$10.1M Order for MDT David Up-Armored Urban Vehicles
Arotech subsidiary and small business qualifier MDT Armor Corp. in Auburn, AL received the full $10.1 million increment of its firm-fixed-price contract for model MDT-DAV “David” urban light armored vehicles (ULAVs) with manufacturer Furnished Spare. Work will be performed in Auburn, AL and is expected to be completed by July 30, 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 21, 2006 by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Warren, MI (W56HZV-06-C-0413).
Though DefenseLINK did not explicitly say so, MDT confirmed that the vehicles are for the Israeli Defense Forces as part of a $22 million April 2006 buy. So… just what is an ULAV, anyway? What’s its relationship to Land Rovers and G-Wagens? And could it be the forerunner of a larger trend for Western militaries?
The Israeli Defense Forces have actually used MDT-DAV vehicles for a couple of years, with “under two dozen” in use on a trial basis by certain units before the follow-on order was placed. The IDF’s version is built on top of a Land Rover Defender chassis, and a 122 bhp, 2.5L turbocharged diesel engine. Much shorter, lighter, and narrower than an up-armored Hummer in order to negotiate narrow urban streets and alleys, the 3.7 ton David nonetheless carries 4-6 soldiers in full battle gear, with head room and gun ports in all 4 directions. Large rear doors and a tall cabin, meanwhile, allow fast exits.
MDT-DAV armor options are flexible, but there are limits to the possible protection provided. Their sides and roof are designed to resist small arms fire at point blank range, but are not effective against weapons like anti-armor rockets. The “David” vehicles also offer very limited protection from IED land mines via slightly strengthened floors, their side armor, and run-flat inserts to maintain mobility even with deflated or damaged tires.
As a final feature, the vehicles’ production in the USA allows Israel to use US military assistance funds rather than hard currency to finance their acquisition.
The Davids will replace the Jeep Ranger-derived Soufa (“Storm”) vehicles currently in service with the IDF, and will be complemented at the higher end by RAFAEL’s Wolf (“Ze’ev”) vehicles based on a Ford F550 truck with significant additional armoring and shaping (about 150 bought for $14 million in March 2005).
Defense Update reports that Plasan Sasa’s new Caracal vehicle (based on Ford’s F350 truck) is being promoted as a superior competitor to the MDT-DAV at similar cost. Despite its arrival after the MDT-DAV’s evaluation, the vehicle arguably has several advantages. Having said that, it lacks the DAV’s rear door, which is designed for fast dismounts away from the direction of incoming fire.
MDT personnel contacted by DID would not comment on the state of past or present competition with Plasan Sasa.
Additional Options – and Possible Trends
MDT Armor can also create MDT-DAVs using the Mercedes G-Wagen as a base platform. This may be welcome news to Mercedes, as the G-Wagens have been tried by several NATO armies and found wanting in Afghanistan due to their lack of protection. Britain, meanwhile, is finding that its Land Rovers have significant limitations when used in Iraq.
With alternatives like Force Protection’s Cougar, KMW’s Dingo 2, Thales-ADI’s Bushmaster or Iveco’s Panther sitting in the $500,000 – $1 million range, MDT-DAVs or similar low-end protected vehicles may find their way into a number of Western militaries before long.
One example may already be on display in Iraq. Though it’s slightly more expensive than the MDT-DAV and perhaps more comparable to Israel’s Ze’ev, Granite Global Services Ford F550-based APC-1 (aka. “The Rock”) offers a purpose-designed urban warfare vehicle that has performed well in Iraq, at about the price of an up-armored Hummer.
UPDATE: Oshkosh Truck has licensed Plasan Sasa’s F350-based Caracal, and is now offering it as the “Sandcat” for the light protected vehicle category.