Countries in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region are continuing to enhance their armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) capability with the acquisition of new platforms or by upgrading their older models to extend their operational lives.
Qatar is replacing its obsolete France-supplied AMX-30 main battle tanks (MBTs) with the latest German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leopard 2A7+ MBT, with delivery of 62 vehicles now well under way from the Munich production line.
This is the most advanced version of the Leopard 2 MBT to be fielded by any country and has a host of improvements. These include the installation of the latest armour package, a roof-mounted remote weapon station armed with a .50 M2 HB machine gun (MG), an auxiliary power unit and a Rheinmetall 120mm L55 smoothbore gun that can fire the latest suite of ammunition.
The Qatar contract also includes 24 PzH 2000 155mm/52 calibre self-propelled (SP) artillery systems, 32 Fennek (4x4) reconnaissance vehicles and a batch of the latest Dingo Heavy Duty (4x4) protected vehicles, for which Qatar is the first customer.
Under contract to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, FFG is supplying Qatar with six Wisent 2 Support Vehicles based on the Leopard 2 hull. In addition, Qatar is getting 11 mission kits from Pearson Engineering comprising four armoured engineer vehicles (AEVs), three armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs) and four minefield breaching kits, which enable the Wisent 2 Support Vehicle to be rapidly re-roled to meet the specific missions being undertaken by Qatar.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates a large fleet of 399 General Dynamics Land Systems M1A2S Abrams MBTs. Last year the US Department of Defense approved the sale of an additional 153 M1A2S MBTs plus 20 M88 series ARVs. While production of the General Dynamics Land Systems M1A1/M1A2 Abrams has been completed, upgraded vehicles can still be supplied from the Lima production line.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, other users of the M1 Abrams MBT in the Middle East include Egypt (assembly of the M1A1 at the Egyptian Tank Plant), Ir aq (M1A1SA), Kuwait (M1A2) and Morocco (M1A1SA).
Saudi Arabia is also one of the largest users of the US-supplied M113 series of armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and variants.
For several years, Turkish company FNSS Savunma Sistemleri has been upgrading these M113 series APCs to the enhanced M113A4 standard at facilities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 units now returned to service to extend their operational lives.
The upgrade to the M113A4 standard includes installation of a new diesel powerpack and cooling system, upgraded torsion bar suspension for improved mobility, a new driver’s station and thermal night vision device and new external fuel tanks either side of the power-operated ramp. They also have an enhanced level of protection including appliqué passive armour and internal spall liners.
In addition to upgrading the M113 APC, many of the more specialised versions have been upgraded, including the M577 command post vehicle, anti-tank vehicle with TOW missiles, 120mm mortar carrier and the M548 tracked cargo carrier.
The Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) continues to enhance its capability with the acquisition of 136 Nexter Systems CAESAR 155mm/ 52 SP artillery systems based on a Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG (6x6) chassis plus a complete suite of ammunition, including the Bonus top-attack 155mm projectile.
SANG is also taking delivery from General Dynamics Land Systems Canada of the latest Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) in the 8x8 configuration fitted with various weapons, including a batch with the Finnish Patria 120mm NEMO turret-mounted mortar system.
Germany’s Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles has had major export success with its Fuchs 2 (6x6) APC, which was developed using internal research and development funding for the export market. When compared with the original production Fuchs, the Fuchs 2 has more volume, payload and protection.
Algeria is taking delivery of 980 Fuchs 2 APCs, with the first 54 already delivered from the Kassel production line followed by local assembly in Algeria, but with the complete driveline coming from Germany. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken delivery of 32 Fuchs 2s in three configurations for use in the highly specialised NBC reconnaissance role. Kuwait has also ordered 12 Fuchs 2 NBC reconnaissance vehicles and three are now on the Kassel production line.
Russia has always been a major supplier of AFVs to the Middle East; the Kurganmashzavod BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) has sold in large numbers to Kuwait and the UAE. The UAE has also taken delivery of a batch of Patria Armoured Modular Vehicles (AMVs) in the 8x8 L configuration fitted with the complete turret of the BMP-3 IFV. This turret is armed with a 100mm 2A70 gun that can also fire a laser-guided missile, a 30mm co-axial 2A72 cannon, and a 7.62mm PKT co-axial MG.