Armormax Defence introduces new TAC-6 6×6 vehicle for security, military users

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Johannesburg-based Armormax Defence is officially launching its new 6×6 TAC-6 multi-purpose vehicle, originally developed for the French Special Forces but now aimed at filling a multitude of civil and military roles – from firefighting to weapons carrier – with agility and versatility at its core.

Purposely built on the proven Land Cruiser 79 series, the TAC-6 has been so extensively reengineered as to become a vastly more capable and quite different vehicle. With the additional axle, the TAC-6 offers greater payload (gross vehicle mass is up to seven tons) and offroad agility. Armormax Defence said the TAC-6 has been comprehensively over-engineered to ensure it can not only go anywhere but come back again, in environments where product failure simply is not an option.

Michael Broom, Manager: Sales & Marketing at Armormax, told defenceWeb that the TAC-6 started life as a development for the French Special Forces, which acquired a number for evaluation before the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted, but development has been completely self-funded.

Only a few have manufactured 6×6 Land Cruiser variants in South Africa – amongst those is Hansie Coetzee, who achieved success with his Commander Defence Systems 6×6. The TAC-6 is a major development of this platform, which has previously been exported to the French military and the Mauritanian government. Coetzee is also involved with the TAC-6 programme.

“We feel our greatest advantage is we have the only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) spec eight-speed automatic transmission developed and homologated by ZF in South Africa and Germany exclusively for the TAC-6,” Broom said. Initial versions of the TAC-6 were powered by manual gearboxes, but the automatic transmission was chosen as the optimal solution. “We were ready to launch this vehicle a year ago and had already started marketing it directly in a discreet manner, but we postponed the official launch for the development of the automatic transmission,” Broom added.

“Getting any other existing transmission to work with the base vehicle and drivetrain results in using a gearbox designed for a different purpose and trying to ‘manipulate’ the programming into overriding safety parameters that are there for good reason. In effect this renders it a second-hand gearbox. Our ZF unit was specifically designed and constructed for high GVM off-roading in the harshest environments, and continuously tested and programmed in South Africa in real time during the development phase,” Broom explained.

Indeed, the ZF 8HP90 transmission is one of the TAC-6’s core components, being purpose-built for the vehicle – development took just nine months, rather than the three years such projects typically take, according to Armormax Defence.

The transmission has a torque capacity of up to 1 000 Newton metres (Nm) and its eight gears and wide gear ratio spread ensure optimal power delivery across diverse terrains. One of the key design aims was driving under heavy load in thick sand, and so the transmission incorporates a special cooling system for difficult conditions and hot weather.

Over-engineered

“Aside from just the transmission, the vehicle has been comprehensively over-engineered. We consciously chose to design and build the final product beyond the likely specification requirement for this class of vehicle because failure is simply not an option,” Broom told defenceWeb. “We wanted to be sure that in any environment where it will be pushed beyond the capability required, which often happens in tactical operations, the vehicle will not only survive but excel.”

Part of this ‘over-engineering’ is the use of gear rather than chain drive for the transfer case, and the transfer case being manufactured from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminium for optimal strength. A drop forged drive coupler, designed and manufactured specifically for the TAC-6, is 115% stronger than standard units, ensuring seamless power transmission between the factory transfer case and the 6×6 transfer case.

Heavy duty DANA drive shafts are used and Armormax Defence has ensured that the drive coupler universals can be easily serviced in the field using readily available DANA components. “This empowers operators to maintain and repair the platform without relying on third-party unique components, thereby enhancing operational readiness and minimising downtime,” the company said. Indeed, many standard OEM components are used to ease maintenance, such as standard Land Cruiser brake disks (brakes on all six wheels give 50% more braking power over a 4×4).

Although the TAC-6 uses standard length leaf springs, the suspension can be customised with various lift systems and tyre sizes – clients can choose to add lift systems ranging from two to four inches without needing extensive suspension modifications, while tyre sizes can range from standard 31 inch tyres to much larger 35 inch units. The wheels feature bead locks to significantly reduce the chance of tyres coming off the rim, even at low tyre pressures in sandy conditions. Tyres can be changed with a single 13 mm socket spanner.

Another area that was over-engineered was the axle housings, which feature extra oil capacity for better cooling, and a full-floating side shaft setup that allows for the easy removal of side shafts in case of damage – interchangeable components between the two rear axle housings means the TAC-6’s 6×6 system remains mobile even if two rear side shafts are damaged and removed.

The high-strength custom axle housings are compatible with the OEM components, including the differential centre unit and wheel hubs, allowing for seamless repairs and maintenance.

The new axle housing design aligns the rear track width with the front axle, eliminating the need for bolt-on applications or wheel spacers.

