DCD and Sherp showcase innovative amphibious vehicle

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DCD Protected Mobility and Sherp International came together outside Heidelberg south of Johannesburg last week to demonstrate the Sherp multi-purpose amphibious vehicle, which is being offered for military, search and rescue, mining, private and other applications.

Two of the Ukrainian-developed Sherp vehicles took invited guests for rides across a farm dam, demonstrating the Sherp’s amphibious capabilities – it was originally designed to navigate snow and marshes. Guests included representatives from the South African National Defence Force, South African Police Service Water Wing, Gift of the Givers, search and rescue organisations and defence attaches. Some 50 people attended the first day of the two-day event on 5 May.

According to Gennadiy Romaniuk, International Sales Manager for Sherp, the first vehicle was produced in 2012 and the Sherp factory opened in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2015. In 2018 Sherp became an official provider for the United Nations and in 2019 received a UN award. The improved Sherp N 1200 (known as the Sherp Pro XT in North America) was launched in 2020.

A thousand vehicles have been sold around the world – most customers are non-private entities, including NGOs and mining companies. Most of Sherp’s business comes from North America, which makes up 60% of sales but Sherp has representation in Australia, South America, Europe and the Middle East and is now targeting Africa, with a South African tour launched in April.

The United Nations is a big user of the Sherp, specifically for the World Food Programme. Romaniuk said the Sherp results in a 75% reduction in cost compared to using airdrops. Another humanitarian customer is Medecins Sans Frontiers, which uses the Sherp in Sudan to reach remote communities.

The Sherp is being promoted for search and rescue – it is already in use in this role in a number of countries. For example, Bay Search and Rescue in the United Kingdom provides rescue services and uses the vehicle in Morecambe Bay, the largest expanse of mudflats and sand in the UK – the Sherp has halved response times across the bay.

For search and rescue missions, the Sherp N 1200 is equipped with signalling and strobe lights, cameras, GPS, searchlights, a winch, additional seats, air band radio stations, a stretcher, rescue rope, fire extinguishers, first aid kit, immersion suits and life vests.

Other configurations include a firefighting module, which allows the fitment of hand and roof-mounted nozzles; a medical module (in the Sherp Ark trailer with up to seven seats); and a loading crane (under development) for the Sherp Ark.

The Sherp vehicle sources parts from international manufacturers including Swedish steel (from Docol), Korean engines (from Doosan for the Sherp N 1200 and Sherp Ark), French transmission (Renault gearbox) and Japanese engines (from Kubota for the Sherp Pro).

The vehicle comes in several variants. The Sherp UTV was the first model produced, followed by the Sherp Pro in 2017; the Sherp Ark and Sherp Shuttle followed in 2019 and the Sherp N 1200 in 2020. The Sherp Ark adds a 6×6 trailer to the vehicle while the Sherp Shuttle is a boat that can carry and launch two Sherp vehicles.

The Sherp Pro can carry six people or more than 1 000 kg payload. It has a top speed of 40 km/h on land and 6 km/h on water. It can operate in -40 to +40 degree conditions. The Sherp Ark can carry four people in the main vehicle and 18 in the trailer.

DCD Protected Mobility co-hosted the event as the company is exploring the possibility of becoming a representative for the vehicle. Cornelius Grundling, DCD Protected Mobility General Manager, said DCD is looking at the military applications of the vehicle and would like to engage the SA Army’s engineering corps. Other potential users include mines, Eskom, search and rescue organisations etc.

DCD Protected Mobility also showcased its complete vehicle range, including its Springbuck armoured personnel carrier and Husky mine detection vehicle. The Husky has survived over 7 500 hits from mines and improvised explosive devices with no fatalities.

Grundling said the demand for vehicles like the Springbuck and Husky are great as there has been an increase in improvised explosive device (IED) threats in West, East, North and South East Africa, particularly Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia and Kenya. There was a 43% increase in militant Islamist terrorist group violence in Africa in 2020 with 4 958 reported events linked to terror groups continuing an upward pattern seen since 2016, he pointed out.

Reported fatalities linked to African militant Islamist terrorist groups rose by a third in 2020 over the previous year to an estimated 13 000 deaths. Militant Islamist violence remains largely concentrated in Somalia, the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, Mozambique and Egypt. All but Egypt experienced sharp increases in violence in 2020. DCD vehicles are already operational in combat zones in countries including Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, South Sudan and Nigeria, amongst others.