Armor: Armored Cars Evolve

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April 19, 2019: A Nigerian firm (Proforce) that has been installing armor kits in automobiles and light trucks since 2008, developed, at the request of the Nigerian Army, an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle called the Ara. The first of these Ara MRAPS were based on a 4x4 heavy truck with armor added. Eight of these entered service with Nigerian forces in 2018. These vehicles performed well, except when it came to mines. That was because the first Aras were literally armored trucks and lacked the full monocoque (one piece) hull with a V-shaped bottom that true MRAPs have. The V-shaped hull causes much of the explosive force of mines and roadside bombs to pass around the vehicle instead of concentrating on the vehicle and doing a lot more damage. Based on the good performance of the original Ara and the known superiority of the monocoque hull Nigeria ordered 30 of the Ara 2, which was very similar to the South African RG-31 that was widely used by American forces in Afghanistan. A variant of the ten ton 4x4 RG-31 has been used by Nigerian police and soldiers since 2012. The Ara 2 is a 15 ton 4x4 vehicle with a gun turret behind the driver seats and shockproof seats for up to eight passengers.

Nigerian security forces have obtained several hundred MRAPs in the last decade but most of these were basically armored trucks. Proforce began as a firm that armored civilian and police vehicles to mainly withstand gunfire and had developed a good reputation in Nigeria. Proforce obtained more and more of its components locally or built key components themselves. This gave Proforce a price advantage for something as ambitious as MRAPS and the added advantage of being made in Nigeria by Nigerians. Since 2014 the army has been fighting Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in the north and this group has relied more and more on anti-vehicle landmines on the many dirt roads in the north as well as roadside bombs. Both of these weapons are best handled by a heavy MRAP with a V-shaped monocoque armored hull. While V hull models are more expensive, Nigerian troops know it works.

Most MRAPs on the market share design and construction techniques pioneered by South African firms. Those South African producers have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success in the 1980s. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998 and has already been used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans. Basically, the original (and most current) MRAPs are heavy trucks (12 tons or more) that are armored and hardened to survive bombs and mines and cost about five to ten times more than an armored hummer. Foreign firms have grabbed most of the MRAP export business, and the original South African manufacturers have to scramble for whatever they can get. By 2012 one South African MRAP manufacturer partnered with British defense firm BAE and began selling the RG series of MRAPs which were a big success. Now that technology is being heavily used by the Nigerian Proforce. The Ara 2 still uses a lot of foreign made components but Nigerian has the ability to produce many of those components locally and soon Ara 2 will consist of at least 70 percent Nigerian made components.

Proforce began as a local firm that used imported components to make commercial vehicles bullet and bomb proof. This is big business in some parts of the world (South America, Middle East and Africa) where there is a lot of violence involving automatic weapons and bombs. Initially, these armored commercial vehicles were imported (some American firms provided these vehicles and depended on exports because there was not enough demand in the United States). Eventually, local firms realized they could armor vehicles locally and went into that business. Proforce sees the possibility that large scale violence will ultimately disappear from Nigeria and also provides armored vests, helmets and other items for the armed forces and police as well as armored trucks for transporting cash.

 


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