While tracked armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) continue to be deployed in the region in large numbers, an increasing number of countries are now moving towards a more balanced fleet of tracked and wheeled AFVs.
The main advantage of wheeled AFVs is that they can be rapidly moved over long distances under their own power. Wheeled AFV also have lower through-life support costs, are easier to operate and maintain and have lower noise levels. Tracked AFVs are normally transported to their deployment areas by heavy equipment transporters, which in time of crisis are always in short supply.
Many countries still use 8x8 AFVs in the traditional armoured personnel carrier (APC) role, fitted with a protected weapon station, or a remote weapon station, typically armed with a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun. But the latest vehicles have higher levels of protection and more volume and payload, enabling them to undertake a wider range of battlefield missions, such as an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), when fitted with a turret armed with a 30mm cannon and coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.
The UAE, for example, deploys the Finnish Patria Armoured Modular Vehicle fitted with the complete turret of the Russian tracked BMP-3 IFV, which is armed with a 100mm gun, 30mm dual-feed cannon and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.
To supplement its existing fleet of General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada (GDLS-C) Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) (8x8), which were delivered many years ago in 10 variants, the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) is now taking delivery of a new generation of GDLS-C LAV (8x8), with many of these being fitted with the latest-generation Belgian CMI Defence Cockerill 3000 series two-person turrets.
The Cockerill 3030 turret is armed with a now Northrop Grumman, Armament Systems 30mm MK44 dual-feed cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, while the Cockerill 3105 is armed with a 105mm rifled gun that is fed by an automatic loader, enabling the turret crew to be reduced to two.
Oman has operated a fleet of Piranha (8x8) in a number of configurations, manufactured under licence by the then GKN Defence from the now General Dynamics Land Systems MOWAG. These are now being supplemented by a fleet of FNSS Savunma Sistemleri Pars III (8x8).
The IFV version is fitted with the latest Saber one-man turret, armed with a Northrop Grumman, Armament Systems 25mm M242 dual-feed cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. The Turkish company has also completed development of Pars III in the 6x6 configuration, enabling customers to have a fleet of 6x6 and 8x8 with a high degree of commonality.
Piranha 8x8 vehicles are also used elsewhere in the Middle East.
While the clear trend is towards the procurement of 8x8 APCs and variants, there is still a gap in the market for 6x6 vehicles, which are more compact and can be transported in a Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft. They also have a smaller turning circle than their 8x8 counterparts, making them ideal for use in confined spaces, such as those encountered n urban operations. The Kuwait National Guard operates a fleet of General Dynamics European Land Systems – Steyr Pandur (6x6), the most potent version being fitted with a CMI Defence two-person turret armed with a 90mm gun.
Compared with the original Fuchs 1, used in large numbers by the German Army, the latest Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Fuchs 2 (6x6) APC has greater volume and payload and a large number are being manufactured in Algeria. More specialised Fuchs 2 versions include an NBC reconnaissance vehicle, which is deployed by Kuwait and the UAE. Otokar of Turkey has exported large numbers of its Cobra (4x4) AFVs, but the latest wheeled AFV is the Arma, available in 8x8 and 6x6 versions, which can be fitted with a range of weapon stations.
The first customer is Bahrain.