Fox Among the Hans: Algeria’s Big Fuchs APC Order
Reports out of Germany suggest that Rheinmetall Defense has just signed a EUR 2.7 billion ($3.675 billion) contract with Algeria for 980 Fuchs (Fox) 6×6 wheeled armored personnel carriers. They’re often used as NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) reconnaissance vehicles, but their blast-resistant features and good mobility make them perfectly appropriate as conventional APCs. The newest 1A8 variant adds substantially greater protection, including better resistance to landmines and IEDs, and includes an unmanned weapon station up top that can be controlled from within the vehicle.
The order would make the Fuchs Algeria’s largest single APC type.
The Algerian Army’s Panhard M3s, Fahd 240s, and BTR-60/80 wheeled APCs all date from the early 1990s at the latest, so eventual consolidation on the Fuchs seems to be Algeria’s chosen future for its wheeled APC force. The Germans have 16 variants in service, so it can perform a wide variety of roles. Tracked APCs are generally seen as a different set, and Algeria currently uses BMP series vehicles from Russia.
As part of the deal, some unspecified level of Fuchs production/assembly work will be set up in Algeria.
Algeria has recently emerged from a decade-long civil war that’s estimated to have killed up to 150,000 people in a population of 30 million, while defeating the Islamist insurrection. Germany’s foreign weapon sale policies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, with the SPD Social Democrat wing of the current grand coalition particularly eager to restrict weapon sales to regimes in conflict zones or with a record of human rights issues.
Rheinmetall has yet to officially announce the sale, but any disruption would be a sharp break. Daimler is providing trucks to Algeria, and Germany’s TKMS has sold Algeria 2 MEKO A200 frigates.
Africa has been cited as a growth market for some time now, as some African economies begin to take off, in large part thanks to natural resource extraction. SIPRI cites Africa for a defense spending jump of 53% when comparing 2004-2008 and 2009-2013, but percentage figures can look very impressive when they begin from an abysmally low base. In real terms, Africa is a very small total market, dominated by a very small but expanding set of players.
Nor is there any guarantee that dollars invested will translate into capability. South Africa bought expensive toys but not maintenance or adequate training, with predictable consequences. Nigeria bought capable UAVs from Israel, but they aren’t useful for tracking Boko Haram because embezzlement and malfeasance have left them without operational UAVs or qualified pilots.
Algeria is best seen as the tall pole in a short tent. That’s true both for the military government’s level of investment, and for their necessity-born ability to use what they buy.
- Hendelsblatt (June 20/14) – Deutsche Panzerfabrik in Algerien vor dem Start.
- War Is Boring (June 20/14) – Algeria Just Bought a Thousand Armored Vehicles.
- Rheinmetall Defence (May 22/13) – Bundeswehr to get more high-protection Fuchs/Fox 1A8 transport vehicles from Rheinmetall. 25 more for EUR 36 million, in 5 variants.
- DID (July 22/08) – Africa: The Next Defense Market Opportunity?
- DID – Algerian Arms Deal Brings Russia $7.5 billion, Gas Market Leverage. Russia remains Algeria’s biggest arms supplier.