The TAC-6 is powered by a 4.5 litre Toyota V8 diesel developing – in the automatic transmission variant – 192 kW and 710 Nm of torque, supplied by two specially designed fuel tanks with capacities of 210 and 90 litres – this gives the vehicle a range of over 2 000 km. In addition, the TAC-6 can be upgraded to hold up to 560 litres of fuel on the double cab and a massive 610 litres on the single cab. If a customer selects the armour package, the fuel tanks are made puncture-resistant and self-sealing. Rubber mounts are used to minimise stress and vibration on the tanks.

A fully electric drivetrain is also available through a strategic partner that builds electric Land Cruisers for the mining sector.

With its strengthened components, the TAC-6 has a payload of up to 4 400 kg, but can also tow heavy loads – the new chassis features a boxed high-strength steel rear cross member that can accept a military-grade tow hitch.

“When it comes to mobility, the TAC6 platform outperforms any full-sized 4-ton truck available today,” Armormax Defence said. “Extensive testing across diverse landscapes in Africa and Europe has solidified its reputation as the epitome of mobility.” The TAC-6 has done over 250 000 km of testing, including with the French Special Forces. During testing they tried to break the vehicle, and would disqualify it after three failures – during evaluation, the vehicle only experienced two failures and these were disqualified as operator errors (overloaded and burnt clutches).

A variant for every mission

The TAC-6 is available in both single cab and double cab configurations, serving as a foundation for a wide range of modular units – the base vehicle is designed to fulfil a multitude of roles, including personnel carrier; weapons platform; ammunition carrier; mechanical field workshop; 3 500 litre fuel or water tanker; water purification plant carrier; firefighting unit; food/cold haulage vehicle; generator carrier; logistics support platform; radar platform; drone platform; or anti-tank guided missile launch platform.

One customer has even had a vehicle converted to a luxury six-seat game viewing vehicle. Indeed, Armormax Defence believes that due to the TAC-6’s modularity, the vehicle is highly suitable for hunting, overlanding, or farming, amongst others.

So far Armormax Defence has built single, double and stretch versions of the TAC-6 (the latter with an extra 50 centimetres of length). The armoured personnel carrier variant is in the works, as is a variant with an armoured cab. Broom told defenceWeb Armormax Defence plans to showcase several variants and modular options with a number of partners over the next 24 months.

Armormax* specialises in armouring private vehicles – it has armoured some 1 750 vehicles over the last 20 years – and offers a variety of armour packages for the TAC-6. STANAG Level I vehicle armour can stop shell fragments as well as 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm bullets: lightweight armour and 40 mm ballistic glass is employed throughout to replace the original windows.

Local product, global market

The TAC-6 is being marketed in both South Africa and beyond its borders. Armormax Defence sees a bigger market overseas “simply because of the number of defence contracts that are out there in comparison with South Africa. We do also anticipate there will be a secondary civilian and agricultural market for the vehicle locally,” Broom explained. “There has been great interest locally and abroad,” he added, with a number of negotiations in motion already.

In South Africa, the TAC-6 will be submitted as a contender for the Special Forces’ requirements for a 6×6 Land Cruiser. Although this tender was published some months ago by Armscor, it has been retracted and will be reissued. The South African National Defence Force has a separate requirement for new border patrol vehicles, and the TAC-6 may be offered for this as well.

The TAC-6 was built with the military in mind and this includes deployment in a standard 20 foot ISO shipping container, making international deployment easy – and less conspicuous.

To The Point International’s Gunslinger turret on the TAC-6.

Weapons ranging from light machineguns to anti-tank missiles can be mounted on the TAC-6, and so far the vehicle has been fitted with a Centauri (formerly Evotex) 12.7 mm remotely operated weapon station, and a To The Point International (TTPI) Gunslinger 12.7 mm manual turret. During testing in Europe, the French military fitted 60 and 81 mm mortars and a 12.7 mm turret.

At present, Armormax Defence is working with a global supplier to fit and test an 81 mm mortar ahead of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September.

One of the TAC-6’s unique features is a hydraulic stabiliser that can be automatically deployed at low speed to neutralise the lateral pivoting movement inherent in heavy-calibre weapon recoil. Armormax Defence Lead Engineer Shane Kleb explained that when the vehicle is about to fire, at speeds below 5 km/h, the stabiliser locks the axle onto the chassis to ensure weapon stability. This is ideal for 20 and 30 mm weapons.

Centauri’s remotely operated weapon station on the TAC-6.

