Bulgarian-Emirati JV to produce vehicles for special forces
Bulgarian SOF expect to receive their first batch of new armoured tactical vehicles by mid-2021, after the MoD placed an order via local manufacturer Samel 90 in late 2020.
SAMARM (a JV between Samel 90 and United Arab Emirates-based International Armored Group - IAG) is expected to provide 98 multi-purpose combat vehicles in ten variants under the deal, which is worth almost BGN50 million ($31 million).
The JV has an annual production capacity for 100-120 vehicles.
Deliveries of the new Bulgarian SOF vehicles, each of which comes with a five-year warranty, should be completed by 2023.
The contract also covers the creation of a maintenance centre to be staffed by personnel from the Bulgarian SOF logistics battalion.
The exact types of vehicle to be provided remain undisclosed, although Shephard reported in 2018 that the JV partners have developed a number of APC prototypes. SAMARM is known to offer the Guardian 4x4 APC, Guardian Max light tactical vehicle and Rila MRAP vehicle, all of which are manufactured by IAG.
Shephard Defence Insight notes that IAG published a promotional video in July 2020 showing Bulgarian SOF operating alongside the Guardian Xtreme 4x4, suggesting that one or more of these MRAP vehicles will be produced for this requirement.
Samel 90 is known to specialise in the production of vehicular counter-IED jammers, so it will probably be responsible for equipping the 98 new vehicles with onboard systems typically used by SOF. A number of Bulgarian subcontractors are also expected to participate in the contract, which should benefit the local defence industry and the economy.
For the Bulgarian MoD, the order for new SOF vehicles marks another step in a broader armed forces modernisation effort. In November 2020, for instance, the MoD signed a contract with German shipyard Lürssen Werft for two multipurpose modular patrol vessels, which will be manufactured locally.
A year earlier, Bulgaria signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to buy eight F-16 Block-70 multi-role fighter aircraft and related equipment.
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