullet proof panels and comes standard with a blast resistant bottom. RIV is appealing to the special operations and special (SWAT type) police units in Moslem countries where special operations capability is often part of regular police work. RIV is built to operate on paved roads and at high speed while still capable of cross-country patrols.

The vehicles NIMR has produced so far show the company pays attention to its target market, but must still compete with foreign firms in the West and Far East (Japan and South Korea) that have a head start and have established reputations and customer loyalty. That is why the Turkmenistan sale is so important (although it may simply be a political gesture of encouragement). The symbolism is important, as was the NIMR plant built and operating in Algeria.




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