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Paramount unveils Mbombe IED-protected armoured vehicle

The Paramount Group has unveiled what it says is one of the world's best IED-protected armoured vehicles (MPVs) at Africa Aerospace & Defence (AAD) in Cape Town. Group executive chairman Ivor Ichikowitz dropped the drapes on Mbombe, a 6x6 infantry combat vehicle yesterday.

Ichikowitz says Mbombe is “a brand new armoured vehicle of innovative design offering better protection against IEDs (improvised explosive devices) than many vehicles currently used by NATO forces in Afghanistan. Mbombe is the first clean-sheet design for protection against both IEDs and mines (it defeats 50kg of TNT at five meters) and is destined to become a world-leader in its class.”
The Mbombe “is a high mobility six-wheeled infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) with a mine-resistant

honeycomb flat hull (rather than the traditional v-shape). This gives it a lower profile than typical MRAP vehicles, a solution which has been sought for many years,” a Paramount news release adds. Easily adapted to a wide variety of operational roles, Mbombe offers STANAG Level 4 ballistic, mine and artillery protection as standard – “the first vehicle of its type to achieve this – with a design that has harnessed smart technology to reduce height”, the statement further avers.

Ichikowitz continues that “(n)amed after a famed African warrior, we believe that with Mbombe Paramount Group has developed a groundbreaking new vehicle that will take the international market by storm. Mbombe can carry considerable loads without loss of mobility. The three axles

give it outstanding cross-country performance and make it an excellent platform for military operations over all types of terrain anywhere in the world.

“Variants include Armoured Personnel Carrier, Armoured Combat Vehicle mounting a heavy machine gun or autocannon, Command Vehicle, Ambulance as well as a number of other options.

Ivor Ichikowitz further adds that “Mbombe is well suited for use in both conventional and non-conventional war, peacekeeping and counter-insurgency operations. Our configuration and variant options have been developed to provide maximum commonality, which means reduced overall cost of buying, owning and using Mbombe.

“As experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere has shown, too many modern vehicles suffer from reduced survivability when their mobility is compromised by the addition of extra armour or heavy weapons. Mbombe has sufficient power in hand to retain its outstanding mobility - even when combat laden and configured as an AFV carrying a modern automatic cannon.”

“The vehicle provides ample space for a gunner and 8 fully equipped infantrymen and even at its most basic level it provides outstanding blast protection coupled with excellent levels of defence against kinetic attack. The low silhouette offers a reduced target profile with the armoured hull giving stopping power against ballistic attack up to STANAG 4569 Level IV.

“Mbombe will withstand the explosion of 10kg of TNT anywhere under its hull or under any wheel station without rupture. Anti-blast seats prevent injury to the crew from the extreme acceleration following an explosion beside or under the vehicle. Modular protection can also be added if necessary to give additional defence against specific threats in any particular area of operations.

“The world has finally discovered that Africa has some of the best technologies at affordable prices. We have an amazing skills base, we are home to some of the best engineers in the world and they have developed technologies which are used globally and save lives every day,” Ichikowitz said at the launch event a day before the main AAD show opens.

In a media release in which the company calls itself the largest independent defence and aerospace contractor in Africa, Ichikowitz added: “With African defence spending up nearly a third since the end of the Cold War, Africa is purchasing more defence and security systems. This has stimulated manufacturers, engineers and scientists to produce world-class products.”

The statement adds the Paramount Group “is at the forefront of this growth and has seen its sales increase by 20% year-on-year during the last five years. Over the past 12 months the company's workforce has more than doubled to meet the demand for its range of MPVs that provide some of the best levels of protection for soldiers in conventional conflict and in counter insurgency operations.

“Combined with greater political stability and economic growth this has enabled companies such as Paramount Group to establish themselves as world class suppliers of military vehicles. Ultimately, this means Africa can now compete with the major Western suppliers and export abroad. The defence and aerospace industry is an asset of the African continent and our vision has always been to use it as a driver for growth and development as Africa moves into a new era of optimism and opportunity.”

Mbombe joins an armoured vehicle stable that includes the Matador and Marauder MPV and Maverick internal security vehicle. Twenty-five Marauders an the same number of Matadors are currently under construction in Baku for the Ministry of Defence Industry in Azerbaijan.

Paramount has previously said it finalised an agreement with Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defence in late 2009 to manufacture the vehicles there. “Industrial co-operation remains an important strategic element of Paramount's work in the country, with Paramount Group's production partnership with Azerbaijan key to the company's expansion in the region,” a media statement at the time explained.

Ichikowitz continued that "Paramount's ethos is to play an important role in technology transfer, creating local jobs and developing advanced skills. The development of the defence and aerospace industry is an essential part of the growth and diversification of Azerbaijan's industrial economy."

Earlier this year Paramount signed a strategic agreement with Ashok Leyland in India to manufacture MPVs there as well.

Speaking at AAD, Ichikowitz avered that “African companies such as the Paramount Group are not only competing on an international level, with interest from governments in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but also offering better in-country benefits for purchasers. Whereas the Western majors manufacture their equipment far from the destination market, Paramount Group takes an 'in-country' approach, where it establishes production facilities in regional markets. This ensures that the economic and development benefits associated with production, training and marketing help the local population, not just the shareholders in New York or London.

“With Africa now home to some of the world's best protected vehicles, these are exciting times. Africa is establishing for itself a lead role in innovation, security and as a major contributor to global peacekeeping,” the flamboyant entrepreneur added.

In addition to its MPV business, Paramount in association with aviation business Aerosud have also upgraded the Gabon Air Force, providing it new facilities, support infrastructure as well as six refurbished ex-South African Air Force Mirage F1AZ fighter aircraft that took part in the nation's 50th independence day celebrations in July. Further export orders are anticipated.

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