Armor: Improvised Armor In South America


August 29, 2009:  Latin America is fast becoming an innovator in an unexpected field- armored vehicles. Or, more specific, civilian military armored hybrids created by fashioning ballistic material through field repair or manufacture to conventional trucks, cars and sport utility vehicles. It’s proving to be a cost effective alternative to buying armored personnel carriers or conventional armored cars. Another advantage of this improvisations is that, due to geography, the continent often precludes effectiveness of conventional armored vehicles (with have a hard time handling the minimal roads, numerous rivers, thick jungle and steep mountains.)              

In Mexico, the hybrid is the preferred vehicle of assailant and victim alike. With some observers comparing the country to Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq, the most important issue remains a classic one: protect unconventional warfare’s premier asset- the infantry- as they ride into battle.

With the war against the drug cartels entering the third year up armoring can’t happen fast enough. With organizations such as Los Zetos, enforcers of the Gulf cartel acting as essentially an insurgent army who recruits Mexican soldiers looking to sell out for money. Soldiers and police often face gangsters armed with heavy infantry weapons (including Surface to Air Missiles against aircraft). In such environments, the use of of common every day vehicles, outfitted with armor allows, a much safer, and cost effective way to move troops in and out of battle safely.

In another category, just as in Mexico, Brazil’s wealthy civilians also upgraded to armored hybrids. Last year, more than 7,000 vehicles were armored, up from 1,782 a decade ago. Countries like Mexico, Brazil are facing an increasing paramilitary environment with carjacking, assassinations and kidnappings commonplace.

Expect the Civilian-Military Hybrid to continue to rise in popularity, with economics being the driving force. Indeed, until Venezuela’s recent orders from Russia for modern weaponry, only Chile and Argentina ordered new armored military vehicles (Leopard tanks). -- Mike Perry



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