BAE Systems shows new RG31 variant

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 18 Sept 2008

BAE Systems is showcasing its latest iteration of the best-selling RG31 mine-resistant armour protected (MRAP) personnel carrier at the African Aerospace and Defence show, which opened yesterday morning.

The new vehicle, the RG31 Mk6E, features new anti-mine seats among other improvements. The seats provide enhanced protection to the occupants from lumbar spinal injuries, which can be caused by the shockwaves associated with land mine detonations.

The seats incorporate shock attenuation crushable elements developed by the global arms giant's local Land Systems OMC subsidiary.

The company says tests have shown these absorb some of the vertical impulse associated with mine blasts, reducing the likelihood of injury during large landmine explosions.

The seats are mounted to the side of the vehicle in such a manner that they can move freely to enable the crushable elements to absorb the energy, but without moving unnecessarily during normal operation. Earlier RG-series vehicles can also be equipped with the new seats.

Since 2004, Land Systems-OMC has sold over 2 200 RG31 vehicles, including a series of major orders for the US, military which operates both the RG31 and its stable-mate RG33, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of these, more than 1 300 RG31 mine-protected vehicles have been delivered to the US and Canadian forces. Another 984 RG31 Mk5E vehicles are currently on order with production under way at Benoni and partners in the US. Each sells at an estimated $600 000.

BAE Systems says the sales have earned SA "more than R3.5 billion ($430 million)" in foreign currency, with a steadily increasing series of additional orders for vehicles, spares and support from new customers around the globe.

It has also created over 300 news jobs at its Benoni factory and many more throughout its supplier network.

"We are confident this latest development will further entrench our South African business as the world's leader in mine-protected vehicle technology," says Land Systems SA MD Johan Steyn.

"The RG series builds on the three decades of experience we have gained in South Africa, through vehicles such as the Casspir, Mamba and Mfezi. Its success is a result of our ongoing investment into ever-improving the vehicle's protection levels. We achieve this by applying new concepts and designs influenced by customer and operator feedback and simulation," he explains.

Travelling in style

The RG31 is a 4x4 mine-protected vehicle with a V-shaped hull that protects the crew against anti piercing rifle fire, anti-tank mine detonations, and a wide variety of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In standard Armoured Personnel Carrier configuration, this air-conditioned vehicle carries a driver and nine troops. Its modular interior allows it to be configured for use in many other tactical applications.

The US RG31s are manufactured by Land Systems OMC and also under licence by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada. Similarly, the US RG33s are manufactured under licence by BAE Systems' Ground Systems Division, in the USA. The South African company earns royalties on each of its licence-built vehicles.

In addition to ongoing US orders, several European countries are expressing interest in RG31 mine-protected vehicle for their forces.

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