October 15, 2012
Credit: Credit: Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne
Zachary Lum Budapest, Hungary
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is poised to award a tender that could vault it into the front ranks of combat vehicle manufacturers. According to industry sources, program officials are mulling a short list of vendors for the procurement of 600 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles, which the government intends to produce indigenously through a joint venture between the winning contractor and Emirati industry.
Tawazun Holding, the state-owned investment firm managing the acquisition, would not disclose the outcome of at least two down-selections that followed a round of summer desert trials in 2011. In the run-up to those trials, the contenders comprised a who's who of European companies offering their top platforms, including the Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV) from Finland's Patria; the Boxer from a consortium of Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall; the VBCI from France's Nexter; the Freccia from Italy's Iveco; the Piranha 5 from General Dynamics European Land Systems; and the Pars from Turkey's FNSS.
BAE's RG41, the newest entrant to the 8x8 market, participated in the trials but was not subsequently retained, said a company representative. The other companies did not comment on the status of their bids.
The eventual winner will have a strong claim to being the most advanced 8x8 on the market. “They are running the test program in very harsh conditions,” said a U.S. Army official familiar with the procurement. “They've set a very high bar.”
Requirements reportedly include robust protection levels, excellent mobility and a heavy-duty electronics backbone to support the latest sensors and communications systems. The vehicle will come in both personnel carrier and fighting vehicle variants, with the latter required to mount the turret from the UAE's tracked BMP-3 inventory. A portion of the fleet will be amphibious.
Industry's energetic response to the program, which is worth an estimated $2 billion, occurs against a backdrop of crisis-driven disruptions to major 8x8 procurements within NATO. The past four years have seen the U.K.'s wheeled FRES program implode and Spain's Vehiculo Blindado Ruedas lose its “urgent operational requirement” status. In North America, the Canadian Close Combat Vehicle program has stuttered through several false starts, while the U.S. Marine Personnel Carrier is still in prototype development.