Armor: Many More Mali MRAPs

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February 27, 2020: In January 2020 the landlocked African nation of Mali received the first seven of 130 Typhoon MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) armored trucks from the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Actually, 30 will be donated by Abu Dhabi and the rest (or as many as Mali can afford) paid for by Mali.

The Typhoon is a popular MRAP and is technically a Canadian vehicle because Typhoons were first developed and built by the Canadian Streit Group in cooperation with Ukrainian firms that supplied components. The Typhoon first appeared in Ukraine in 2015 where it was hastily designed and built to deal with the 2014 Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine (Donbas). MRAP type vehicles have proved a lifesaver against rifle and machine-gun fire as well as many types of landmines and roadside bombs.

The original Canadian Typhoon was based on Russian trucks that were modified to become MRAPs, in this case, a 12.5-ton vehicle with a payload of 2.5 tons (or ten passengers.) It is unclear how close Tufan copied the Typhoon design. Externally it appears identical with four bulletproof windows plus bulletproof front windows for the driver and commander. There is a remotely controlled turret on top for a machine-gun and V-shaped bottom to deflect explosions. There are three doors; two for the driver and vehicle commander up front and one in the back. There are four hatches on top. Inside the Typhoon, the seats are protected from concussion hitting the bottom of the vehicle during an explosion. There are special dome lights inside that do not illuminate the windows. There is an air filtration system and positive air pressure to keep noxious chemicals out (as well as chemical and biological weapons) and air conditioning. Typhoon also has vidcams all around so the crew can better see what is going on inside. Typhoons come equipped with military radio and a GPS navigation system. Typhoon sells for about half a million dollars each.

The Typhoon was developed by Guerman Goutorov, a Russian immigrant to Canada who, in the 1990s began doing business by building armored trucks for banks to transport cash in. In 1992 Goutorov incorporated his operation as the Streit Group and by 2000 he had a thriving and rapidly growing firm that also added armored protection to automobiles. Major expansion began in 2005 when he made a deal to begin franchising manufacturing and sales to overseas firms. The main partner here was the UAE, where the main Streit Group manufacturing plant now is. There are smaller Streit Group manufacturing operations in Canada, the United States and seven other countries, in addition to the UAE. In 2016 Streit Group got into trouble with the Canadian government because the UAE franchise had sold Typhoons to participants in the Libyan and South Sudan civil wars. These conflicts were under a UN arms embargo which Canada supported and enforced. After much legal wrangling and the payment of some fines, Streit Group emerged unscathed by proving that Streit Group Canada did not control sales by its overseas sales franchises. Streit Group also made much of the fact that Typhoons were designed as defensive systems, often used by UN, foreign aid and diplomatic personnel in dangerous areas. Within the automotive industry, Streit Group has long been recognized as a major and legitimate manufacturer.

The UAE has been a major investor in Streit Group and a major manufacturer of Typhoon. The UAE sells what it manufacturs and the customers are satisfied.

MRAPs are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998 and was first used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military bought over 10,000 MRAPs (from several manufacturers) by 2009 and then canceled orders as the fighting in Iraq died down (with the defeat of the Islamic terror groups there.)

In mid-2019 a regiment of the Mali army was converted to a mechanized unit with the addition of several dozen 11 ton Casspir armored vehicles. These are from South Africa, which is where this late 1980s vintage vehicle proved to be the first effective modern MRAP design to enter wide use. Casspir will always be remembered as one of the earliest and most successful MRAP type vehicles. Originally designed for the South African police in the early 1980s, this 4x4 wheeled vehicle has remained in production ever since. The basic design has been upgraded over the years. Germany paid for these Casspirs and has provided trainers for drivers and mechanics. Casspirs carry up to twelve troops and have plenty of bulletproof windows (with gun firing ports) and are excellent for patrols. Like all MRAP vehicles, Casspirs (and their passengers) can survive most vehicle mines and roadside bombs as well as rifle and machine-gun fire.

Earlier the U.S. and EU (European Union) donated several Bastion 4x4 wheeled APCs armored personnel carriers to Mali. In effect, the 12 ton Bastion is MRAP lite as it has many of the same design features of an MRAP but is not as well protected against mines and roadside bombs. It can carry up to twelve (usually 8-10) and has a turret-mounted heavy machine-gun or automatic grenade launcher. Bastion does have excellent cross-country mobility and was designed mainly as a reconnaissance vehicle that can also serve as convoy escort or in peacekeeping operations. Built in France, Bastion is also used by the French military.

 


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