ARMOURED LAND ROVERS
The current situation in Iraq demonstrates rather clearly that army units will have to focus also on operations similar to anti-terrorist and police activities. These tasks require not only trained soldiers but also adequate technical equipment.
The most serious problems are concentrated into cities where dispersed groups equipped with light infantry weapons or explosives can easily operate. In such an environment it is rather difficult, ineffective and road-damaging to use heavy tracked machines which, under the conditions of piece-keeping missions, also negatively affect civilian population. Therefore, wheeled armoured vehicles are preferred nowadays. In an every-day intensive use, though, even the classic armoured carriers are unnecessarily heavy and operation-costly in certain types of operations. There is therefore a need for an optimum transportation vehicle that would be cost-efficient while providing the crew with ballistic protection against common firearms.
There seem to be two paths to the solution. A new category of armoured and for city-operations specially designed vehicles has been introduced into service or the established army off-road vehicles have been equipped with armor protection. The latter method is faster, cheaper, easier and currently more preferred. This is the path selected by the Czech Army and its personnel will soon receive such a kind of modern equipment.
THE MILITARY POLICE SHOWED THE PATH
Members of the Czech Military Police (MP) realize, besides other tasks, also transportation of protected persons, money and during the periods of increased security measures also of secret documents. For these purposes they use passenger cars equipped with ballistic protection. Besides the above mentioned tasks they also protect Czech politicians and official representatives from other countries during their visits to Czech soldiers in foreign missions. Since the Military Police also operate in foreign regions with a higher level of danger to life and health, they naturally have to take care about the protection of their personnel. Civilian armoured vehicles included in the military vehicle columns in Iraq would certainly draw unwanted attention. Considering the above-stated facts the MP started to deal with this matter several years ago. Several public contracts from the MP High Command have dealt with the possibilities of military vehicle ballistic protection since 2002. The realized marketing study in the segment of passenger off-road military vehicles indicated, according to its director Ing. Marian Hudec, that the absolutely best solution was Land Rover DEFENDER 110 HARD TOP MILITARY. In comparison to another, in the Czech Army still used version, the above mentioned version features effective weight higher by 450 kg and a classic diesel engine 2.5 TDi with the power of 83 kW. As confirmed by user tests in Afghanistan two years ago, this motor can easily operate in altitudes of up to 4,000 m, features higher reliability and due to excellent shielding it features also a lower level of radiation perceptible by electronic reconnaissance equipment.
Besides easier repair possibilities in foreign missions (e.g. the British do not use any other version) its advantage consists in the total weight of 3,500 kg (in comparison to 3,050 kg in Land Rovers commonly used by the Czech Army), which makes it possible to equip the vehicle with an effective armor protection.
ONLY SMALL CHANGES AT THE OUTSIDE
It draw sufficient attention, was carried through and the events started to unfold. At the end of 2003 and at the beginning of 2004 the MP purchased the first vehicles, in 2004 there were performed the above-mentioned tests in Afghanistan and verification tests in the Vyškov research institute and in the very same year the type was introduced into service. The first vehicle with ballistic protection was ready in the first half of 2005. Additional verification tests in the Research Institute and by the MP immediately followed. According to the acquired data there was started remodeling of additional vehicles designated mostly for Czech Army and MP operations abroad. Vehicles imported directly from the British manufacturer Land Rover are equipped with high-performance cable reels in the front, additional heating, air-conditioning and other necessary accessories in the Czech Republic. After tests in Vyškov the vehicles are equipped with hidden protection frames and an extended engine intake up to the cabin roof level. This is just the beginning, though. According to Ing. Václav Novotný from the Public Contract Department of the MP High Command, the parts of the vehicles designed for ballistic protection carrying are subsequently subjected to the so-called irreversible adaptations (reinforcement of the door jamb, holders of the anti-splinter protection at the vehicle bottom, etc.), which are realized by the vehicle ballistic protection specialists – SVOS Přelouč. Then the so-called reversible adaptations are realized - the armoring set itself and the necessary exchange of shock-absorbers and coils due to the weight increase. There are also the tires with emergency driving insert in case of damage. The SVOS armoring set includes newly manufactured three doors, windshield, rear side boards and the roof. Special steel plates are used to manufacture the “non-transparent” parts. Vehicle bottom protection isn’t neglected as well and the standard version withstands a hand grenade explosion of up to 0.5 kg. In case of a higher danger level it is possible to install an additional ballistic shield made of a special material absorbing or rather delaying the explosion, and such a vehicle will provide the crew with protection against a land-mine with the explosive equivalent of 2.5 kg TNT. The ballistic protection set is designed to be installed by the crew in less then 9 hours. That’s not the end yet. The new vehicle is rather variable and operatively flexible. Especially in regions without any danger it can be normally used without the approximately 1,000 kg heavy ballistic protection. In situations with greater danger it will use the ballistic protection (while preserving the transportation capacity of 2+3 – 6 persons, depending on the equipment) and it can fulfill three major tasks. Besides common transportation tasks it is possible to remove the roof section above the transportation cabin and install a flexible mount with a light machine gun. This will result in an armed version for patrol, search and supporting purposes. Later delivered vehicles will include, in the above-described armoured roof section, also an emergency opening, which will make it possible to install the flexible mount with the machine gun after the removal of its cover. In such a case the whole space of the transportation cabin, including from above (naturally, except for the round opening), is protected from weather elements, splinters and common ammunition of fire arms just like all other parts of the vehicle.
LAST YEAR A PROTOTYPE, THIS YEAR IN SERVICE
The armoured vehicle prototype was first demonstrated at the Brno IDET 2005 exhibition and it draw the attention of professional public. According to Marian Hudec, at least one world-renowned manufactured said that this solution provided higher quality for lower price then it is common around the world. The first adapted vehicles saw service in the MP contingent in Iraq at the end of January of this year. Gradually they will receive several additional armoured vehicles in addition to the several dozen vehicles purchased without the additional protection sets. Possibilities of the DEFENDER 110 HARD TOP MILITARY vehicles weren’t missed even by the army. At the beginning of the year the army will have available several dozen vehicles with ballistic protection sets. It is understood that the Czech Army will gradually put some of them into service in the Afghanistan mission. The introduction of these vehicles provides the military with a modern, well-protected and easily air-transportable vehicle, which will make it possible to bridge the period before a wheel-equipped armoured carrier is available. Even after its introduction, though, the armoured Land Rover will not lose its significance. Military police and army personnel will be able to select an optimum vehicle depending on the operation type and on the particular situation. While personal carriers with ballistic protection at the 3rd level according to the Alliance standards will be used in high-danger situations, the new Land Rovers with the ballistic protection between the 1st and 2nd levels, will be used easily and without unwanted attention in every-day operations. The financial cost difference when transporting various loads or during patrols between the armoured Land Rovers and the much heavier personal carriers will certainly not be negligible. What is impossible to calculate, though, is the protection of health and lives, including the psychological impact, that the newly introduced vehicles (and, naturally, also the future wheeled personal carriers) will provide to the crews and to all transported people.