The Paramount Group, a South African privately-owned manufacturer of defence equipment, says its new eight-wheeled armoured vehicle has set the company ahead of competitors in the land force environment.
The new-generation 8x8 vehicle was unveiled over the weekend in Astana, during the annual Kazakhstan Defence Exhibition.
On Wednesday, Paramount Group founder and executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz said the production of the Mbombe 8 made the company part of an exclusive club of manufacturers capable of producing sophisticated infantry combat vehicles that can withstand landmines.
"What this does is puts South Africa up there, at the very highest level of confidence in the global land forces environment," Ichikowitz said.
But military analyst Helmoed Heitman said, "I am familiar with the chief engineer there … and what I know from him and his previous work, I am quite happy to accept that it is a good vehicle. I don’t think it is particularly unique but had only seen the photo and the write up, so there may be something unique about it that I don’t know."
In 2013, Armscor awarded a multibillion rand contract to Denel to manufacture over 200 armoured vehicles for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) over a 10-year period.
The new Badger infantry combat vehicle is an 8x8 and would eventually replace the SANDF’s existing fleet of armoured protected combat vehicles like the Ratel.
Paramount was in the final stages of concluding a number of deals for the Mbombe 8 with interested countries.
But Heitman said he was not sure how much of a market there was as, there were so many eight-wheeler armoured vehicles on the market and most of them were in the service of the country marketing them.
The Mbombe 8 was designed and developed to meet the increasing demand from battlefields across the world. The vehicle was made using South African-developed technology and innovations, according to Ichikowitz.
He said the vehicle was the first 8x8 in the world to be mine-hardened while still capable of carrying a nine-ton load and having high mobility.
The Mbombe 8 has a maximum speed of 110km/h and has a gross weight of 28 tonnes. The cooling systems and driveline have been tested and proven in winter conditions of -55°C and desert conditions of +55°C, the company said in a statement.
Ichikowitz said that in the past there had been a focus on vehicle survivability, brought on by government not wanting to lose equipment.
But there was now a focus on balancing vehicle and human survivability, which is what the Mbombe 8 achieved.
According to Ichikowitz, historically South Africa was focused on supplying equipment to the developing world. But this has changed.
"We are selling to clients that have very real threats in the Middle East… [and] to clients that are involved in peace-keeping operations in Africa. We are kind of selling right across the world and, what a platform like this (the defence exhibition) allows us to do, is to provide the highest level to soldiers irrespective of whether they are in a low-cost environment or a traditional military procurement environment," Ichikowitz said.