Test drive

defenceWeb had the chance to test the TAC-6 at the Legends MX offroad track east of Pretoria, taking it through thick sand, mud and rocky terrain. Starting off in 2×6 mode, the TAC-6 immediately got stuck in the adventure venue’s sand trap but once 6×6 was engaged (there is no 4×6 mode), it cruised through the thick sand at all speeds – flotation was excellent, with no need to keep up momentum to avoid sinking. In fact, it was impossible to get the vehicle stuck, as applying full throttle from standstill did not bury the wheels but sent the TAC-6 moving forward.

With its extra axle, the TAC-6 offers a 50% increase in traction compared to regular 4x4s, giving “unparallelled sand flotation,” Armormax Defence said. “The TAC-6 effortlessly glides through sandy terrains, surpassing any 4×4 in its load category,” the company added, and this was clearly the case during defenceWeb’s test drive.

On steep, rocky terrain the TAC-6 felt extraordinarily smooth and absorbed bumps and boulders with little notice. Thanks to the long wheelbase and third axle, it felt harder to get hung up on trench-like obstacles.

Armormax said that off-road, the platform’s chassis remains flatter due to the third axle, reducing roll and ensuring maximum stability. This was clearly evident when traversing rocky terrain and crossing obstacles like deep ditches at 45-degree angles.

The eight speed automatic transmission was extremely responsive and changed gears very quickly – it can go from second to sixth gears instantly. Coupled with the V8 engine, the TAC-6 never felt short on power, even with the Gunslinger turret and five people aboard the double cab version.

According to Armormax Defence, the chassis has been strengthened with strategically placed stiffeners, adding to stability that is naturally added by the extra axle. The third axle also eliminates the need for heavy-duty anti-sway bars. Off-road stability was excellent, as was on-road stability.

When driven on tar, the TAC-6 comfortably cruised at 120 km/h at around 2 000 rpm, with a theoretical top speed of 180 km/h (redline is over 4 000 rpm) although listed top speed is 160 km/h. Driving on paved roads felt little different from a normal Land Cruiser.

Although the TAC-6 is a relatively long vehicle thanks to the extra axle, it did not feel particularly unwieldy, and doing three-point turns and reversing was no more difficult than manoeuvring a large SUV (a built-in reverse camera helps).

Conclusion

The seven-year long TAC-6 project was designed to create a military platform that “would excel in deployment, maintenance, reliability, and capability.” The original Special Forces requirement was for a vehicle to fulfil multiple roles, be able to get in and out of non-permissible environments quickly, did not require any special training to operate and could be easily serviced in the field by its operators.

“All other solutions available are either too light and incapable, or too heavy and large to be agile and easily transported. In many military combat situations, agility and versatility are key to operational success,” Armormax Defence said.

“Aside from the obvious tactical uses, the high GVM, stability, traction, ease of operation and durability of the product in the worst environments imaginable make it a logical replacement to vehicles that are much heavier and less agile, or where several vehicles are deployed for the same role.”

Armormax Defence is confident the TAC-6 is well positioned as a formidable option not just for military and security users worldwide but for non-defence operators as well.

Customers can either provide their own vehicle for conversion (in left hand drive or right hand drive) or request Armormax Defence to source a vehicle for them. The total conversion process takes approximately 14 weeks to complete (without any vehicle armouring options).

The cost of the base conversion for a manual gearbox starts at R1.5 million (excluding the base vehicle itself) while armouring options for STANAG Level 1 start at R850 000 and a lightweight, discreet armouring package starts at R880 000 or R1.3 million for B4 and B6 levels of armour respectively. Multiple-vehicle orders reduce the production costs and timeline significantly and will result in a retail pricing reduction, Armormax Defence pointed out.

The ZF eight speed automatic gearbox can also be sold and fitted separately to any Land Cruiser 79 4.5 litre diesel V8 at a cost of R440 000.

Specifications:

Length: 5 995 mm (single and double cab)
Width: 1 870 mm
Height: 2 015 mm
Ground Clearance under diff: 265 mm
Ground clearance to chassis: 350 mm
Approach angle: 40 degrees
Departure angle: 38 degrees
Breakover angle: 15 degrees
Gross vehicle mass: 7 000 kg
Tare (unladen weight): 2 950 kg (single cab)
Tare: 3 080 kg (double cab)
Payload: 4 050 kg (single cab)
Payload: 3 920 kg (double cab)
Max speed: 160 km/h
Engine: Toyota 4.5 litre V8 turbodiesel
Power: 151 kW (five speed manual)
Power: 192 kW (eight speed automatic)

* Armormax has been in existence for 20 years, and has armoured some 1 750 vehicles to date, mostly private luxury vehicles. Its defence division was established in 2016 to investigate new potential product developments and markets and in addition to the TAC-6, it is working on personal ballistic protection, mobile panic rooms and a few other projects.

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