Paramilitary: The Cost Of Confidence

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February 20, 2021: Iraqi security forces have acquired South Korean-made DAPC-2 armored police vehicles. South Korea and China are the major producers of vehicles like this, mainly for export customers. South Korean firm Daeji created the DAPC-2, using a modified Ford 4x4 F550 truck chassis, which looks like an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle but one designed for police operations in areas where the criminals are heavily armed and may use landmines and roadside bombs against the security forces. The Middle East is a large market for these vehicles and Iraq is one place where police are still dealing with areas threatened by ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and other violent groups.

The 8.8- ton Ford F550 is one of the more widely used heavy trucks designed to be adapted for many different tasks. The DAPC-2 is a ten-ton armored truck protected to NATO STANAG 4569 levels. That means protection against small arms fire as well as explosions and mines. DAPC-2 seats ten, including the driver and commander. The vehicle has run-flat tires and “blast seats” designed to protect passengers by reducing the effect of shock waves by up to 80 percent. This not only prevents injuries from nearby explosions but enables the passengers to quickly respond to the threat. DAPC-2 has bullet proof and shatter resistant windows as well as provision for an armored turret equipped with weapons, teargas cannister projectors or other non-lethal crowd control devices. DAGC-2 has a heavier suspension system to handle the armor distributed all over the vehicle. This is done without compromising speed or maneuverability.

The DAPC also comes in two other versions that are mainly for use by riot police. Many countries have a national riot-police force that are deployed in areas where there are large violent demonstrations. One of these DAPC variants is equipped with a water cannon and another with a telescoping fence that, including the rear of the truck, creates a nine-meter (28 foot) barrier that can resist a ton of pressure and stop firebombs and other object thrown at riot police. DAPC was preceded by a similar but smaller and lighter vehicle based on the Toyota Land Cruiser chassis.

Many nations, including the United States, have firms that convert commercial trucks and SUVs for combat use. The American military, especially SOCOM (Special Operations Command), ordered a lot of these conversions since September 11, 2001. For the U.S. military these conversions have been applied to over a thousand vehicles. These include pickup trucks, vans, SUVs and recreational (dune buggies and such) vehicles. The military calls these armored vehicles NSCVs (Non Standard Commercial Vehicles).

Turning a civilian sedan or SUV into an armored vehicle is a labor-intensive job and military requirements are more demanding than for versions civilians want. For all versions you begin by stripping the vehicle down to the bare frame. Then you install Kevlar and steel plate armor and bullet-proof glass. The standard tires are replaced with run-flat models. The additional weight (up to a ton or more) requires the installation of enhanced shocks and a more powerful engine. It takes a 200-300 kg (220-440 pounds) kit of armor to provide protection from pistol bullets. Protection from rifle bullets requires half a ton. For protection against heavy machine-gun (12.7mm) and bombs, you need a ton or more.

The first armor kits for military vehicles, like the hummer, weighed a ton. Soon that was up to two tons. The additional load on the most protected vehicles is 1.5 tons, which is enough armor to stop heavy machine-gun bullets. Once you have put the newly armored vehicle back together, you have to make more modifications to ensure that the vehicle has the same handling characteristics as before the extra weight was added. This is crucial so that your driver does not have to learn new driving techniques to handle the rapid maneuvers needed to escape an ambush. You also want the armored car to move like an unarmored one, so it's not obvious that the vehicle is armored.

Since 2001 there has been a sharp increase in the use of such bullet proof automobiles for commercial customers. The wealthy are buying most of them. Usually, they are modified SUVs and sedans and there are now many car dealerships specializing in procuring or providing these vehicles. For a few years after 2001 most U.S armored car shops were working at near capacity. This provided an opportunity for automotive specialty shops in other nations to get into the business. The vehicles must, at a minimum, be protected against pistol bullets. But most now are resistant to sniper and assault rifles. Some manufacturers will also build vehicles that provide some protection from roadside bombs.

Some manufacturers began offering factory installed protection for upscale vehicles. For example, in 2010 Jaguar, the luxury car manufacturer, developed an armored version of its XJ series sedan (the XJ Sentinel). The unarmored XJ weighs 1.8 tons, while the armored version weighs 3.3 tons, plus up to half a ton of passengers and whatnot. The four door Jaguar XJ Sentinel is bullet proof, can handle a bomb with up to 15 kg (33 pounds) of explosives well as grenades thrown underneath the vehicle. This is military grade protection, which at that time was rare for consumer customers. The armored version of the XJ has a more powerful engine, brakes and suspension to handle the additional weight. The XJ Sentinel can accelerate to 100 kilometers an hour in 9.7 seconds and has a top speed of 194 kilometers an hour. The unarmored XJ model Jaguar goes for about $67,000 in 2010. Jaguar does not advertise the price for the Sentinel, but armoring typically doubles (or triples) the cost of a car in this price range and Jaguar will customize the XJ Sentinel to suit specific customer requests. It is believed that this version of the XJ goes for $200,000 or more. It depends on how elaborate the security features are. The Sentinel has run flat tires and some additional electronic options. Jaguar is now owned by Tata Motors, the largest automobile manufacturer in India and an area where there is a market for civilian vehicles with additional protection.

At the very high end there is Carat 65 Bentley Mulsanne. Bentley is the slightly less expensive cousin of the Rolls Royce and made by the same firm. The Carat 65 goes for over $2 million each, which is expensive even by Rolls Royce standards. Armored trucks like DAPC-2 cost a few hundred thousand dollars each.

 


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