South Africa sells India mine protected vehicles

South Africa has exported mine protected vehicles to India.

Police in India have begun to receive their first Mine Protected Vehicle for India (MPV-I) vehicles, which will be used for anti-terrorist/guerrilla operations.

On August 25 the Jharkhand police received the first of six MPV-Is on order. They are being manufactured by Defence Land Systems India (DLSI), a joint venture between Mahindra & Mahindra (74%) and BAE Systems (26%).

Brigadier (retired) Khutub Hai, MD and CEO of DLSI, handed over the keys of the first MPV-I to B B Pradhan, Additional Director General of Police, Jharkhand Police, late last month. “This is a proud moment for DLSI as this is the first such vehicle of its kind indigenously manufactured by the private sector industry being delivered to the Police Forces in the country,” said Hai. “The MPV-I will meet all the stated parameters and we hope it will greatly enhance the operational effectiveness of the police forces in Naxal affected areas of the country.”

This year, nearly 300 security personnel were killed or injured in 76 improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, India’s Business Standard reports. Security forces in Jharkhand recently recovered 17 landmines during a search operation. India is battling Maoist Naxal rebels as well as other security threats.

“The equipping of police forces in the Naxal-affected states with 300 MPVs will reduce casualties by some 90%,” noted Hai.

DLSI is producing the MPV-Is at its factory at Prithla, near Faridabad, which has the capacity to produce 100 MPV-Is per year. It expects to build around 20 vehicles this year.

The six-wheeled MPV-I was designed by BAE Land Systems South Africa, world renowned specialists in building mine protected vehicles, and resembles South Africa’s Casspir mine protected vehicle.

The MPV-I’s protective shell comes from Sweden and is built into a monocoque body, using kits imported from South Africa. The 230 hp engine and chassis are from Russian Ural trucks manufactured at Haldia, West Bengal, which significantly reduces the vehicle’s price.

Like the Casspir, the 14 ton MPV-I is capable of withstanding a 21 kilogram blast of TNT under any wheel and a 14 kg blast of TNT under the crew compartment. Apart from mine protection, the MPV-I’s armour can withstand a variety of bullets, including 7.62 x 51 mm NATO ball, 7.62 x 39 mm AK-47 ball and 5.56 x 45 mm INSAS lead core from up to 45 degrees from the top and up to 90 degrees from the sides at a distance of ten metres, according to Mahindra. There are 16 ports from which to return fire.

With a seating capacity of 18 people, the MPV-I can transport a complete operational team of army or police personnel.

In February 2008 BAE Systems announced it was in discussions with Mahindra to jointly develop a mine protected vehicle based on its RG-31 and in January the next year announced it was setting up a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra to focus on land systems for the Indian market.

Mahindra already has experience building military vehicles and since 2001 has sold around 1 500 smaller vehicles, including the Rakshak, Marksman and Rapid Intervention Vehicle, India’s Business Standard reports.

India is one of the latest countries to acquire the knowledge developed by the former Defence Research Unit of the SA Council for Science and Industrial Research in the early 1970s (which produced the Casspir). Other countries that now have the once unique SA technology include the US, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Namibia, Russia and Serbia.

India already operates Casspirs, having bought 165 between 1999 and 2001. They have been extensively used by the Army and paramilitary units, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. Casspirs serve with a number of national armies including South Africa, Djibouti, Indonesia, Namibia and Peru, as well as private firms such as Mechem.

India is one of the worlds largest arms importers and it’s defense budget has gradually increased with no signs of slowing down. This presents an opportunity for South African defense firms to establish contacts and relationships with India for the long term given India’s importance will only grow.

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