SOF - Special Operations

DSA 2018: Testing times ahead for Malaysian SOF vehicles

16th April 2018 - 14:15 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Kuala Lumpur

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The competition is hotting up for new special operations vehicles for special forces and airborne units of the Malaysian Army, with a quartet of companies exhibiting their designs at DSA 2018 in Kuala Lumpur in anticipation of trials later this year.

Three contenders came from Malaysian companies while the fourth heralded from the UAE.

One was the Special Operation Vehicle from Cendana Auto, with the project kicking off two years ago. The company displayed two SOF vehicle variants – a 1.8t light strike vehicle  (pictured bottom left) and a longer 2.2t utility vehicle suitable for carrying up to 12 troops.

Keith Bulman, the vehicle’s designer, said the universal chassis was custom-made for these vehicles and for the Malaysian climate and terrain. He described the advantages of the fit-for-purpose vehicle having a bespoke design for Malaysia.

These vehicles have a low centre of gravity, light weight employ a 2.8-litre Mercedes-Benz diesel engine and ZF transmission to obtain a maximum road speed of 170km/h. The radiator is laid flat to minimise the risk from gunfire, while the engine is mid-mounted.

Development is believed to be around 90% complete, although the latest body panels were not ready for installation in time for the exhibition in the Malaysian capital. The vehicle measures 4.95m long, 1.85m wide and 1.85m high.

Cendano is also looking at export potential with other countries in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines, also in the market for such a vehicle.

The prototypes were seen fitted with M10 and M08 light machine gun mounts from Danish company Rubtec.

Another SOF vehicle platform at DSA 2018 came from Kembara Suci (KSSB) (pictured top left), and again it was designed entirely with the Malaysian Army requirement in mind. This 4x4 Special Operation Vehicle’s kerb weight is 2,010kg, plus it possesses a payload capacity of 1,500kg.

Mohd Azfaruddin Fitri B. Mohamad Zaini, an engineer at KSSB, told Shephard that it uses a commercial chassis, 3.2-litre 197hp turbo-diesel engine and six-speed gearbox but he declined to state which company they were from.

Operated by a crew of four, it is suitable for utility, patrol and fast attack missions. The vehicle’s dimensions are listed as 5.362m long, 1.86m wide and 1.815m high.

The prototype was put together in rapid time and Zaini said the vehicle had already attracted interested from several Asian customers.

The third contender, again from a Malaysian company, was the GK-M1 from Weststar (pictured top left). The GK-M1 family of vehicles is derived from a 4x4 light tactical vehicle from the CTV Cho company in Thailand and is widely fielded by the Royal Thai Army.

The GKM1-SOV has been in development since 2012. Weighing 3t, it uses either a Toyota 2.5-litre or 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. It can carry five soldiers.

A Weststar spokesman noted that the Royal Brunei Land Forces had already tested the GKM1-SOV, with this being one of six vehicle contenders in a competition that is still waiting for a winner to be announced.

The fourth SOF vehicle platform on show came from Nimr in the UAE (pictured bottom right). Last November Nimr announced a tie-up with Malaysian firm DefTech acting as a marketing, sales and logistics partner and potentially a future assembly centre if regional vehicle sales are achieved.

Its Ajban Long Range Special Operations Vehicle (LRSOV) offering, one of which was displayed at the show in Malaysia, is designed for self-sufficient operations lasting up to ten days at a time. It can carry 4-5 soldiers. It has an under-slung capability by CH-47 helicopter and smoke grenade launchers mounted front and aft.

‘Southeast Asia is an important market for us.’ Nimr also had an Ajban 440A light armoured vehicle on display at DSA 2018,' Miles Chambers, Nimr’s senior international business development and sales manager, confirmed to Shephard.

It is unclear when exactly trials of the SOF vehicles will take place in conjunction with the Malaysian Army. Companies that Shephard spoke to provided dates varying from June to October 2018.

With two of the four contenders using commercially available chassis a key factor in deciding a winner may be robustness.

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