Sunday 21 October 2018

South African firm wins Irish Army vehicle contract

Don Lavery

A fleet of South African-designed armoured vehicles is to protect Irish troops on dangerous peace missions abroad from the threat of attack by improvised bombs, gunfire and mines.

BAE Systems South Africa has won a contract to equip the Defence Forces with an initial fleet of 27 RG-32M 4x4 vehicles, after a tough evaluation of three designs which saw them compete in two-month field trials in the Curragh and the Glen of Imaal ranges.

The South African firm beat off competition from Mowag of Switzerland, with their Eagle IV, and the Iveco Panther of Italy, recently adopted by the British Army.

The new vehicles, called light tactical armoured vehicles, are being bought for €19.6m for an initial 27 vehicles, with an option to buy a similar number.

Although they had been sought as long ago as 2000, the lack of such a vehicle was highlighted in the Lebanon earlier this year, when two Irish soldiers had a lucky escape after their unarmoured vehicle was caught in a blast from a roadside bomb.

The new vehicles will operate alongside the 80-strong fleet of Mowag armoured personnel carriers, many of which are in used in Chad and Kosovo by Irish units. The RG-32M, described as a "mine-hardened patrol vehicle", is used by several armies.

The Irish vehicles will be used for a variety of roles, including transporting the Javelin anti-armour missile, surveillance, communications and target acquisition. They will be armed with a remotely operated turret with a .5 heavy machinegun or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The vehicles will be delivered over a three-year period, beginning in 2009. Defence Minister Willie O'Dea said: "Force protection remains a key issue in overseas peace support operations and it is very important that vehicles such as these are made available to our personnel."

It's not the first time South Africa has won Defence contracts here -- in the last decade, it modernised the Army's fleet of Panhard armoured cars, and supplied 60mm Vektor mortars.

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