Armor: Supacat Evolves


September 23, 2016: New Zealand is buying up to a dozen Supacat Extenda MK2 high mobility vehicles for its SAS special operations forces. These vehicles are coming from the Australian division of the British firm Supacat. In Australia bought 89 for their own commandos.

For New Zealand the Supacat Extendas replace some of the Pinzgauer Special Operations Vehicles they have been using since 2006. The Pinzgauer is a 6x6 vehicle that is unarmored and carries 12 troops or 1.5 tons of cargo. It normally mounts a machine-gun or automatic grenade launcher. New Zealand is also buying small quantities of three other types (not yet selected) specialized vehicles to replace their SAS Pinzgauers.

The Supacat Extenda is more specialized than Pinzgauers but is very good at what it does. Supacat Extenda is a variant of the older Supacat Jackal off-road patrol vehicle. The main difference is that the Extenda can be converted to six-wheel drive by quickly inserting a vehicle extension in the rear, which includes a third axle. All this can just as quickly be removed to return to four wheel drive. Adding or removing the extension takes about two hours and produces an 11 ton vehicle capable of carrying four tons. Weighing 6.6 tons, the 4x4 Jackals do most of their travelling off road, thus avoiding most roadside bombs and mines. Jackal is basically a patrol vehicle, carrying up to five people. This vehicle is armored on the bottom to give protection from mines but is largely open up top. The vehicle mounts 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine-guns, as well as a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The basic Supacat chassis has been around for a while and comes in 6x6 versions as well. It has excellent cross country capabilities. Top speed of the Jackal is 80 kilometers an hour, and the vehicle normally carries 3-4 troops. These were initially bought for the SAS commandos, who were quite pleased with the vehicle. The British Army began ordering Jackals for Afghanistan service in 2011.

Jackals are fairly compact vehicles (5.4 x2x2 meters) with one meter ground clearance. The Extenda version is seven meters long. Top road speed is 130 kilometers/81 miles an hour. Jackals are usually armed with a 12.7mm and a 7.62mm machine-guns. The Jackal is still around but the combat experience these vehicles accumulated in Afghanistan led to suggestions from users for improvements and that led to the Extenda. It was that sort of evolution and innovations that led to the British creation of the modern commandos during World War II. In addition to many of the basic techniques, these first commandos also modified existing military vehicles for special operations. British firms continued designing and building these specialized vehicles after World War II.